Youngsters inspired by UCLan’s ‘Engineering Avengers’

14 January 2019

Senior lecturers team up with Marvel superheroes to inspire the next generation of engineers

Two senior lecturers from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) have teamed up with a cast of Marvel superheroes, including Iron Man and The Hulk, to inspire the next generation of engineers and innovators.

Dr Matthew Dickinson and Dr Stephen Sigurnjak, from UCLan’s School of Engineering, were recently invited to speak to schoolchildren at a special event held at the ExCel London exhibition centre to celebrate an exciting new partnership between the government’s ‘Year of Engineering’ initiative and the legendary Marvel comic book brand.

Since the start of 2018, the government has been working alongside more than 1,400 partners to deliver over a million inspiring experiences as part of their ‘Year of Engineering’. Marvel became the latest big name to join the campaign, which has been aiming to transform perceptions of engineering amongst children aged 7 to 16 while encouraging more young people from different backgrounds to aspire towards careers in the profession.

Matthew and Stephen were specially selected to appear alongside a cast of real-life ‘Engineering Avengers’ to show off some of their ‘special powers’ at the new Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. exhibition alongside a female army engineer turned world champion power lifter, a prosthetics engineer, a civil engineer and an expert in comic book science. They demonstrated to the schoolchildren that the talents and ‘powers’ of engineers are every bit as impressive and capable of changing the world as anything the Iron Man, The Hulk and their fellow fictional superheroes can call upon.

Stephen said: “We wanted to show the kids how close real science and science fiction can be. Our sessions focused on the biomechanics of The Hulk and how he might be able to transform from a normal human being into a superhero with incredible powers. We also talked about what might happen to his brain as he undergoes these changes and how that might affect his behaviour. Later we explored the secrets behind the Iron Man’s armoured suit. The schoolchildren were really enthusiastic. One youngster approached us at the end and said ‘you guys were amazing!’ which was fantastic to hear.”

"I’m certain that this partnership will encourage many people to look again at their own amazing abilities and realise that while they may never possess the strength of the Hulk they could one day move mountains as an engineer."

Matthew added: “The world of engineering is one where anyone who is talented and innovative can help to shape the world around them, regardless of their gender or race. But if you ask most children to draw what they think an engineer looks like, they’ll often come up with a stereotypical picture of a white man in overalls who works in a garage and gets their hands full of grease and oil. We wanted to show them that this is far from the truth and inspire the children by telling them about the adventures and achievements of real-life ‘engineering superheroes’ who are doing amazing things every day.”

The government has also been encouraging young people aged 7 to 16 to take the ‘More Heroes Needed’ aptitude test online at to discover which superhero qualities they share with Marvel’s legendary characters. The test aims to demonstrate to children that they have an abundance of talents that would suit a career in engineering. It’s not just about academic aptitude; curiosity, creativity and being honourable and collaborative are all important qualities of being an engineer.

Joining the schoolchildren and the ‘Engineering Avengers’ on the day was Nusrat Ghani, Minister for the Year of Engineering, who was there to officially launch the new partnership.

She said: “The characters who inhabit the Marvel universe are famed for achieving amazing things against all odds; something that engineers do on a daily basis. Whether it’s tackling the problems of climate change, helping to provide clean water and energy in developing nations or using technology to help us live healthier, more independent lives, the engineering profession is full of its own superheroes.

“I’m certain that this partnership will encourage many people to look again at their own amazing abilities and realise that while they may never possess the strength of the Hulk they could one day move mountains as an engineer.”