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Josh Elijah - BrightSparks Class of 2017 Award Winner

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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 Elijah’s nomination to BrightSparks stated that he is a new kind of engineer. Upon meeting Josh we understood exactly what that meant. His life mission is a true inspiration, it presents engineering as a tool for making kids' lives whatever they dream them to be. Josh started his business straight out of university, fulfilling his dream to build robots. He actively used Maker Spaces and online resources to create his first prototypes, embarking on a journey of discovery, experimentation and fun. Josh's mission is to use robots for teaching kids about engineering, his start-up is working to create the best educational robotics experience. They're based out of Makerversity in Somerset House, London.

Josh is an inspirational young engineer, he loves teaching and sharing his knowledge. He says "a robot is a fusion of Coding, Electronics, Math and Mechanics. It promotes the development of creative STEM skills that transcend engineering disciplines".

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It’s never too late to start…

In contrast with many of the engineers we speak to, Josh didn’t grow up wanting to go into engineering. His father was an engineer, so Josh says he did grow up playing with resistors and capacitors (and being told not to eat them!). But he didn’t actually decide to go into engineering until he took a college course at the age of 16 and fell in love with it immediately. Josh says: “I love the bounded creativity. You can create anything you like, but it has to work within the realms of physics, and yet you’ve got endless creativity to solve a problem.”

After graduating from university two years ago, Josh co-founded a company called Engimake to design and build an educational robotics kit. “I love robotics, but it’s seen as quite inaccessible, and people get scared whenever I say robotics, even engineers. So, I wanted to create a kit that people would really get excited about”.

Josh’s company launched a Kickstarter programme last year, raising £48,000. Now he and the Engimake team are busy delivering the QuadBot robotics kits they have developed. The QuadBot Kickstarter project started life in Fab Lab London, which is also where he started his freelance consulting design work. Josh credits Fab Lab London as his incubator and is obviously a big fan of the role makers spaces can play in design innovation.

Inspiring the next generation

Having founded a Robotics Society at university – which is where the inspiration for QuadBot first struck – Josh believes it is hugely important to inspire the next generation. His concern is that youngsters can be put off early on by the mathematical and theoretical side of engineering and believes the practical, hands-on approach is the way to excite and engage young minds.

When asked if anyone had particularly inspired him towards an engineering career, Josh responded that it was the way he was taught rather than a particular person.

“I didn’t go to school to do A Levels, instead I did a college course and the good (and the bad!) about that is that they throw you straight into the practical. So, if you don’t know what you’re doing, things pop and smoke and you burn your hands. I actually loved that because it subverted all of the theory and we went straight into wiring things up which really sparked my imagination for it. Once I was there and hooked, I then went and learnt the theory. And even though the theory side is a bit boring, you don’t mind learning it because you want to get better at the practical side.”

It is for this reason that Josh and Engimake launched their Kickstarter. The theory is minimal, it is all about getting the robot to do something physical. “If you show people a cool-looking robot that walks and lights up in different colours, they start asking ‘how does it do that?’ And then I know I’ve got them! Once they’ve had a go for themselves, they want to know and do more. So, I think that’s the way engineering should be taught rather than a theory-based approach – especially with children. Engage them with the practical, then bring the theory in later.”

Credit should go to Josh for the development of a teaching tool that can be used to learn about, and be inspired by, the possibilities of a career in engineering."

Paul Hide, techUK Chief

Sky’s the limit

As if co-founding a start-up robotics company wasn’t enough, Josh also works as a design and development consultant for bigger organisations that want to create products. “Companies come to me and say ‘Josh, how can we create this?’ I go away and think about it, come back to present a plan, then I go ahead and actually make that product – turning their idea into a physical product. It’s the best job in the world. I love it. It can be stressful, but I love it.”

Josh is working on five different projects at the moment. Two of them are for wearable devices – one to make cycling safer, another for a wearable battery device. That’s all Josh could tell us for now, but we look forward to hearing more when he’s in a position to share.

All in all, Josh is a truly inspiring young man. His life philosophy to use engineering as a teaching tool is remarkable. He finishes: "Don't be the tech user, be the tech maker. Don't lose your job to the robot, make the robot. We are meant for more than office work. It's fun to make a robot. Yes, you can do it! What will you do next?"

Find out more about EW BrightSparks...

DesignSpark Community Manager and all-around geek girl.
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