Like the rest of the nation, I was gripped by the London Olympic and Paralympic Games. I've witnessed incredible achievements and developed a passion for sports like taekwondo, Keirin cycling and Finn class sailing that I hadn't seen before, but that had me on the edge of - and frequently leaping out of - my seat.
As summer draws to a close ensuring that the legacy of the Games is both positive and enduring comes into sharp focus. The challenge facing the UK now is to make sure all the enthusiasm and hard work isn't wasted; so we can look back in five, 15 - even 50 - years' time and say 'what a difference it made'. The sporting legacy is central to that but there's an engineering legacy that is worth celebrating and protecting too.
At London 2012, perhaps more than at any other Games, we have seen the use of technology to help and support athletes and provide the much discussed 'marginal gains' - the fractions of a second that can be the difference between gold and silver.
I am proud to say that engineers at my company have played a small part in developing enabling technologies for athletes in the past five years.
It all started when one of our engineers set himself the challenge of rowing the Atlantic - a feat of physical endurance which saw him strike up a conversation with an Olympic gold medallist also taking part, about how aerospace technology could be applied to sport. This started us on the road towards realising that vision of applying leading-edge technologies and engineering knowledge to Britain's medal-winning sports. There are compelling similarities between defence technology and athletics. Both are extremely high performance and in defence, as in sport, every second counts. So in 2007 we joined forces with UK Sport. The resulting partnership has seen our experts give £1.5 million worth of support in kind to British athletes so far.
The exciting contribution that engineers from a number of companies have made to both Olympic and Paralympic athletes' preparations for the Games has been widely reported on this summer. BMW transferred obstacle avoidance technology from their automotive research projects to the long jump and developed a velocity tracking camera system that allows coaches to provide feedback on factors such as speed and take off angle. They also helped to develop a motion tracking device to analyse swimmers' technique underwater.
McLaren Applied Technologies adapted Formula One technology for cycling to relay data about technique, positioning and speed to the side of the track in real time. Loughborough University even developed clothing for cyclists. Described by Sir Chris Hoy as 'electric hot pants', the intelligent material keeps core muscles warm between the warm up and start of the race helping to prevent injury and improve performance.
While we didn't branch into fashion design, the diverse expertise at BAE Systems, from human factors to mechanical engineering saw our engineers get stuck in too. On the track we applied the laser timing technology derived from a battlefield identification system to offer an entirely new approach to performance monitoring in cycling. Working with Loughborough University, BMW, Contour886 (specialists in custom moulded seating), and RGK (the chair suppliers to GB wheelchair basketball teams), we helped produce wheelchairs for members of the Paralympics GB basketball team that included seats moulded to the athletes' individual body shapes, improving their agility and speed.
We even put wheelchair athletes through their paces in our wind tunnel. Normally used to test fighter jets, this helped athletes find their optimal racing position.
Unsurprisingly this type of technology has attracted widespread media attention. Leading British innovator Sir James Dyson recently commented that he was so intrigued by the engineering behind cycling that he would like to see engineers given free rein to produce more radical bikes in the future.
Without the dedication and skill of the athletes, the world's most sophisticated engineering makes no difference of course. If I got on Sir Chris Hoy's bike and tried to race around the velodrome I'd probably fall off. All the engineers involved have been enthused and excited to apply their skills but technology doesn't win races; years of training and hard work do and the preparations athletes undertake are more extensive than ever before. Our role, and the role of the likes of BMW and McLaren have been minor but the legacy for the wider engineering sector will be much greater.
Just as the Olympics and Paralympics has captured the imagination of the public and inspired a new generation of athletes, Olympic technology has almost certainly inspired a future generation of engineers. So immediate is the post-Games-effect that we've received emails from students who want to work with us as a result of hearing about this technology and through our schools road shows, my company hopes to inspire even more young people to consider careers in engineering.
If we are to ensure the engineering legacy of the Games lives on then the hard work starts here. We need to keep developing our understanding of the contribution that can be made and celebrating the collaboration between sport and engineering in all its many forms.
Applying technology to sport is exciting, challenging and rewarding. The engineering legacy of the Olympic and Paralympic Games should be far-reaching. The future for engineering that enables athletes to perform - without taking away from the dedication of the individuals or undermining sporting challenges - looks very bright indeed.