The early years
Chelmsford Science and Engineering Society (CSES) was officially formed in 1920 as The Chelmsford Engineering Society, but its roots go back a little before this time.
Since the end of the first world war, engineers from local companies (Marconi, Hoffmann, Crompton-Parkinson, Christy Norris etc – then all major players) would gather to discuss their interests and relevant technical matters. This group was known as the Chelmsford Junior Society of Engineers (CJSE).
Following a determined effort, apprentices from Crompton-Parkinson formally joined forces with Hoffmann and Marconi, and on Wednesday 13 October 1920, the Chelmsford Engineering Society (CES) was launched with a talk at the Institution of Agriculture by Tom Dann, works manager of Crompton-Parkinson, on Electric Traction. Tom also became the Society's first president.
With more than 100 members by its second year, the Society became – and remains – the hub of engineering, technology and science in Chelmsford. The 'parent' companies, now part of Chelmsford's illustrious history, have undergone many changes but keen engineers continue to meet to this day.
Consolidation and growth
One of the Society's principal aims has always been to further the understanding of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) both within its members and to the wider world. Since its inception, the Society has held regular meetings to educate, excite and enthuse.
These were held at various venues, including the EEV (as it was known) site for over 30 years. In the mid-90s the talks were rehomed to take advantage of the Telford Lecture Theatre at the (former) Marconi Research site in Great Baddow. As that era closed, the Society's relationship with Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) strengthened significantly, to the point that ARU is now the Society's most important strategic partner and host for nearly all of its events. The support received from the university and its staff is instrumental to the Society's success.
CSES now collaborates with the Institute of Physics (IoP), Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) to offer a combined portfolio of talks and professional development for the community. The Society also holds regular social events for its members, and is registered with the Café Scientifique network.
In the 1980s, the Society began to hold an annual Schools' Engineering and Technology Competition. This marked the beginning of an expansion of the Society's remit to include the encouragement of young people to develop their skills in STEM subjects and to consider careers in relevant industries. CSES is now a key provider of STEM activity and financial support in the Chelmsford area, and the Competition draws hundreds of entrants each year from dozens of schools in Essex and the East of England. Students, teachers and academics can join the Society for free.
In 2012, CSES launched Engineering Our Future, which is a twice-yearly mini-conference aimed at students. Each event focuses on a particular topic, and explores how engineering developments apply to it. The format was updated when the Society held My Smarter Essex, to great excitement, on Thursday 2 October 2016. This became a series of fully interactive sessions designed to engage citizens in the design of a smarter future Essex. Harnessing the latest technology, these events are very popular and have even been delivered for professionals as well as students.
Starting in 2012, the Society began to update its digital infrastructure to twenty-first-century standards. On Monday 1 April 2013, this website went live, signifying the start of a transfer of the Society's operations and communications to fully electronic means. The CSES Cloud, with the first version of the digital membership database, was launched on Monday 29 December 2014. This was followed by the online Competition registration and management system (March 2015), STEM Club Bursary applications (August 2015), member registration and self-service version 1 (February 2016) and version 2 (November 2016), PayPal integration (May 2017), member email subscriptions (October 2017), and GDPR compliance (May 2018). June 2020 saw the Society migrate the bulk of its operations and data to Microsoft 365.
Underpinned by sponsorship and in-kind support from companies based in Chelmsford (and beyond), and with a dedicated and growing membership, the Society's mission remains the same. However, its delivery has moved with the times, taking advantage of technology developments, as would befit an engineering society!