Author: Professor Manuela Rosa (Algarve University). 

Keywords: Societal impact; Equity; Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI); Design; Justice; Equity; Communication; Global responsibility. 

Who is this article for?: This article should be read by educators at all levels in higher education who wish to integrate social sustainability, EDI, and ethics into the engineering and design curriculum or module design. It will also help to prepare students with the integrated skill sets that employers are looking for. 

 

Premise: 

The Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons, adopted by the General Assembly of United Nations on 9 December 1975, stipulated protection of the rights of people with disabilities. The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a plan of action for people, planet, and prosperity, demands that all stakeholders, acting in collaborative partnership, must recognise that the dignity of the human person is fundamental and so the development of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals must meet all segments of society in a way that “no one will be left behind”.  

In relation to engineering, The Statement of Ethical Principles published by the Engineering Council and the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2005 and revised in 2017, articulates one of its strategic challenges to be positioning engineering at the heart of society, enhancing its wellbeing, improving the quality of the built environment, and promoting EDI. To uphold these principles, engineering professionals are required to promote social equity, guaranteeing equal opportunities to access the built environment and transportation systems, enabling the active participation of all citizens in society, including vulnerable groups. The universal design approach is one method that engineers can use to ensure social sustainability. 

 

The challenges of universal and inclusive design: 

Every citizen must have the same equality of opportunities in using spaces because the existence of an accessible built environment is fundamental to guarantee vitality, safety, and sociability. These ethical values associated with the technical decision-making process were considered by the American architect Ronald Lawrence Mace (1941-1998) who defined the universal design concept as “designing all products, buildings and exterior spaces to be usable by all people to the greatest extent possible” (Mace et al., 1991), thus contributing to social inclusion.  

Universal accessibility according to this universal design approach is “the characteristic of an environment or object which enables everybody to enter into a relationship with, and make use of, that object or environment in a friendly, respectful and safe way” (Aragall et al., 2003). It focuses on people with reduced mobility, such as people with disabilities (mobility, vision, hearing and cognitive dimensions), children and elderly people. Built environment and transport systems must be designed considering this equity attribute which is associated with social sustainability and inclusion. 

The Center for Universal Design of the North Carolina State University developed seven principles of universal design (Connell et al., 1997):  

1. Equitable use 

2. Flexibility in use  

3. Simple and intuitive use  

4. Perceptible information  

5. Tolerance for error  

6. Low physical effort  

7. Size and space for approach and use.    

These principles must always be incorporated in the conception of products and physical environments, so as to create a ‘fair built’ environment, where all have the right to use it, in the same independent and natural way. This justice design must guarantee autonomy in the use of spaces and transport vehicles, contributing to the self-determination of citizens.   

The perceptions of the space users are fundamental to be considered in the design process to achieve the usability of the built environment and transport systems. Pedestrian infrastructure design and modal interfaces demand user-centred approaches and therefore processes of co-design and co-creation with communities, where people are effectively involved as collaborators and participants. 

Achieving an inclusive society is a great challenge because there are situations where the needs of users are divergent: technical solutions created for a specific group of people are inadequate for others. For example, wheelchair users and elderly people need smooth surfaces and, on the contrary, blind people need tactile surfaces.  

Consequently, in the process of universal design, some people can feel excluded because they need other technical solutions. It is then necessary to consider precise inclusive design when projecting urban spaces for all.   

Universal design is linked with designing one-space-suits-almost-all, and inclusive design focuses on one-space-suits-one, for example design a space for everyone (collective perspective) versus design a space for one specific group (particular perspective). As the built environment must be understandable to and usable by all people, both are important for social sustainability. Universal design contributes to social inclusion, but added inclusive design is needed, matching the excluded users to the object or space design.  

In order to promote social inclusion and quality of life, to which everyone is entitled, universal and inclusive co-design of the built environment and the transportation systems demands specific approaches that have to be integrated in engineering education: 

 

Conclusion: 

Universal and inclusive co-design of the built environment and transportation systems must be seen as an ethical act in engineering. Co-design for social sustainability can be strengthened through engineering acts. Ethical responsibility must be assumed to create inclusive solutions considering human diversity, empowering engineers to act and design justice.  

There is a strong need for engineers to possess a set of skills and competencies related to the ability to work with other professionals (for example from the social sciences),  users, or collaborators. In the 21st century, beyond the use of technical knowledge to solve problems, engineers need communication skills to achieve the sustainable development goals, requiring networking, cooperating in teams, and working with communities.  

