Students from an East of England community school competed to build the best bridge during a visit to the Department of Engineering.
"These things don’t come up in the course of a standard school day."
—Mr Jonathan Fox, Cromwell Community College
The visit was the first of many which the young pupils from Cromwell Community College will be making over the next few years as they take part in the University’s Higher Education (HE) Partnership programme.
Working in teams of 5, the students designed and built truss bridges out of paper tubes, nuts and bolts. The bridges were tested for load capacity and also scored for visual appeal.
Students were assisted with their designs by Maria Kettle, the Department's Outreach Officer, and by Matt Diston, HE Partnership co-ordinator.
Maria also led a tour of the Department, including the CAD workstations, wind tunnels, mechanical and electrical workshops, and the language unit, where students can study Chinese, French, German, Japanese and Spanish, equipping themselves to work in many parts of the world.
“School students don’t study engineering,” Maria said, “and if they don’t know any engineers they don’t get many chances to see the creativity and teamwork involved in an engineering career.
“We hope that this visit has given a small taste of the range of activities which engineers carry out in their work.”
Jonathan Fox, Co-Ordinator of Cromwell Community College’s “Succeed” programme, said: “Events like these are important because they help to widen our pupils’ awareness of why they are at school, and of what can be available to them in the future.
“One of the best bits about the day for me is actually the bus ride home – I hear conversations start about university, about future plans, and about what big brothers and sisters are doing. These things don’t come up in the course of a standard school day.”
Cromwell pupil Sophie enjoyed the visit: “I came to look at the university. I’ve never been to one before, so I wanted to look around. I’ll definitely come back on another event.”
In concluding the day, Matt told the group: “Every single one of you is here today because you have shown the potential to continue into sixth form and on to university. Not all of you might have thought about where that will take you yet. But you are here today because you have that potential. Trust me – you won’t be the first people to have that doubt but that is why you are here.”
HE Partnership is a collaborative project continuing the university’s work with local schools initiated under Aimhigher. Schools engaged in the HE Partnership are those which have significant cohorts of students from backgrounds with little or no family experience of higher education. There is a particular focus within the programme on younger learners.