There were rave reports from the Farnborough Air Show about Rolls-Royce’s eye-catching new exhibit – a Trent 1000 aeroengine built out of Lego! There are some good views of it, and how it was built, available on YouTube. Reportedly their US competitors, General Electric, were furious -“Why hadn’t we thought of doing that?!”
Now, and until 10th September, it is on show in Derby at the Westfield shopping centre. I went along to see it.
In this environment it made much less of a splash. It was stuck on a corner, turning gently, inside crude pedestrian barriers and covered with ‘don’t touch’ signs. There was nothing to sell this as an innovative take on a pinacle of advanced engineering design.
Some people were stopping, however. As this was Derby, some stopped with knowledge and interest. A mum with two children in a pushchair explained that their dad helped build machines like this; three teenage girls paused with puzzled expressions; a couple of older men walked purposefully forward to study it.
However, a Lego castle, double-decker bus or Christmas tree would have got more attention. All are images that the general public would recognise at a glance – and people would then gone over to wonder at and study them in more detail. But an aeroengine, out of context, without an aircraft… I’m sorry, but for the general public, rather than the Farnborough anaraks, it needs more.
I so much wished that the two young Rolls-Royce employees, doing their stint with the exhibit, had been given more to sell.
So I’ve been in touch with Rolls-Royce. I’ve suggested some ideas for context, to sell the engineering; the power, the purpose, the materials, the decades of design and development…
If Rolls-Royce exhibit their special Lego model elsewhere – and I hope that they do – I hope it will also be accompanied by at least a set of display boards giving a few facts and figures about the full-size engine. About the properties of the materials from which it is made, the power it can generate, a photo – or even a model – of an aircraft with the engines attached…
And I hope that they also say something about the creativity and ingenuity of the teams of engineers whose ideas and skills have got us to this stage. Selling not just this product but engineering as a career is important for the future of Rolls-Royce, of Derby and of the UK.