Engineering education must consider transdisciplinary approaches which make clear progress in tackling urban challenges and finding human-centred solutions. Universal and inclusive co-design must be incorporated routinely into the practice of engineers and assumed in Engineering Ethics Codes.  

 

References: 

Aragall, F. and EuCAN members, (2003) European Concept for Accessibility: Technical Assistance Manual. Luxemburg: EuCAN – European Concept for Accessibility Network.  

Connell, B. R., Jones, M., Mace, R., Mueller, J., Mullick, A., Ostroff, E., Sanford, J., Steinfeld, E., Story, M. and Vanderheiden, G. (1997) The Principles of Universal Design, Version 2.0. Raleigh: North Carolina State University, The Center for Universal Design. USA.  

Mace, R. L., Hardie G. J. and Place, J. P. (1991) ‘Accessible environments: Toward universal design,’ in W.E. Preiser, J.C. Vischer, E.T. White (Eds.). Design Intervention: Toward a More Human Architecture. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, pp. 155-180.  

Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons. (1975). Proclaimed by G/A/RES 3447 of 9 December 1975. 

United Nations. (2015). Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 25 September 2015, New York.  

Additional resources: 

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Collaborating with industry for teaching and learning

Authors: Dr Gareth Thomson (Aston University, Birmingham), Dr Jakub Sacharkzuk (Aston University, Birmingham) and Paul Gretton (Aston University, Birmingham)

Keywords: Industry, Engineering Education, Authenticity, Collaboration, Knowledge exchange, Graduate employability and recruitment.

Abstract: This paper describes the work done within the Mechanical, Biomedical and Design Engineering group at Aston University to develop an Industry Club with the aim to enhance and strategically organise industry involvement in the taught programmes within the department. A subscription based model has been developed to allow the hiring of a part-time associate to manage the relationship with industry, academic and student partners and explore ways to develop provision. This paper describes the approach and some of the activities and outcomes achieved by the initiative.

 

Introduction

Industry is a key stakeholder in the education of engineers and the involvement of commercial engineering in taught programmes is seen as important within degrees but may not always be particularly optimised or strategically implemented.

Nonetheless, awareness of industry trends and professional practice is seen as vital to add currency and authenticity to the learning experience [1,2]. This industry involvement can take various forms including direct involvement with students in the classroom or in a more advisory role such as industrial advisory or steering boards [3] designed to support the teaching team in their development of the curriculum.

Direct input into the curriculum from industry normally involves engagement in dissertations, final year ‘capstone’ project exercises [4], visits [5], guest lectures [6,7], internships [8,9] or design projects [10,11]. These are very commonly linked to design type modules [12,13] or projects where the applied nature of the subject makes industrial engagement easier and are more commonly centred toward later years when students are perceived to have accrued the underpinning skills and intellectual maturity needed to cope with the challenges posed.

These approaches can however be ad hoc and piecemeal. Industry contacts used to directly support teaching are often tied into specific personal relationships through previous research or consultancy or through roles such as the staff involved also being careers or placement tutors. This means that there is often a lack of strategic thinking or sharing of contacts to give a joined up approach – an academic with research in fluid dynamics may not have an easy way to access industrial support or guidance if allocated a manufacturing based module to teach.

This lack of integration often gives rise to fractured and unconnected industrial involvement (Figure 1) with lack of overall visibility of the extent of industrial involvement in a group and lack of clarity on where gaps exist or opportunities present themselves.

 

Figure 1 : Industry involvement in degrees is often not as joined up as might be hoped.

 

As part of professional body accreditation it is also generally expected that Industrial Advisory Boards are set-up and meet regularly to help steer curriculum planning. Day to day pressures however often mean that these do not necessarily operate as effectively as they could and changes or suggestions proposed by these can be slow to implement.

Industry Club

To try to consolidate and develop engagement with industry a number of institutions have developed Industry Clubs [14,15] as a way of structuring and strategically developing industrial engagement in industry.

For companies, such a scheme offers a low risk, low cost involvement with the University, access to students to undertake projects and can also help to raise awareness in the students minds of companies and sectors which may not have the profile of the wider jobs market beyond the big players in the automotive, aerospace or energy sectors. At Aston University industry clubs have been running for several years in Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering and Computer Science.

The focus in this report is the setting up and development of the industry club in the Mechanical, Biomedical and Design Engineering (MBDE) department.

Recruitment of companies was via consolidation of existing contacts from within the MBDE department and engagement with the wider range of potential partners through the University’s ‘Research and Knowledge Exchange’ unit.

