From Future Aircraft to Cakes — Andrew Smyth on his Engineering career
You may already know Andrew Smyth from The Great British Bake Off in 2016, or you may know him as an Aerospace Engineer. This week, we asked Andrew to share his views on STEM careers and STEM education and tell us about what inspires him.
How does ‘Bakineering’ combine your aerospace research engineer career with your interest in baking?
Bakineering is my version of exploring extraordinary engineering using ordinary bakes. It is not simply baking something in the shape of a plane, rather it is baking things which illustrate a fascinating engineering principle and tell a tale of creativity and discovery. I do this in 2 ways, the first is by creating incredible cakes that require engineering to make them work! The second is through my bakineering live shows, where I wanted to excite people into engineering in a different way, using food! I like to think I lure them in with the promise of bakes, but they stay for the engineering!
What is your favourite engineered creation to date (your own or someone else’s)? Does it solve a real-world problem?
Hands-down, my favourite would have to be a moving wind turbine cake I made for nPower last year (check out the youtube link!). It was an absolute beast to make and took lots of trial and error, I was so proud to pull it off. The whole thing, top to toe, is edible and features a marshmallow-fondant composite column, caramel biscuit bearing and sugar welded candy cane fan blades!
Why do you think STEM education is important?
People in STEM do incredible things. Thinking of engineering specifically, there is an engineer behind almost everything we see around us. From the clothes we wear to the phone in your pocket, an engineer has helped to solve problems and make it a reality. I think it’s really important to show engineering as very varied as there can be lots of preconceptions about what it involves. We’ve got a huge shortage of engineers, there hasn’t been a better time to be thinking about it as an exciting and rewarding career. You get to make such a difference in people’s lives.
What do you hope to achieve next? Are you still developing a television show combining engineering with wacky bakes?
At the moment, my main focus is on the remaining bakineering shows I am doing around the country. Longer term, it would be a dream to do a TV show combining fascinating engineering with outrageous bakes, but I’m realistic about how tough a market it is to break into. I love engineering and I love presenting, so if I could mix those together that’d be amazing. THe past 2 years has been filled with so many opportunities I never thought I’d have, from going to the BAFTAs to making a jet engine cake for Prince William!
Can you tell us about some of your research into reducing reliance on fossil fuels? How does it apply your engineering knowledge and skills?
In my day job as a research engineer, a lot of what I look into is about how we can make planes more efficient, as today they burn fossil fuels. There are lots of exciting developments around the world in electric aircraft, a large part of my job is making computer models of these to see when they will work and how. Every day I have to use my problem solving skills and the most important thing for me is to ask lots of questions, like “why has a plane design looked the same for the past 50 years?”
What or who inspires you? If you could meet anyone STEM-related, who would it be and why?
I work with incredibly smart and creative people, and that gets me excited to go to work. In terms of meeting someone, hands down it would be Elon Musk. He created a rocket company from scratch and taught himself to become a rocket scientist. The reason he’s been successful is by questioning the basics; when his engineering reasoning said it could be done, he followed his logic. From humble beginnings, SpaceX has become the first company to re-stock the space station and has plans to colonise Mars. If that’s not a great example of where engineering can take you, I’m not sure what is.
This year, Andrew will be touring a live baking & engineering show around the UK to inspire the next generation of engineers. To find out more, visit his website.
Oxbridge Inspire delivers innovative STEM education and provides guidance and inspiration to young people wishing to pursue STEM subjects at University and beyond. To find out more about Oxbridge Inspire and the courses and activities we offer, visit our website.