Apprentices from across Defence have convened at the Defence Academy for the prestigious Tom Nevard Memorial Competition for a five-day challenge to build a hovercraft or an air mortar.
Seventy-two engineering apprentices from organisations including DSTL and DE&S are taking part in the challenge either in five-man teams for the hovercraft project, or as individuals for the air mortar and elastic band gun task.
“It is a real engineering challenge, but also test their powers of negotiation and working in a team,” said Tracey Cruse, the MOD Apprentice Competition Officer for DE&S who are organising the event.
The competitors, who are aged between 17 and 32 and are at different stages in their three-year MoD apprenticeship, were given their task on Sunday. They had the afternoon to research it before putting in their first request for materials on Monday.
"They have no drawings or plans to work from so they have to research it and build everything from scratch," explained Tracey "so it really tests their core engineering competencies in having to not only design and make something from scratch but adapt their plans and come up with alternative solutions if the materials they want aren't affordable."
The rules state that the hovercraft needs to be able to inflate, fly over different surfaces from grass to gravel and water, whilst also carrying weight - in this case a model tank. In the individual challenges, the air mortar and elastic band gun, the weapons need to be able fire consistently with precision at a target. The aiming system and trajectory of fire will also be measured and accessed.
The judges will decide the winner on Friday.
In addition to these challenges, for the first time this year the five-day event is also host to the Sir Henry Royce Memorial Competition where seven of the apprentices have been set the challenge of making a multi-tool screwdriver.
"This competition is about precision engineering and really tests the best of the best," said Tracey. "The finished product has to look as good as something that is factory made and you would buy off the shelf, but is actually made by hand. It will really test their skills and everything they have been taught as apprentices.
"These competitions are for people with a natural ability to make things, and they are good at it. But it's also the only event that brings them all together to meet other apprentices within the MoD which allows them to share ideas."