West Midlands engineer crowned Pitch 200 winner

A demolition demonstration using baked goods took first place at ICE’s international competition.

Pitch 200 winner Imogen Graves presents her demolition demo. Image credit: Visual Eye
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Pitch 200 winner Imogen Graves presents her demolition demo. Image credit: Visual Eye
  • Updated: 27 November, 2018
  • Author: Emma Beer
Using roly-poly cakes and rich tea biscuits to explain how demolition in construction works has won a West Midlands engineer the top award in the global final of Pitch 200.

Pitch 200 was a competition ICE launched as part of its bicentenary celebrations this year. It asked engineers to explain an engineering concept to the public in an engaging and creative way in only 200 seconds. Contestants were encouraged to use props and presentations.

Imogen Graves, assistant design manager at J Murphy & Sons Ltd, beat 12 other finalists from all over the world at the final, held at ICE’s London headquarters on Monday evening.


The winning pitch

Her presentation, “Demolition: what a load of rubbish!” explored the importance of thinking about the reuse and recycling of construction materials at the end of an asset’s life.

Using two models, made of roly-poly cakes and rich tea biscuits, Imogen clearly demonstrated the difference between a more traditional “smashing” method of demolition and having a demolition plan.

In smashing, materials become contaminated and are unable to be reused, while carrying out the process with a plan can, in some cases, allow for up to 90% of materials to be recycled.

Graves won £1,000 and will be an ICE Ambassador in 2019, using her communication skills to improve the understanding of the general public that civil engineers transform their lives.

“This pitch is one I use when engaging with school children, encouraging them to think about civil engineering as a future career,” she said.

“I look forward to continuing to communicate ideas and concepts about our industry as ICE Ambassador next year.”

She added: “It feels amazing to be recognised for something that I’m extremely proud of, on a topic that is really important. A lot of my job is communicating complex schemes to non-engineers, though usually in a less messy fashion!”

A 'cutting-edge approach'

The judges, Sir Peter Bazalgette, ITV Chair and great-great-grandson of engineer and past ICE President Sir Joseph Bazalgette, Stephen Metcalfe MP, HM Government Envoy for Year of Engineering, Dr Marty Jopson, inventor and reporter for the BBC’s The ONE Show and Ayo Sokale, ICE President’s Future Leader 2017/8, said that Graves came across as witty and engaging.

The judges, (L-R) Stephen Metcalfe MP, Dr Marty Jopson, Ayo Sokale and Sir Peter Bazalgette. Image credit: Visual Eye

“Imogen presented a cutting-edge approach to waste reduction in demolition, and if that sounds dry, her presentation was anything but. A really talented civil engineer,” said Sir Peter.

ICE Immediate Past President Professor Lord Robert Mair said: “Imogen gave a highly imaginative and hugely engaging presentation amid a tough field of talented and skilled competitors.”


Akshay Budhihal Ashokkumar from TU Delft in the Netherlands, representing Europe, was awarded second place in the competition.

He introduced the audience to the concept of “Plastic Roads”, whereby plastic waste is used to replace bitumen (6-8%) in the construction of roads.

Third place was awarded to Catriona Salvini from Heriot Watt University, representing the Scotland region.

Her Great ICE Bake-off style presentation used the analogy of baking Rocky Road to the creation of concrete, and discussed the possibility of using supplementary materials to improve sustainability.  

"I came up with the idea when I was at my parents' house baking with my mum and explaining my dissertation to her. I used baking analogies because they would be easily understood and for concrete, Rocky Road was the best fit," she said. 

The event was hosted by TV presenter Rob Bell and included contestants from across the UK, as well as the Netherlands, Hong Kong, India and Australia.