Steve Olney awards goes virtual as Coventry University automotive design class of 2020 attend annual

A recent awards ceremony hosted by leading design engineering and recruitment company, Contechs was this year presented via the popular video communications platform Zoom as restrictions still remain on public gatherings due to Covid-19.

Now in its 13th year, Contechs, who have facilities in Warwick, Basildon and in Europe, virtual presented the awards to final year undergraduates in recognition of their outstanding design achievements.

The Award, recognises outstanding achievement in design amongst the graduating students studying Transportation Design. All previous winners have gone on the achieve success in design fields particularly in the automotive sector and this year’s talent was again exceptional as demonstrated in their final year projects,

Despite the current limitations, Contechs’ commitment to hosting the annual event ensured that the ceremony went ahead and was appropriately adapted in line with the governmental guidelines currently in place.

As a business Contechs prides itself on furthering next generational talent and has a long history of committing to the perseveration of skillsets and nurturing talent through its established apprenticeship programme.

Usually hosted at the University’s School of Art and Design the students were unable to showcase their highly skilled designs in the traditional manner but nevertheless a winner and two runners up were handpicked from an array of eight talented finalists – all of which who were in attendance during the online ceremony.

The judges for this year’s event were Peter Birtwhistle (former Director of Mazda Design), Paul Llewellyn, Head of Operations & Delivery McLaren Design at McLaren Automotive Ltd, Carsten Astheimer (owner of Astheimer Design) and Stuart Robinson, Manager, Concept CAD and Visualisation. at Ford Motor Company. The feedback and critique from the judges provided great exposure and experience for the Students and the ‘virtual’ format of the degree show provided a new dimension to the event was well attended online by many industry experts.

The awards were organised in memory of Steve Olney, a Contechs founding director, who died suddenly in 2005. Each year the firm presents awards to the students who best demonstrate the personal values held by Steve – namely design innovation, technology, craftsmanship and helping to enhance the lives of others around them.

The winner this year was Matthew Lincoln whose Urban Escapism project was well received by all the judges. William Blounts well researched marine project took second and an innovative balloon and gondola design by Miao Yang placed third.

Pete Jarvis, Managing Director of Contechs, said: “Adapting to the new way of normal has been a huge transitionary change. It’s clear to see that the work ethic all students have demonstrated after completing their projects whilst under lockdown is outstanding, and as such all students should be recommended for graduate opportunities.

“The industry is changing and these projects have been reflective of that change. The role of the automotive designer in the modern age is no longer just about looking at styling, but rather to establish how people can move from A to B in the most efficient and effective manner, in the most desirable way.

“The standard this year has once again hit new heights and that truly is a testament to the quality of the University’s School of Art and Design. Given the constraints and pressures pilled on the designers due to Covid, each and every student showed immense professionalism by creating designs of the highest quality.

“Our congratulations to not only each of our three prize winners but also to the eight finalists. It was a tough contest and we look forward to next year’s event.”

The awards ceremony further cements the long-standing relationship between Contechs and Coventry University. For over a decade the university has provided research, supervisory knowledge and specialist expertise to Contechs and the two regularly work alongside each other on Knowledge Transfer Partnerships.

Established in 1997, Contechs specialises in design and engineering, trim-manufacture, materials handling and specialist recruitment. The company has sites in Warwick, Basildon and Cologne, Germany and has a total workforce of over 1000.