Brisbane-based graduate engineer John Pidgeon knows how to engage and educate.
The BMT WBM employee won this year’s Australian Speak Out for Engineering competition, introduced by IMechE (the Institution of Mechanical Engineers) to help advance verbal and visual communication on technical mechanical engineering-related subjects.
Mr Pidgeon agreed there was often a big gap between engineers’ technical knowledge and ideas and their ability to get others on board by engaging and explaining.
“I’ve often found there is an unfortunate disconnect between an engineer’s ability to produce excellent technical work and their ability to communicate the ideas behind such work in a way that is clear, concise and intelligible to a layman,” he said.
“This can cause huge issues. A great idea that can’t be sold to the relevant parties is unlikely to ever pass the first hurdle of funding or implementation.”
While there was no silver bullet solution for improving communications issues with engineers, Mr Pidgeon believed a greater focus on presentation and communications skills at university was a great start.
“To a degree this appears to already be happening. From discussions with my colleagues it appears my degree had a larger component of presentation-based assessment than the same degree had in previous years,” he said.
Mr Pidgeon said also that new technologies were proving to be incredibly powerful tools for communicating engineering concepts.
Mr Pidgeon’s award winning Speak Out for Engineering presentation detailed the development of a computer model to simulate dragline excavator operations.
BMT WBM machinery group operations dircetor Rob Angus said it was fantastic to see one of the company’s graduate engineers being recognised not only for his technical capability, but for his ability to communicate in an engaging and effective way.
IMechE Australia Young Members chair Khalid Abdulla said the competition had been running for a decade in Australia.
It is open to any affiliate, associate or young member of the institution who has been professionally registered for 10 years or less.
“The main aim of the competition is to get young engineers, and student engineers, to focus some attention on presentation skills,” Mr Abdulla said.
“In general, undergraduate courses focus 90 per cent of their assessment on technical skills, and this competition reverses this bias by placing 90 per cent of the assessment on the presentation skill, use of audio-visual aids, effectiveness at communicating to a non-technical audience, and a technical audience but from another field.
“This is considered important because in general the perceived value of any piece of work (including engineering work) is often limited by how well that value and the work itself can be communicated to others, including those who are not of a technical background or a from a different technical background.”
Get involved: People interested in joining IMechE Young Members can find contact details at https://nearyou.imeche.org/home/near-you/oceania/Australia/australia-young-member-panel or check out the group on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/IMechEAustraliaYM/