• Tue. May 28th, 2024

North East Connected

Hopping Across The North East From Hub To Hub

Student engineer is reaching for the stars

2024pr040pic3

A University of Sunderland student has quit the aviation industry and now has his sights set on higher things, pursuing his passion for astronomy, and using his skills as an engineer to build a better telescope.

John Race, 37, from Lanchester, is in the final year of his Electronic and Electrical Engineering degree at the University. He returned to full time education in 2022 after 15 years working in the aviation industry, working most recently for British Airways.

John is a keen astronomer, and volunteers at Grassholme Observatory near Barnard Castle. It was while volunteering there that John was inspired to create his final year project.

“I realised that I could use my engineering skills to create a roof control system for an observatory,” says John. “My design basically monitors weather whilst an observation session is underway. In adverse weather conditions it will automatically pack the telescope away and shut the roof, protecting the equipment.”

John realised his idea would make an ideal final year project, but also quickly realised how expensive and time consuming it would be. On the advice of one of his lecturers John turned to the University’s Development Office for advice.

The team advised John to apply for The Dovre Alumni Excellence Scholarship. The award is funded by Norwegian graduate engineers of the former Sunderland Polytechnic, ‘The Dovre Alumni Community’. Each year these former Sunderland students fundraise to support two current engineering students from the University of Sunderland.

“I used the scholarship to drop some hours at my part time job at the start of this year to focus on exam revision, and to purchase some equipment to help me build my final year project at home,” says John.

John is hoping to use the equipment he purchased to start a small business after he graduates this summer and has been talking to the University’s Digital Incubator about his start-up idea. He also has plans to continue working on his idea for a completely autonomous observatory.

“I’d like to create a completely automated method of controlling a remote observatory with a roll on, roll off roof. It’s a huge project, but the idea is to design an unmanned observatory that you could log onto from anywhere in the world. But maybe I’ll save that for my PhD.”

The University of Sunderland offers scholarships to applicants, undergraduates and graduates to improve their opportunities, studies and professional career aspirations. To find out more about what is available go to: sunderland.ac.uk

For more information on studying an Electronic and Electrical Engineering degree at the University of Sunderland, visit: https://www.sunderland.ac.uk/study/engineering/undergraduate-electronic-electrical-engineering/

Find out more about the Digital Incubator and student and graduate start-up support at the University of Sunderland, here: https://www.sunderland.ac.uk/more/enterprise-innovation/start-a-business/start-up-support/