Ben Hodgkinson has been honored by the Queen after Mercedes’ head of mechanical engineering designed a lifesaving device to help the NHS in the early stages of the pandemic.
Hodgkinson received a British Empire medal after leading an effort at the Mercedes factory to design a new CPAP [continuous positive airway pressure] device to help the NHS, the government having expressed concern about the lack of ventilators available.
The Mercedes team gave him permission to work on the project, repurposed their factory and worked hard for 10 days to bring the designs to life, with Hodgkinson being contacted by University College Hospital to collaborate and ” reverse-engineer” an older design and replicate as quickly as possible.
Mercedes is turning Brixworth into a manufacturing plant for CPAP devices, producing up to 1,000 units a day.
They also made the design specs available for free so that other manufacturers could produce them as well.
– PlanetF1 (@Planet_F1) April 7, 2020
When told of his honor, Hodgkinson said, “It was completely unexpected. It’s a hell of a thing’, but he thinks NHS staff are the ones who deserve the credit.
“I’m proud I did it, but I don’t feel as worthy as some people do,” Hodgkinson told the Northampton Chronicle and Echo. “What I did was work incredibly hard for about three weeks.
“There are doctors and nurses who have been working in these conditions, day and night, for months and months.
“I helped as much as possible and it was something I knew how to do. It was just my duty.
“I worked in Formula 1 for 20 years. You get pushed hard and it’s quite stressful, but you have this mental retreat that it’s just racing, it’s not life and death.
“But it was life or death. The few hours of sleep I stole made me feel guilty. I just felt bad leaving every morning.
The device was quickly approved for use and CPAPs were manufactured and distributed as soon as possible, with up to 1,000 machines a day being manufactured at the Mercedes factory in Brixworth for use.
The designs were then made freely available to other nations and organizations, with over 90 countries now using Hodgkinson’s design to help save lives around the world, including from a surprising source.
“As engineers, we always joke and say ‘it’s not rocket science’. Then all of a sudden NASA uploads your designs and you think that might be it,” the Red Bull-linked engineer said.
Hodgkinson tested positive for COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic and was “out for the count” for two weeks, but he was still touched to see his designs on the front lines in the battle against the virus.
“Fortunately, I didn’t need one of my own devices, but while I was in bed I was constantly being sent videos of them being used. It was very emotional,” he said. declared.
Hodgkinson is now set to join Red Bull to become technical director of their new Powertrains division after being recruited by Mercedes.