The industry focus within the club has been on securing SME partners. This is a sector which has been found to be very responsive. Feedback from these partners has indicated that often getting access to University is seen as ‘not for them’ but when an easy route in is offered, it becomes a viable proposition. By definition SMEs do not have the visibility of multi-nationals and so they can struggle to attract good graduates so the ability to raise brand awareness is seen as positive. From the perspective of academics, the very flat and localised management structure also makes for a responsive partner able to make decisions relatively quickly. Longer term this opens up options to explore more expansive relationships such as KTPs or other research projects and also sets up a network of different but compatible companies able to share knowledge among themselves.

Within MBDE the industry club initially focussed on placing industrially linked projects for final year dissertation students. This was considered relatively ‘low hanging fruit’ with a simple proposition for companies, academics and students.

While this proposal is straightforward it is not entirely without difficulty with matching of academics to projects, expectation management and practical logistics of diary mapping between partners all needing attention.

To support this, an Industry Club Associate was recruited to help manage the initiative, funding for this being drawn from industry partner subscriptions and underwritten by the department.

This has allowed the Industry Club to move beyond its initial basis of final year projects to have a much wider remit to oversee much of the involvement of industry in both the teaching programmes directly and in their advising and steering of the curriculum.

Figure 2 shows schematically the role and activities of the industry club within the group.

Impact Beyond Projects

The use of the Industry Club to co-ordinate and bolster other industry activity within the department has gone beyond final year projects. These can be seen in Figure 2.

The Industrial Advisory Board has now become linked to the Industry Club and so with partners now involved in the wider activities of the club involvement is now not exclusively limited to twice yearly meeting but is an active ongoing partnership using the projects, other learning and teaching activity and a LinkedIn group to create a more dynamic and responsive consultation body. A subset of the IAB is now also made up entirely of recent alumni to act as a bridge between the students and practising industry to help spot immediate gaps and opportunities to support students in this important transition.

 

Figure 2 : Industry Club set-up and Activity

 

The club has also developed a range of other industrially linked activities in support of teaching and learning.

While industrial involvement is relatively easy to embed in project or design type modules this is not so easy in traditional underpinning engineering science type activity.

To address the lack of industrial content in traditional engineering science modules a pilot interactive online case studies be developed to help show how fundamental engineering science can be applied in authentic industrial problems. A small team consisting of an academic, the industry club associate and an industrialist was assembled.

This team developed an online pump selection tool which combined interactive masterclasses and activities, introduced and explained by the industrialist to show how the classic classroom theory could be used and adapted in real world scenarios (Figure 3). This has been well-received by students, added authenticity to the curriculum and raised awareness in student minds of the perhaps unfashionable but important and rewarding water services sector.

 

Figure 3 : Online Interactive Activity developed as part of industry club activity

Further interactions developed by the Industry Club, and part of its remit to embed industrial links at all stages of the degree, include the involvement of an Industrial Partner on a major wind turbine design, build and test project engaged in as group exercises by all students in year one. Here the industrialist, a wind energy professional, contextualises work while his role is augmented by a recent alumni member of the Industrial board who is currently working as a graduate engineer on offshore wind and who completed the same module as the students four years or so previously.

Conclusion

While the development of the Industry Club and its associated activity can not be considered a panacea, it has significantly developed the level of industry involvement within programmes. More crucially it moves away from an opaque and piecemeal approach to industry engagement and offers a more transparent framework and structure on which to hang industry involvement to support academics and industry in developing and maximising the competencies of graduates.

References

 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Collaborating with industry for teaching and learning, Universities’ and businesses’ shared role in regional development, Knowledge exchange, Graduate employability and recruitment

Authors: Prof Simon Barrans (University of Huddersfield), Harvey Kangley (Associated Utility Supplies Ltd), Greg Jones (University of Huddersfield) and Mark Newton (Associated Utility Supplies Ltd)

Keywords: Knowledge Transfer Partnership, Design and Innovation, Student Projects, Railway Infrastructure

Abstract: A six year collaboration between the University of Huddersfield and Associated Utility Supplies Ltd has resulted in one completed and one ongoing KTP project, two successfully completed First of a Kind projects for the rail industry and the development of a new design department in the company. Benefits to the University include, graduate and placement student employment, industrially relevant final year and masters projects and the application of University research. Continued collaboration will generate a case study for the next REF. In this paper we explore the various mechanisms that have been used to facilitate this work.

