Engineering is… a film by Rolls Royce


by Ron Lewin

In the 1970s, professional people working in chemistry, physics, mathematics, and engineering were concerned that the education system that students were receiving was very dated. Some of these people started to influence changes.

One group were the professional staff at Fulmer, many of whom had young families, and they decided to take some action. In their own time they brought together about a dozen young children on Saturday mornings in the Boardroom and through a series of practical stimulating projects introduced them to ‘What do scientists and engineers

At this time we had a new Research Director, Dr Eric Duckworth, who was very supportive of our initiative and in fact invited young students to work on projects with professional staff in the school holidays.

From this early beginning we contacted Eric Bates who had started an Education Unit within the Department of Industry. He thought the work we were doing with young people was in line with their objectives and to our surprise he funded a pilot project.

Our Director was very pleased to hear this and asked to speak to me about my involvement.

I explained that I was working on my projects on applied thermodynamics and I would fit the education pilot project in whenever I could. He asked me how committed I was to the pilot project. I replied that I was very committed to it and was concerned as to when I could find the time for it.

His reply was simple. ‘ If you really believe in your commitment to our young people, then put your major efforts into the pilot project. Use the funds as fast as you can, write up the report , send it to the sponsors and I am sure they will support the next phase of the work. His reply was like a starting gun and the rest is history.

A committee of influential people was set up comprising a Director of Education and education advisers from Bucks and Berks. Three schools were chosen from each of the two counties; reports were written on their projects and the committee were very encouraging.

The next period of the project was working closely with the advisors of the two counties and they were willing to give their time to support a new boy on the block to help their cause.

All this sounded great but who was going to pay my salary. Negotiations took place at the highest level and the Department of Trade and Industry and the Berkshire and Buckinghamshire Education Authorities found a solution which allowed me to continue.


Engineering Is…..

Companies including Rolls Royce, decided to make a film for use in schools to be seen by teachers and children to explain how their Aeroplane Division used engineers and scientists This film was made in 1981 by Vision Associates, a film company based in the US, in conjunction with Rolls Royce..

The film was comprised of a section made in Bristol and another section made in a school who were already following the principles used by engineers. A small group of engineers and the Film Unit visited selected schools to decide which one would be suitable. Cox Green Secondary School at Maidenhead, was chosen and in due course the Vision Associates team flew in from New York. A group of enthusiastic young people were chosen to participate and the film was deliberately made without a script.

Later in the day the American Film Team returned to the US and in a few weeks they completed the film:


We were delighted, especially when RR decided to give every school in the UK a copy of the film titled ‘Engineering is ‘ and a copy of a book ‘Engineering is ‘ containing principles of engineering and classroom projects.

Rolls Royce entered the film for the British Association 1981 Awards and on the presentation day Engineering is… received First Prize

Contributors to the film were:

Pupils from Cox Green School

Fulmer Research Institute: Ron Lewin: lecturer

The Design Council

Producer: Lee R Bobker

Cameraman: Herbert Reditsching

Editor: John Roberts

Producers: Rolls Royce Limited / Vision Associates


In Conclusion

No doubt the joint cooperation between Rolls Royce, Fulmer Research Institute, Cox Green School and The Education unit of the Department of Trade and Industry worked well together.

The Film quickly became popular and I was invited to show the film with an influential audience at a House of Commons Committee and St George’s House.

Following a negotiation between Fulmer and Berkshire Education Authority, I moved into a full time consultancy role in the development of a Revised National curriculum and a new subject called Design and Technology.

June 2024

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