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Apprentices challenged in week-long competition

Engineering apprentices from across the UK gathered at Defence Academy Shrivenham for the 64th annual week-long Tom Nevard Memorial Competition.

Image of two Tom Nevard competitors testing their rocket.

The Tom Nevard Memorial Competition is run by the Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) and is a prestigious event that attracts competitors from across the defence community and is the biggest gathering of craft and technician apprentices at any one time. “It’s an amazing opportunity for all the apprentices that take part and you meet so many new people who you could end up working with in the future,” enthuses Rosie Wheelhouse-Thomas, a Trainee Weapons Fitter who works at Defence Munitions Gosport.

Apprentices crack on

After a welcome from Dr Chris Couldrick of Cranfield University – the competition’s development partner – it was time to announce the projects that would test the participants’ engineering skills and ingenuity. These included designing air and water powered mortar rockets and hovercrafts. The next four days saw a flurry of activity as friendships and rivalries were forged, mortar launchers designed and hovercraft skirts stitched and modelled in anticipation of the final day’s judging. Judges scrutinise each entry while cross-examining the apprentices on their selection of materials, design process and engineering knowledge before retiring to the boardroom to consider the competitors. After seeing the mortar launchers in action before hovercraft drag racing, it was time to reconvene in the lecture theatre to announce the winners.

The winners

First up was James Doonan, a first year apprentice from DE&S Devonport, whose winning mortar rocket travelled an impressive 65 metres. Finally the winning hovercraft in the team event was announced, which was judged in part by Tom Nevard’s grandson Richard Nevard. First place went to the Grey Team, which comprised of apprentices from Babcock DSG Bovington, DM Gosport and DE&S Abbey Wood and Devonport. “The competition was really excellent from start to finish. It was incredibly fun,” says team member Richard Hartley, a first year apprentice from Abbey Wood. “Everyone there was determined to make as good a product as they could and it was a pleasure to be a part of that atmosphere. Winning the competition really was the icing on the cake of a wonderful week.” All the winners returned to Defence Academy Shrivenham in December, where they were awarded their certificates, cash prizes and crystal trophies.