 

The opportunity

Network Rail felt that their current supply chain was vulnerable with many parts being single source, some from overseas. They addressed this issue by engaging with SMEs who could develop alternative products. A local company, AUS, believed they could tackle this challenge but needed to develop their design and analysis capability. Their collaboration with the University of Huddersfield enabled this.

Seed funded taster projects

In 2016 AUS approached regional development staff at the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre, the University‘s business and innovation centre, with two immediate needs. These were: an explanation as to why a cast iron ball swivel clamp had failed in service, and a feasibility study to determine if a cast iron cable clamp could be replaced with an aluminium equivalent. Both these small projects were funded using the University’s Collaborative Venture Fund, an internal funding scheme to deliver short feasibility projects for industry. This incentivises staff to only engage in collaborations where there is a high expectation of significant external future funding, and which are low risk to an industry partner.

Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) Projects

KTPs are managed by Innovate UK and are one of the few Innovate UK grants that are designed to have a university as the lead organisation. They are particularly attractive to SMEs as Innovate UK funds 67% of the project cost. The costs cover: the employment costs for a graduate, known as the Associate, who typically works full time at the company; an academic supervisor who meets with the Associate for half a day a week; and administrative support. The key measure of success of a KTP project is that it leaves the company generating more profit and hence, paying more tax. Increased employment is also desirable.

The first, three-year KTP project, applied for in January 2017 and started in June 2017, aimed to provide the company with a design and analysis capability. A Mechanical Engineering graduate from Huddersfield was recruited as the Associate and the Solidworks package was introduced to the company. A product development procedure was put in place and a number of new products brought to market. The Associate’s outstanding performance was recognised in the KTP Best of the Best Awards 2020 and he has stayed with the company to lead the Product Innovation team.

The second, two-year KTP project started in November 2020 with the aim of expanding the company’s capability to use FRP materials. Whilst the company had some prior product experience in this area, they were not carrying out structural analysis of the products. FRP is seen as an attractive material for OLE structures as it is non-conductive (hence removing the need for insulators) and reduces mass (compared to steel) which reduces the size of foundations needed.

First of a kind (FOAK) projects

The Innovate UK FOAK scheme provides 100% funding to develop products at a high technology readiness level and bring them to market. They are targeted at particular industry areas and funding calls are opened a month to two months before they close. It is important therefore to be prepared to generate a bid before the call is made. FOAKs can and have been led by universities. In the cases here, the company was the lead as they could assemble the supply chain and route to market. The entire grant went to the company with the university engaged as a sub-contractor.

The first FAOK to support development of a new span-wire clamp was initially applied for in 2019 and was unsuccessful but judged to be fundable. A grant writing agency was employed to rewrite the bid and it was successful the following year. Comparing the two bids, re-emphasis of important points between sections of the application form and emphasising where the bid met the call requirements, appeared to be the biggest change.

The span-wire clamp is part of the head-span shown in figure 1. The proposal was to replace the existing cast iron, 30 component assembly with an aluminium bronze, 14 component equivalent, as shown in figure 2. The FOAK project was successful with the new clamp now approved for deployment by Network Rail.

The University contributed to the project by testing the load capacity of the clamps, assessing geometric tolerances in the cast parts and determining the impact that the new clamp would have on the pantograph-contact wire interface. This latter analysis used previous research work carried out by the University and will be an example to include in a future REF case study.

The second FOAK applied for in 2020 was for the development of a railway footbridge fabricated from pultruded FRP sections. This bid was developed jointly by the University and the company, alongside the resubmission of the span-wire FOAK bid. This bid was successful and the two projects were run in parallel. The footbridge was demonstrated at RailLive 2021.

Additional benefits to University of Huddersfield

In addition to the funding attracted, the collaboration has provided material for two MSc module assignments, six MSc individual projects and 12 undergraduate projects. The country of origin of students undertaking these projects include India, Sudan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Syria and Qatar. A number of these students intend to stay in the UK and their projects should put them in a good position to seek employment in the rail industry. A number of journal and conference papers based on the work are currently being prepared.

 

Figure 1. Head-span showing span-wires and span-wire clamp.

 

Figure 2. Old (left) and new (right) span-wire clamps.

