Shining a light on Neon

Photos of kids enjoying engineering experiences

Over the past year, Clearleft has had the pleasure of working extensively with EngineeringUK, whose ambition it is to grow the number and diversity of tomorrow’s engineers by informing and inspiring young people.

Last week EngineeringUK launched a brand new platform called Neon which, put simply, helps teachers get kids of all backgrounds interested in engineering as a career by giving them a taste for what it’s like to be an engineer.

Clearleft created the Neon brand, and designed and developed a beautiful engaging website in collaboration with our friends at Umbrella. I’m really proud of the work the team did, and I’m particular pleased for us to be involved because of what Neon is trying to achieve and how it’s going about it.

Screenshots of Neon

As a chartered chemical engineer in a previous life, the notion of getting more and diverse kids into engineering particularly appeals to me. Having moved from engineering into design, I often see parallels between the two professions. Both can provide hugely rewarding careers, but perhaps more importantly both engineering and design will play a fundamental part of any success this country might have, especially now it’s decided to go it alone. It’s vital more kids are drawn to these professions.

Neon helps to do this by collating and curating experiences for school children of all ages. The platform is aimed at teachers, and Clearleft’s research early in the project made it clear just how busy and time poor they are. This brought a focus on making sure the platform removed as many barriers as possible to teachers finding and booking the appropriate experiences, and getting hold of the resources to support them (leaflets, posters, case studies, and so on). A by-product of this attention to ease of use  –  not just the interface but the whole offering  –  is that Neon can equally be used by parents and self-motivated kids.

I love it that Neon is about providing experiences of what it’s like to be an engineer. It’s a hugely varied profession that does not get the recognition it deserves in the UK. Say ‘engineer’ and most people will still think of a man in a hard-hat and grease-stained overalls. That’s a long way from the reality of most engineers nowadays. Like design, much of engineering is about problem solving. This means the job is a healthy mix of creative and logical thinking, frequently working as a team. Some engineers will work on site, but like most professions, most will be in front of a computer. Engineers look like all of us.

I hope Neon will put paid to the stale Victorian notion of an engineer, as it gives all sorts of children a flavour of what engineering is like. With any luck many more children will be enthused to consider engineering as the rewarding profession it is. In the long run we’ll all be better off for that.