This Is Engineering: Meet Mo

Curious about what engineers actually do? We’re profiling some of the diverse roles a career in engineering can lead to, including using technology to make our cities smarter.

Engineers are the backbone of our lives today – from games development to building design and medical research. Unfortunately the UK’s engineering profession is facing a skills shortfall, which is why we’re backing ‘This is Engineering’, a campaign from the Royal Academy of Engineering to show young people the diverse engineering careers available.

From codebreaker Tommy Flowers whose programmable computer Colossus helped shorten the end of WW2, to the UK’s first public 5G trial, we’ve got a rich heritage of ground-breaking engineering.

Here Mo Zoualfaghari (35), Head of Technical Design & Delivery at BT’s Internet of Things Data Hub, talks about his work and why he chose a career in engineering.

What does your job involve?

I’m working on the Internet of Things. The ‘Things’ can be a sensor, actuator (type of motor that controls motion) or computer device, all embedded with electronics - these things connect and send data through the internet.

An example would be smart cities and smart homes - making things smart and connecting things together so they can talk to each other and make life more intelligent.

We worked on the very first pilot of a smart city in the UK in Milton Keynes - for the first time in the UK we made a city smart.

The project lasted two years, we deployed various sensors from smart car parks, smart lighting, smart mouse traps, smart bins and smart energy meters throughout the city. We created applications on top of the data collected from all these sensors to save money and make the quality of life better for the citizens of the city.

After that we ran the CityVerve Manchester project, which is another example of working on a smart city solution.

As a child what led you to a career in engineering?

When I was in elementary school aged nine, we had a tech talk about electronics. The same day I went home and asked my dad to get me some electronic equipment - like lamps and wires.  As a result of that I started building stuff like radios, alarms and flashing LED lights. I eventually decided to go to university to study electronics, before ending up at BT.

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

It’s quite exciting here in BT, especially in the Applied Research section. Day-to-day I work with coding, filing patents and their user cases into our industry to protect them. I also present and demonstrate our innovations, take part in tech talks and STEM and volunteer activity.

What do you think would most surprise other people about your job?

Sometimes when I give people examples of smart technologies they are shocked! For instance we had connected cattle - we put sensors in a cow’s stomach.

The sensors attract all the nails they eat in the grass that can do harm, they also take the body temperature and pulse rate and send the data back so you can monitor their health and take care of them individually.

Scientists are also working on connected bees - monitoring the movement of the bees. Small, very tiny Nano sensors are put on each bee and they drag them along.

What’s your favourite thing about being an engineer?

To solve a problem we all face in day-to-day life. To be known as someone capable of solving things and doing something clever, while helping people to improve their life standards.

What the biggest achievement of your career?

At aged 17 I designed a robot that could walk on the walls and roof. Among 13,600 inventions, my invention was awarded first in the whole country and I got the scientific medal of honour from the president of Iran.

What advice would you give a young person considering a career in engineering?

Don’t let anyone (including yourself) suppress your imagination. All inventions need imagination at the beginning.

When I mentioned at school I wanted to create a robot to walk on the walls and roof everybody – including my teachers – started laughing at me.  So don’t let anyone (including yourself) suppress your imagination, go for it. Imagination is the key for technology and for innovation.

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