Matthew Hunter, formerly a sixth form student at Chipping Sodbury Specialist Technology School in Bristol, and now a technical apprentice at Gloucestershire-based engineering company Renishaw, has won the Young Engineers’ Duke of York Award (Rose Bowl) and £1,000 prize money for ‘Creative Use of Technology’.
Matthew received the Award in March at The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair at the NEC, Birmingham. As a sponsor of Young Engineers, Schaeffler UK’s marketing manager Karen Preston was invited to present the Award to Matthew.
Matthew’s winning device, the Cygen, is a great example of engineering innovation with a strong eco-friendly angle. Cygen is designed to charge a mobile phone while cycling, without the cyclist having to worry about the phone battery going flat, resulting in loss of satnav capability and the risk of then getting lost.
As Matthew commented: “Cycling is a rapidly growing hobby for many people in the UK. Satellite navigation is becoming increasingly popular with cyclists and mobile phones are now often used instead of maps when cycling. Unfortunately, mobile phone batteries don’t last very long, particularly if the cyclist is operating the phone with satnav enabled. I therefore tried to think of a device that would enable cyclists to charge their mobile phone while pedalling.”
The core of Matthew’s product is an axial gap brushless generator with a ring of magnets attached to the spokes and a corresponding array of coils supported from the axle. The device is designed to be totally non-contact, which means that there is no residual drag when the phone is not charging.
The generator is designed as a 3-phase device with high efficiency electronics that rectify the 3-phase output, along with a boost -buck regulator that supplies the 5V required for charging.
“The universal wheel mount allows the Cygen product to be easily fitted to any type of bicycle – a mountain bike, hybrid or road racing bike,” explained Matthew. “The magnet ring is designed to fit any style or pattern of spokes and the coil set is simply clamped by the axle of the wheel.”
Now 18 years old, Matthew first came up with the idea when he was 17 years old, while studying his A Levels at Chipping Sodbury School. That summer, during his four-week work placement at Renishaw, Matthew was able to part-develop the Cygen device, with a little help from engineers at Renishaw. This device became the core of Matthew’s A-Level engineering and technology (ET) Project, where he was able to further research and develop the product. Renishaw also helped to manufacture a product prototype.
“I completed the ET Project at school and then decided to enter the project in the regional [West Midlands] Big Bang Fair awards, which I ended up winning. This meant I could progress to the National Big Bang finals at the NEC and benefit from the Young Engineers’ mentoring scheme,” said Matthew.
Matthew conceded that he never expected to win the Duke of York Award for Creative Use of Technology. “I feel very privileged to receive such an accolade, particularly from HRH The Duke of York [the patron of Young Engineers since 1994]. Since receiving the award, I’ve already had lots of exposure within Renishaw, with coverage appearing in the company’s in-house magazine. It has also started to open doors for me and has helped with networking. I have also been asked to represent Renishaw and give a speech at a forthcoming event aimed at young people.”
But what inspired Matthew to seek a career in engineering? “My father worked in engineering for more than 25 years and so he inspired me to a large extent. I was also lucky in that the school I attended was very well equipped in terms of technology, machinery and equipment. Not all schools have this level of funding available. Engineering and manufacturing play an important role in wealth creation and the future stability of the UK economy. This country therefore needs more qualified engineers for many different industry sectors including oil and gas and renewable energies. We therefore need to do more in schools to promote STEM subjects and to enlighten young people about the positive aspects of working in engineering. A career in engineering can offer lots of opportunities and experiences. After all, in which other profession can you go to work, think of an idea in the morning and then actually manufacture that part or product in the afternoon?”
Rod Edwards, chief executive of the Young Engineers charity, said: “I was delighted to see Matthew Hunter, who I first met on our mentoring programme at the National Physical Laboratory [NPL] in Teddington, win this award. It was very rewarding to see Matthew show his work to the Duke of York and then go on to be presented with the Rose Bowl. Young Engineers receives no direct Government funding and only exists through the generosity of donors and sponsors like Renishaw and Schaeffler. Last year over 20,000 young people received hands-on practical engineering experience from Young Engineers in schools and clubs around the country, and none of this would be possible without this financial support.”