 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Knowledge exchange

Authors: Dr Tom Allen (Manchester Metropolitan University), Prof Andy Alderson (Sheffield Hallam University) and Dr Stefan Mohr (HEAD)

Keywords: Sport, Tennis, Material, Auxetic, Mechanics

Abstract: The case study is interesting as it combines the engaging topics of smart materials and sports engineering, and showcases the release of a sports product. The work is underpinned by academic papers, include a teaching focus one detailing how materials have influenced tennis rackets dating back to the origins of the game. Effect of materials and design on the bending stiffness of tennis rackets: https://doi.org/10.1088/1361-6404/ac1146. Review of auxetic materials for sports applications: Expanding options in comfort and protection: https://doi.org/10.3390/app8060941.

 

This case study is about the application of auxetic materials to sports equipment. Particularly, it is about the development of the first ever tennis racket to feature auxetic fibre-polymer composites [1]. In our work, we aim to combine the exciting fields of sport and advanced materials to engage people with science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM). Indeed, our work is multi-disciplinary. Dr Mohr is the R&D Manager for PreDevelopement at HEAD and brings expertise in tennis racket engineering, Dr Allen and Professor Alderson are academics and bring respective expertise in sports engineering and smart materials.

Dr Allen has been researching the mechanics of sports equipment for many years, with a focus on tennis rackets [2]. One project involved characterising the properties of over 500 diverse rackets dating back to the origins of the game in the 1870s to the present day. The rackets were from various collections, including the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum in London, and HEAD in Kennelbach Austria, where Dr Mohr works. The museum houses particularly old and rare rackets, whereas the collection at HEAD has a broad range of more modern designs. Initial work involved developing techniques for efficiently characterising many rackets [3]. Subsequent publications describe how a shift in construction materials – from wood to fibre-polymer composites – around the 1970s and 1980s led to lighter and stiffer rackets, with shorter handles and larger heads [4], [5]. Indeed, the application of new materials has driven the development of tennis rackets, and further advances are likely to come from developments in materials and manufacturing techniques.

Professor Alderson has been researching smart materials and structures for many years, with a focus on auxetic materials [6]. Auxetic materials have a negative Poisson’s ratio, which means that they fatten when stretched and become thinner when compressed. A negative Poisson’s ratio can enhance other properties, including vibration damping. Dr Allen and Professor Alderson have been working together to apply auxetic materials to sports equipment [7]. Dr Allen discussed this work on auxetic materials with Dr Mohr, and this led to the collaboration between the three parties that resulted in the new racket design [1].

Auxetic fibre-polymer composites were particularly appealing to Dr Mohr for application in tennis rackets, as they can be made using conventional fibres and resins, by simply arranging the fibres in specific orientations [8]. Following a visit to HEAD, where he was able to see the prototyping facilities, Professor Alderson developed various auxetic fibre-polymer composites, using the materials already being used by HEAD to make rackets. HEAD then developed prototype rackets incorporating these auxetic fibre-polymer composites at their research and development facility in Kennelbach. The racket designs were further developed and refined through testing, both in the laboratory and on the tennis court with players providing feedback.  

The first tennis racket with auxetic fibre composites was released in late 2021, in the form of the HEAD Prestige (Figure 1a). The Prestige was followed by the release of a new racket silo (collection) in early 2022 in the form of the Boom (Figure 1b). Drs Mohr and Allen and Professor Alderson are now exploring options for further applying auxetic materials to tennis rackets. Dr Allen’s teaching case study on the historical development of the tennis racket [4] has been enriched by including the story behind the development of the new auxetic fibre-polymer composite rackets [1]. He also includes discussion of emerging topics in the case study that could be applied to tennis rackets, such as more automated manufacturing techniques like additive manufacturing, and more environmentally friendly materials, like natural fibres and resins [5]. We hope that the new tennis rackets will raise awareness of auxetic materials amongst the public, and the case study will help inspire others to use topics like sports engineering and advanced materials to support their STEM teaching and public engagement.  

 

Figure 1 Examples of HEAD rackets featuring auxetic fibre-polymer composites, a) Prestige Pro and b) Boom Prom.

 

References

[1]         HEAD Sports, “Auxetic – The Science Behind the Sensational Feel,” 2021. https://www.head.com/en_GB/tennis/all-about-tennis/auxetic-the-science-behind-the-sensational-feel (accessed Feb. 05, 2022).

[2]         T. Allen, S. Choppin, and D. Knudson, “A review of tennis racket performance parameters,” Sport. Eng., vol. 19, no. 1, Mar. 2016, doi: 10.1007/s12283-014-0167-x.

[3]         L. Taraborrelli et al., “Recommendations for estimating the moments of inertia of a tennis racket,” Sport. Eng., vol. 22, no. 1, 2019, doi: 10.1007/s12283-019-0303-8.

