Published: 14 January 2014

Surrey nurtures engineers of tomorrow

Sixth-formers got the chance to tackle real industrial problems at the Engineering Education Scheme workshop.

The University opened its doors to 90 sixth-form students with an interest in science and engineering when it hosted the two-day Engineering Education Scheme (EES) workshop. Held on 6 to 7 January, the workshop was organised by the Engineering Development Trust (EDT) – the largest provider of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) enrichment activities for young people in the UK.

Sixth-formers from schools and colleges across Surrey and the South East – almost 45% of whom were girls – got the opportunity to use the University’s advanced laboratories and equipment, with support on-hand from laboratory technicians and academic staff.

Giving students a taste of the real-life applications made possible by science and engineering, they were challenged to come up with solutions to genuine industrial problems provided by companies linked to each school or college. Projects ranged from designing a new camera system for gesture commands to developing the ultimate workstation for a modern engineer.

A number of high profile companies participated in the workshop including BP, KBR, Mott MacDonald, Air Products, Ramboll, Stemmer Imaging, Atkins, CH2M, Selex, L3, Thales and GlaxoSmithKline.

The workshop also highlighted the wide range of courses on offer at Surrey and the rewarding careers to which these courses can lead. The participating schools were Harrow, Wallington High, Tiffin, Tiffin Girls, King's College, Surbiton High, Farnborough Sixth Form College, Sir William Perkins, Royal Grammar School Guildford, Lampton School, Aylesbury Grammar, St Pauls Girls, Hazelwick, Southend High, Holy Trinity and Eton College.

The EDT University workshop is the culmination of a six-month project for students and, according to EES coordinator for Surrey Matt Fox, its undoubted highlight. “There is an incredible amount of diversity in the projects the students tackle, and the dedicated staff at the University always manage to assist them towards a successful outcome,” he said. “This opportunity really does play a formative role in creating the engineers of tomorrow.”

Dax Patel, physics teacher at the Royal Grammar School, Guildford, said, “The Engineering Education Scheme provides a fabulous opportunity for pupils to put what they learn in the classroom into practice, and work as a team. There is no other way the students would get this kind of experience, especially working with a company such as BP to become engineers of the future. The University of Surrey facilities are great; we have nowhere near this range of tools and being at the university brings engineering to life in a real lab.”

Alex Cockwill, a Lower Sixth Form Student at the school added,“We’re working on a project involved with offshore oil, creating a valve to help measure data underwater. The experience has been very interesting and eye-opening. It’s been great to use the University of Surrey’s workshops, they have loads of useful tools and it’s good to meet all the other schools and see their projects too.”

Since its launch in 1984, the Engineering Education Scheme has seen around 1,500 students participating annually, 30 percent of whom have been female. Demonstrating the Scheme’s effectiveness in promoting STEM subjects, 89 percent of students go on to read engineering or associated science, IT or technical degrees. In addition, 97 percent of engineers who have participated consider the scheme to be relevant to their company’s needs.

The EDT – a charitable trust – aims to provide opportunities for 11 to 21-year-olds to enhance their technical, personal and employability skills through industry-led projects, industrial placements and specialised courses, enabling them to make an informed decision about their future studies and career.

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