University of Sheffield: Superheroes of film, health and manufacturing

Engineers from the University of Sheffield AMRC will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with heroic key workers from the NHS and the geniuses who make the magic happen in Marvel superhero movies in a new exhibition at the Science Museum in London celebrating the vital role of technicians.

Technicians: The David Sainsbury Gallery will bring the often overlooked but crucial world to life, with visitors able to try one-of-a-kind interactive exhibits which mimic tasks performed every day in four key areas: advanced manufacturing, creative industries, health science, and energy networks. They will also be able to meet real-life technicians.

The Science Museum has announced four of the organisations it is partnering with for the unique gallery: Marvel, the National Health Service, the National Grid and the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC). Visitors can experience the work of technicians at the AMRC, part of the High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult, by testing innovative designs using computer-aided design (CAD) and experimenting with simple coding to optimise the movement of a robotic arm, watching it in action in a task inspired by the use of robotics in recycling facilities.

The gallery will also allow visitors to hear the inspirational stories of real-world technicians, including Rebecca Wright from Sheffield, an engineering technician at the University of Sheffield AMRC.

She said: “As a technician at the AMRC I help make other people’s jobs easier and less time-consuming; it’s a role that is constantly challenging and I am forever learning new skills. This gallery is such a fantastic idea because now other people can see what technicians do and understand why our work is so important.

“It feels amazing to know that others might be inspired by what I do; I hope that young people look at me and realise they can achieve something regardless of what they look like or their background. In some ways it’s overwhelming to think my face is going to be seen by thousands of people in a public gallery, but it’s certainly a real privilege.”

Elsewhere in the gallery, visitors will be able to see the work of technicians in the creative industries who make the incredible scenes from blockbuster movies possible. Thanks to a close collaboration with Marvel, a centrepiece of the new Technicians gallery will be the reconstructed film set for Shuri’s Lab from the hugely successful Black Panther film. Visitors can re-enact the role of a film-set lighting technician, tasked with adjusting the lighting brightness, colour and intensity to correctly light the set, work as a post-production sound technician to seamlessly match sound and dialogue to a Black Panther scene and use the precision of a visual effects technician to skilfully integrate virtual object into Black Panther film footage.

Although an estimated 1.5 million technicians currently work in the UK – from archaeological technicians to veterinary nurses and welding technicians – too few young people aspire to be technicians or know about these roles and the pathways to them. Opening on 3 November 2022, the free gallery seeks to change perceptions of technical careers and inspire tomorrow’s technicians.

Steve Foxley, AMRC CEO, says inspiring the next generation of technicians and engineers is critical to the future of manufacturing.

He said: ‘None of the manufacturing sector’s ambitions – whether they be better productivity, greater profitability, or improved sustainability – can be achieved without a skilled workforce, and if we are to attract the brightest minds to solve our grandest challenges, it’s crucial that we encourage people to engage with engineering at a young age.

“This gallery is a fantastic opportunity to inspire young people from across the world to pursue a career as a technician – a career in which you can work in truly trailblazing environments and make a lasting impact on peoples’ lives. It’s a real privilege for the AMRC to be asked to contribute to this exhibition and an honour for our engineers to stand next to inspiring colleagues from the NHS, Marvel and National Grid.”

With a design inspired by the exterior of The Royal London Hospital, the health science section of Technicians: The David Sainsbury Gallery will focus on the role of pharmacy technicians who create bespoke drugs for patients in NHS hospitals. Visitors will be able to try out their analysis and measurement skills through interactive exhibits which mimic the life-saving tasks – such as preparing an IV bag, checking medicines for contaminants and pipetting – something NHS technicians must perform daily with exceptional accuracy.

A huge wind turbine model will greet visitors to the energy networks section of the gallery, which reveals the technicians, often working outdoors or in extreme environments, who build, maintain and repair the energy networks which power our world. Visitors can take on the role of a wind turbine maintenance technician, diagnosing and solving problems then checking their fix has succeeded with a virtual wind turbine model, or pilot a remotely operated vehicle on the ocean floor, studying multiple camera feeds and weather charts while operating a range of piloting controls to successfully clear obstructions from an underwater trench.

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