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ICE 200: how the Institution of Civil Engineers celebrated its bicentenary

29 June 2023

It’s been a year packed with activities and events telling the world about the contributions civil engineers have made to society. 

Two hundred years ago, a small group of engineers got together and founded the Institution of Civil Engineers – and during 2018, ICE has been celebrating the industry’s amazing achievements all around the world since then.

From a record-breaking number of votes in the ICE People’s Choice Awards to a travelling Invisible Superheroes exhibition to Engineering Plymouth, a film narrated by comedian Dawn French, the Institution has shared the story of civil engineering to thousands of people as part of the ICE 200campaign.

A major focus of ICE 200 was to educate members of the public about civil engineering, and to inspire young people to consider careers in the industry.

ICE did this through programmes such as Explore Engineering, Pitch 200, Café 200, and 200 People and Projects.

Events included the Great North Engineering Experience (GNEE) exhibition in Newcastle, organised by ICE North East, which welcomed over 34,000 visitors.

ICE North East also gathered together a group of female engineers to celebrate the 90th birthday of the Tyne Bridge (which was designed by ICE’s first female member, Dorothy Buchanan).

In addition, ICE 200 was celebrated at Coventry Cathedral with a dedicated service, where past ICE President Sir John Armitt gave the first reading.

L-R: Deputy Lord Mayor of the City of Coventry, Councillor Linda Bigham; ICE Past President Sir John Armitt CBE and Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of the West Midlands, John Crabtree OBE, at the Coventry Cathedral service.
L-R: Deputy Lord Mayor of the City of Coventry, Councillor Linda Bigham; ICE Past President Sir John Armitt CBE and Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of the West Midlands, John Crabtree OBE, at the Coventry Cathedral service.

Meanwhile in London, a national service to celebrate engineering was held at Westminster Abbey, where the first reading was given by current ICE President Andrew Wyllie.

Global Engineering Congress

As well as the public, ICE engaged the wider industry by hosting the Global Engineering Congress (GEC), in partnership with WFEO.

GEC, a week-long event in October, was the biggest-ever conference in the Institution’s history. It brought 3,500 delegates from 82 countries to ICE’s London headquarters, One Great George Street to talk about how engineers can help to solve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Café 200

Café 200 was based on the fact that the ICE founders first met in a coffee shop – Kendal Coffee House in London’s Fleet Street.

The programme was a series of talks by volunteer members, who visited community groups to explain how civil engineers have transformed lives.

These ranged from a visit to a nursery in Northern Ireland to bring civil engineering to life for a group of four-year-olds to a Café 200 stage at ICE New Zealand’s family-focussed, public event, Engineering the Future.

Meanwhile, ICE Wales ran talks to a wide range of audiences, including the Conway 50+ group, the Cardiff Civic Society, at the Royal College of Surgeons Conference, Howells School, Penarth WI, at the Sunday Careers Fair at Y Pant School.

Sunday Careers Fair at Y Pant School, Wales.
Sunday Careers Fair at Y Pant School, Wales.

“The girls that attended the talk all found it really interesting and were completely engaged,” said Rhian Morrey from Howells School physics department.

Nerys Lloyd-Pierce, Chair of the Cardiff Civic Society, said: “It was fantastic, everyone loved it, and got engaged, asking lots of questions.”

Thomas Hawksley FRS, civil engineer 1807-1893.
Thomas Hawksley FRS, civil engineer 1807-1893.

People also enjoyed the talk on The Works of Thomas Hawksley (pictured above), a 19th century civil engineer educated in Nottingham, at a Café 200 event from ICE East of England.

Pitch 200

Members from all over the world also played their part in educating the public by taking part in Pitch 200 – a competition that asked contestants to explain an engineering concept, using any props, in just 200 seconds.

There were 100 entries, ranging from an Akshay Budhihal Ashokkumar from the Netherlands explaining how plastic waste is used to replace bitumen in the construction of roads, to Catriona Salvini from Scotland using a Great British Bake-Off style presentation to explain the creation of concrete.

But it was West Midlands engineer Imogen Graves who took home the trophy at the global grand final, with her explanation of how demolition in construction works, using roly-poly cakes and rich tea biscuits.

200 People and Projects

Finally, to highlight some of the most effective civil engineering achievements in the world, ICE produced 200 People and Projects on the Institution’s website.

Some 500 projects were nominated by the ICE membership, which was narrowed down by a panel of experts to 200 that demonstrated the breadth and depth of civil engineering.

The projects chosen were not always the most high-profile or high-value, but all have transformed people’s lives.

Viewed by thousands of people already, these case studies will remain a valuable illustrative resource for years to come and help to inspire young people to consider the many varied and rewarding career paths within the profession.

As well as the website videos and case studies, a beautiful commemorative book, ICE 200: Shaping the World, was also published.

ICE 200 in numbers

90,000exhibition and conference visitors

200 People and Projects

Café 200 and Explore Engineering 500 events and 30,000attendees

Pitch 200 – 100 competitors and13finalists

Global Engineering Congress - 82countries,3,500delegates

Media reach - 80m

Engineering Plymouth – 85,000 views in the first month of launch on YouTube and Facebook

Number of votes cast in the ICE People’s Choice Award – 70,000

  • Anh Nguyen, digital content lead at ICE