Primary Engineer brings young inventor’s dream to life

Grace Finlay, Primary Engineer invention winner, with part of her Roll Over Bench invention, which University of Strathclyde's Engineering students are helping to build

Grace Finlay, Primary Engineer invention winner, with part of her Roll Over Bench invention, which University of Strathclyde’s Engineering students are helping to build

A budding engineer from Fife has seen her rotating bench concept come to life with the help of Primary Engineer and a team of mechanical engineers from the University of Strathclyde.

Eleven-year-old Grace Finlay invented the ‘Roll Over Bench’ or ‘ROB’, as part of the 2016/17 Primary Engineer’s Scottish Engineering Leader Award competition designed to engage school children with STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) subjects. ROB looks like a conventional bench, but can be fully rotated to present a fresh side to sit on, providing a dry seat at the park, whatever the weather.

This annual competition asks pupils, ‘If you were an engineer what would you do?’, encouraging a dialogue between engineers and young people about their careers and creative problem solving. Pupils and children identify problems, then enter drawn engineering solutions in the hope of having their design manufactured by students at Strathclyde University.

The amazing ‘Roll Over Bench’ will be on display at the Scottish Learning Festival on Wednesday 20th and Thursday 21st September at the SECC.

Grace said: “I was walking my dog in a park and wanted to sit down but every bench was covered in water. It made me think, what if there was a way to turn the bench over and have a dry seat when it has been raining?

“It’s amazing to see my idea come to life and find out more about the design and development process. The bench is brilliant and better than I had imagined.”

As part of the project Grace took the trip to Strathclyde’s Faculty of Engineering to see the bench being manufactured. She was given a tour of the facilities and workshops by the team of five mechanical engineering Master’s students who have taken on her design as part of their final year work.

Dr Andrew McLaren, Vice Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at Strathclyde, said: “The UK is currently estimated to be short of around 20,000 graduate engineers annually which creates a significant skills gap in the sector and a challenging future. The work of Primary Engineer is exactly the type of programme to help ignite a passion for engineering in young people, and will go a long way to inspiring future generations of inventors for our sector.

“Grace’s roll over bench design showed creativity, and ingenuity – two of the most important traits in an engineer’s inventory. She has a bright future ahead of her in the sector and the team has worked hard to complete the prototype to reveal at the exhibition in June.”

Lise McCaffery, Regional Director for Primary Engineer, said: “Over the past four years we have received tens of thousands of inspiring engineering solutions from young people across Scotland to problems in the world as they see them. From a dementia helmet for their Grandad; to a Calpol lolly for their younger sibling; or a magnetic label to pair socks in the washing machine for their parents, the best thing about this competition is seeing how these future engineers care about the world around them.

The Scottish Engineering Leaders Award is a school competition that is free to enter. The 2017/18 competition will launch in September. To register your school, go to