Are these the seven engineering wonders of the 21st century?


When we think of "the man-made wonders of the world", it is easy to think about bridges and skyscrapers. However, that would be missing a very important point. Wonders are not so just because of their size but because of their impact on the world.

With this in mind, the Royal Academy of Engineering has worked with a group of young engineers to identify seven wonders of the 21st century world. These wonders are rarely recognised as feats of engineering but they have all been created by engineers. The list has been drawn up with input from a range of experts and a panel drawn from the Academy's programme for young engineers. It includes breakthroughs in fashion, sport, technology, entertainment, film, healthcare and the environment, and highlights the increasingly broad role of engineering in everyday life.

The list is as follows:

Gore-Tex Fabric – the waterproof, breathable fabric designed by engineers for all-weather use that has revolutionised the outerwear industry, from coats to trainers.


Hawk-Eye - the real-time visual tracking computer system developed by engineers to help both referees and viewers of ball sports.


iPhone – Apple’s device that launched a communications revolution in 2007, introducing the world to apps and putting the internet in our pockets.
YouTube - the game-changing platform that changed the way we watch television and share video content.


Dolby Atmos – the sound system that creates powerful, moving audio by introducing new concepts to cinema and film sound engineering.


3D printed bone implants – the medical engineering innovation of a custom-made ceramic structure that allows new bone to grow around it.



Clean water - the life-saving miracle of our age, enabled by continuing engineering innovation.


Along with the list, the Academy also surveyed 2,000 11-18 years old and found out that despite owning or using many engineered products or services, most teenagers were unaware that engineering was involved in designing and creating them. More than two thirds of teenagers own a pair of trainers or sports shoes, but only 20% were aware that they are designed by engineers. More than half of teens use Facebook and YouTube, yet less than 16% were aware that these have been created by engineers.

According to Professor Mark Miodownik, Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering,  “Engineering plays an essential part in everyday life, from the water we drink to the gadgets we use, and it’s also vital to addressing the challenges of the future. However, our survey shows that many young people don’t associate engineering with the technology they use day to day, and the things they’re interested in, which could mean they miss out on the opportunities to change the world as an engineer. We hope our list of surprising, 21st Century engineering wonders will inspire today’s teenagers and give them new opportunities.”

The list has been drawn up as part of the Royal Academy of Engineering's This is Engineering campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the breadth of careers in engineering and to help address the significant engineering skills and diversity shortfall that is holding back growth and productivity across the UK economy.

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