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16 Jun 2017, 15:05

Josh Bowen - BrightSparks Class of 2017 Award Winner

RS Components partnered with Electronics Weekly on its inaugural EW BrightSparks programme to celebrate the achievements of the UK’s most talented young electronics design engineers and help to inspire and encourage new entrants to the industry.

Josh Bowen is a 23-year-old electronics engineer who recently graduated with a first degree in electronic engineering. Discovering engineering fairly late on in his school career, Josh has more than made up for it since. Even before university, Josh secured summer placements at Atlas Elektronik UK and went on to gain a scholarship from UKNEST/Lloyds Register and a mentorship from BAE Systems and CAPTEC.

Josh says that working in industry while studying meant he was able to gain the skills, knowledge and contextual understanding from a real engineering environment.


Drive and determination

A very proactive student, Josh won a National Instruments design competition during his studies and was awarded its new microcontroller/FPGA and a free, three-day LabVIEW training course. In addition, he responded to the lack of influence in his university’s STEM faculties by individually rallying the interest to found his own engineering society.

Following university, Josh went on to work for a small company called He-Man Dual Controls, which manufactures mechanical dual-control pedals for driving instructor vehicles and is in close contact with many of the UK’s automotive manufacturers.

Josh was shortlisted to spearhead a government-funded Knowledge Transfer Partnership research scheme at He-Man. His primary objective was to innovate past the limitations of outdated mechanical systems to design smarter and safer electronic products for driving schools.

“The most powerful man in the universe”

As the only electronic engineer at the company, Josh is He-Man Dual Controls' very own He-Man! Josh is responsible for pioneering unique and cutting-edge research to develop advanced technical knowledge-bases for the industry. Having this position also means he has full responsibility for the electronic design, manufacturing processes and standards conformance of each of his innovations. Josh has come up with a number of exciting developments around the automotive environment during his time at He-Man, from reverse engineering vehicle network messages, through the development of IoT-style long-range telemetry, to experimenting with AR technology.

When he gets some spare time, Josh likes to get involved with volunteer work in local universities, such as talking at a local IET Graduate Q&A panel recently. He is also aspiring to reach Chartered Engineer status.

We chatted with Josh at the EW BrightSparks Awards lunch at the Houses of Parliament to discover more.

Getting into electronics

We asked Josh what got him into electronics initially: “I’m a bit of a tinkerer, I like to pull things apart, see how they work and try – emphasis on try – to put them back together”.

Josh recently built his own robot at home “out of my dad’s garage, using bits of scrap metal, gear motors and big old wheels. It’s got Bluetooth and Android interfaces that I developed for it, which is stuff I learnt at university and have gone on to use at work”.

Josh certainly demonstrates what hard work and ability can achieve. It is highly commendable that at such a young age he was shortlisted to spearhead a Knowledge Transfer Partnership, and to have gone on to achieve so much with it.”

Isabella Mascarenhas, Young Professionals Engagement Manager, IET

When asked about his greatest achievement, Josh cites his work in delving into the roots of He-Man’s core automotive business. He reverse-engineered the vehicle networks involved using open-source hardware and software. “I used Arduino shields to do a lot of that and it’s great fun.”

The major issues that Josh has encountered in his role at He-Man Dual Controls are to do with power and space. “We were trying to develop a mechatronics system to put into vehicles but had a lot of problems with power. You can only draw so much power from cigarette lighters. Then there are space issues, so you really have to do your research when it comes to what actuators you use and what control systems are best for use in the car, and what the best fail-safe system to use is. So you really need to design to overcome all those issues.”

With continual developments in electric and autonomous cars, this is an area that Josh is especially interested in, which also feeds into his passion for robotics. We asked Josh what he thinks about the reality of autonomous cars. “There’s certainly a lot of investment in it. I think it will be a reality, however, people are saying that we will see fully autonomous cars driving on the roads by 2020. I don’t see that as particularly realistic, but I do believe we will see them. At least that’s what I’m hoping.”

Josh is an incredibly enthusiastic engineer and his passion shines through in his work. Great engineering is all about taking a concept, or an existing design, and improving it.”

Lindsley Ruth, CEO, Electrocomponents


More to come

DesignSpark is planning a trip to Southampton to visit Josh Bowen at He-Man Dual Controls. A passionate advocate of DesignSpark PCB tools, Josh has agreed to give us some insight into what he gets up to at work on a day-to-day basis.

Find out more about EW BrightSparks...

DesignSpark Community Manager and all-around geek girl.

16 Jun 2017, 15:05