Students ‘Engineer’ Their Way to Business Success as College Reveals Exciting New Engineering Programme!

Engineering students at the City of Stoke on Trent Six Form College have beaten off stiff competition from around the region to land a prestigious business award.

The landmark success for the students comes as the Sixth Form College announces exciting plans of a new engineering programme for the next academic year starting in September.

A total of 64 regional teams took part in the programme and were paired up with local engineering companies who were all experiencing a real life problem that required innovative solutions to resolve.

The Sixth Form College had two teams entered into the project who were paired up with General Electric Power & Network Rail. The General Electric team needed to find a way to measure a hidden distance within a transformer effectively and accurately. As transformers are used to convert AC to DC power it was imperative that the measurements were accurate to eliminate any risk of explosion. Whilst the Network Rail team were tasked with measuring the stability of railway bridges without the need to close the railway line and cause mass traffic disruption. Over a six-month period, the students, their teachers and their paired company worked together on real life, scientific, engineering and technology projects as part of the Young Engineers Programme, run by the Engineering Education Scheme.

The project aims to provide students with first-hand experience to expand their skills and knowledge and apply it to an industrial environment; as part of the experience, students were invited to their partnered company for some behind the scenes exposure into how they are currently dealing with the problem. Upon visiting General Electric Power, the students received a demonstration of transformer construction and learned about the trickiness of checking the measurements accurately. The project also provided a two-day residential workshop for the students which was held at the prestigious Loughborough University where they were given access to the latest technology and resources in order to create working prototypes. These prototypes would then be tested thoroughly, allowing the students to produce an extensive report based on their findings.

Following the workshops, each team attended the Celebration and Assessment Day (CAD) at Cranmore Park in Solihull where they were asked to present their findings to a panel of assessors. After being gruellingly interviewed by the panel, the Sixth Form College received exceptional feedback, however; The General Electric Power team took the competition by storm, outdoing all 64 teams to receive the ‘Contribution to Business’ Award. The team were commended for their innovative thinking to solve the problem, by creating a laser that accurately measured the hidden distances within the transformer it was then able to communicate the distance back to an LCD display. The prototype impressed both the judges and General Electric Power so much, that General Electric Power is in the first stages of putting it into production.

Lewis Johnson, Physics teacher for the City of Stoke on Trent Sixth Form College said:

“The competition taught students the reality of problems in the ‘real’ world where there often is not a set solution like in their exams. Thinking outside the box and puzzling out innovative solutions is daily work in engineering, and the solutions our students came up with are completely different to what any another group would have come up with.

“They all had to learn, apply and perfect skills they’d never used before- our ‘master of soldering’ had never touched a soldering iron before, but had assembled a laser circuit by the end of our day in the university labs! We will be involved in the same competition next year, as well as running a brand new engineering teaching programme at the college. Our students will get quality teaching whilst being able to make links with local industry experts and learn more of the skills they will need as talented engineers in the future.”

Christina Thompson-Mountford of the winning General Electric Team said:

“Being part of the programme has been really enjoyable, I developed so many new skills and it has really helped to improve my ability to think outside of the box.

“Having the opportunity to take part, and visit top engineering facilities have been eye opening and I have been able to take away real experience and knowledge of how engineering is put into practise in the real world.”

As a result of the successes achieved through the Engineering Education Scheme, The Sixth Form College have announced that they will be running a bespoke Mathematical Science, Engineering & Computing (MEC) Programme from next academic year. The Sixth Form College already runs a number of bespoke futures programmes, designed to maximise student opportunities and provide optimum support for their chosen career path. The MEC Programme will provide students with a four-day timetable, including a work placement on one day per week with a leading industry expert.

Edward Swann, Head of the High Achievers Programme for the City of Stoke on Trent Sixth Form College said:

“The Mathematical Science, Engineering & Computing Programme is very exciting, after 2 successful years with the Medical, Veterinary and Dentistry Programme, seeing 6 students gain offers from a variety of top universities to study medicine we are looking forward to what achievements this programme will bring for students progressing into engineering careers.

“Students who study a combination of Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Computing will be given the opportunity to join the project. We already have one student signed up to join the MEC Programme come September who will be taking part in a placement with Bentley Motors one day a week.”