Future Industry Leader Awards

Star student Katie models prize radar project

Katie ArchibaldA 19-year-old East Lothian student has developed a computer model that has improved efficiencies at a global aerospace company.

Finmeccanica-Selex ES in Edinburgh says the software developed by Katie Archibald will reduce the number of flight trials required in testing and development.

It  will also achieve significant savings, as well as helping the firm become more environmentally friendly

Katie was awarded the top prize for the Future Industry Leader Awards 2015 at an event at the Royal Academy for Engineering in London last week.

The winning project involved “a remarkably accurate mathematical computer model of the reflectivity of the ground, as seen by the company’s radars.”

Katie, 19, a former Knox Academy pupil who studied for A levels at Fettes College in Edinburgh, has been taking part in the Year in Industry programme, where gap year students are placed for up to a year with top industrial employers. This enables them to gain valuable business experience and work on real commercial projects which benefit their companies.

At Finmeccanica-Selex ES, Katie developed a project to significantly enhance the accuracy of predictions of modern radar modes, by developing an advanced clutter model which simulates expected clutter (radar reflections from the ground), using free Ordnance Survey map data.

To develop the clutter model, Katie taught herself programming and designed her own software to draw 3D objects.

In collaboration with her manager, Paul Rose, lead radar systems engineer at the company, Katie wrote a paper for a journal outlining her work on a particularly complex element of the project, and her solution to inconsistencies in the data produced.

A spokesperson for Finmeccanica -Selex ES said: “Katie was a stand-out candidate from the moment we interviewed her; brimming with enthusiasm and confidence. Working with calm, dogged determination throughout the year, she has never let any obstacle beat her.

“Her work on the advanced clutter model is world class and is worthy of someone with much more experience. She transformed her model from being merely ‘very good’ to being ‘outstanding’ – the results are simply astonishing! Her success is a result of her tireless endeavour and brilliant intellect. We are honoured and privileged to have worked with such a talented youngster.”

Katie said: Having the opportunity this year to apply my own knowledge and skills to a real engineering project has been invaluable.  It is an amazing feeling to see the positive impact that my own work has had on the company.”

At the Future Industry Leaders Awards, the Year in Industry students made a presentation of their project to a panel of judges, followed by a question and answer session and were judged on the contribution they have made to the business they were working with.

There were nine finalists and the awards to be won were: The Year in Industry 2015 National Winner, the Centrica Award for Environmental Awareness 2015, and the IET Award for Innovation 2015.

The Year in Industry also enables young people to acquire skills other than the technical skills that are needed for the task.

Katie added: “Working at Finmeccanica-Selex ES this year has shown me that far more than technical knowledge is needed to be a successful engineer.  I have discovered the importance of perseverance and problem solving within the job, as well as the need for team work and good communication; and the placement has given me the opportunity to develop all of these skills.”

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