Graduate engineer reels in Pitch 200 prize with salmon-inspired video

There was nothing fishy about Verena Fernandes' 200-second explanation of the consequences of dams on salmon migration, which hooked the public's interest in ICE's annual competition. 

Graduate engineer Verena Fernandes, representing South East England, has netted the most votes to win ICE Pitch 200 after explaining the consequences of dams on salmon migration and possible solutions in 200 seconds.

More than 3,400 people voted as part of a competition that challenges ICE members to use their creativity and communication skills to explain a civil engineering concept or project in an accessible and entertaining self-filmed video.

A fish-eye view

Fernandes, who works for Wokingham Borough Council, attracted the most votes for her video, Ask the Salmon. Taking a fish-eye view of dams, she challenged engineers to work with nature and take an interdisciplinary approach to infrastructure solutions, learning from biologists and ecologists to adapt designs to improve the impact on salmon and other wildlife.

She said: “I’m delighted with having the chance to share my passion for new perspectives of civil engineering, which is such a broad and diverse field. I hope can motivate others to look from different points of view and help shape a sustainable future through innovative and multidisciplinary approaches.”

Read more about dams from a salmon’s view point.

Bucket loads of creativity

Eight civil engineers from around the world with a passion for what they do and a desire to communicate with a wider audience put themselves forward for this year’s ICE Pitch 200. The general public were asked to view their bite-sized videos, covering a wide range of topics from water leakage to chimney demolition, and vote for their favourite.

Vivek Jhaveri, a graduate civil engineer from Heriot-Watt University in Dubai, representing the Middle East region, came second with a pitch video on the use of 3D printed concrete. Using melted chocolate, wafers and a can of whipped cream, Jhaveri explained the applications of 3D printed concrete in the construction industry and how it can help reduce waste.

Third place went to Scotland’s Lauryn Steel, a principal technician at Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Engineering Design Service and owner of Steel Engineering Technician Services. Her pitch, Let's talk about bridges, takes viewers on a tour of different bridge types, explaining their key differences and applications.

Wendy Blundell, Director ICE regions, said: “We saw creativity in bucket loads during this year’s Pitch 200 competition! I’d like to thank all those shortlisted for taking up the challenge to convey often complex themes in an accessible and entertaining way.

"In particular, congratulations are due to our winner, Verena Fernandes, who has shown that taking an unexpected perspective on a topic can aid everyone’s understanding and encourage fresh thinking.”

As Pitch 200 champion 2021, Fernandes wins £400,  with Jhaveri winning £200 for second place and Steel getting £150 as third prize.

Pitch 200 was first launched in 2018 to mark the 200th anniversary of ICE. The aim is to raise public awareness of civil engineering and its positive role in shaping and improving communities and tackling some of the world’s biggest challenges. The competition also seeks to highlight the creativity and communication skills of civil engineers and encourage more young people to think about joining the profession.

All the shortlisted Pitch 200 videos can be viewed at www.ice.org.uk/pitch200.

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