[4]         L. Taraborrelli, S. Choppin, S. Haake, S. Mohr, and T. Allen, “Effect of materials and design on the bending stiffness of tennis rackets,” Eur. J. Phys., vol. 42, no. 6, 2021, doi: 10.1088/1361-6404/ac1146.

[5]         L. Taraborrelli et al., “Materials Have Driven the Historical Development of the Tennis Racket,” Appl. Sci., vol. 9, no. 20, Oct. 2019, doi: 10.3390/app9204352.

[6]         K. E. Evans and A. Alderson, “Auxetic materials: Functional materials and structures from lateral thinking!,” Adv. Mater., vol. 12, no. 9, 2000, doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1521-4095(200005)12:9<617::AID-ADMA617>3.0.CO;2-3.

[7]         O. Duncan et al., “Review of auxetic materials for sports applications: Expanding options in comfort and protection,” Applied Sciences (Switzerland), vol. 8, no. 6. 2018, doi: 10.3390/app8060941.

[8]         K. L. Alderson, V. R. Simkins, V. L. Coenen, P. J. Davies, A. Alderson, and K. E. Evans, “How to make auxetic fibre reinforced composites,” Phys. Status Solidi Basic Res., vol. 242, no. 3, 2005, doi: 10.1002/pssb.200460371.

 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Collaborating with industry for teaching and learning, Graduate employability and recruitment

Author: James Ford (University College London)

Keywords: Civil Engineering Design, Timber Design, Industry, Collaboration

Abstract: A project, developed jointly by UCL and engineers from ARUP, allowed students to work on redesigning the fire damaged roof of the Notre Dame Cathedral. Industry expertise complemented academic experience in civil engineering design to create a topical, relevant and creative project for students. The project combined technical learning in timber design with broader considerations such as costs, health and safety, buildability and environmental impacts. Final presentations being made to engineering teams at ARUP offices also developed wider professional skills.

 

Background

Following the 2019 fire in the Notre Dame Cathedral, Civil Engineering Students at University College London (UCL) were tasked with designing a replacement. The project was delivered, in collaboration with engineers from ARUP, within a Design module in Year 2 of the programme. The project was run as a design competition with teams competing against one another. The project built on learning and design project experience built up during years 1 and 2 of the course.

The collaboration with ARUP is a long-standing partnership. UCL academics and ARUP engineers have worked on several design projects for students across all years of the Civil Engineering Programme.

The Brief

Instead of designing a direct replacement for the roof the client wanted to create a modern, eye-catching roof extension which houses a tourist space that overlooks the city. The roof had to be constructed on the existing piers so loading limits were provided. The brief recognised the climate emergency and a key criterion for evaluation was the sustainability aspects of the overall scheme. For this reason, it also stipulated that the primary roof and extension structure be, as far as practicable, made of engineered timber.

 

Figure 1. Image from the project brief indicating the potential building envelopes for the roof design

 

Given the location all entries had to produce schemes that were quick to build, cause minimal disruption to the local population, not negatively impact on tourism and, most importantly, be safe to construct.

Requirements

Teams (of 6) were required to propose a minimum of 2 initial concept designs with an appraisal of each and recommendation for 1 design to be taken forward.

The chosen design was developed to include:

Teams had to provide a 10xA3 page report, a set of structural calculations, 2xA3 drawings and a 10-minute presentation.

Figure 2. Connection detail drawing by group 9

 

Delivery

Course material was delivered over 4 sessions with a final session for presentations:

Session 1: Project introduction and scheme designing

Session 2: Timber design

Session 3: Construction and constructability

Session 4: Fire Engineering and sustainability

Session 5: Student Presentations

Sessions were co-designed and delivered by a UCL academic and engineers from ARUP. The sessions involved a mixture of elements incl. taught, tutorial and workshop time. ARUP engineers also created an optional evening workshop at their (nearby) office were groups or individuals could meet with a practicing engineer for some advice on their design.

These sessions built on learning from previous modules and projects.

Learning / Skills Development

The project aimed to develop skills and learning in the following areas:

Visiting the ARUP office and working with practicing engineers also enhanced student understanding of professional practice and standards.

Benefits of Collaborating

The biggest benefit to the collaboration was the reinforcement of design approaches and principles, already taught by academics, by practicing engineers. This adds further legitimacy to the approaches in the minds of the students and is evidenced through the application of these principles in student outputs.

 

Figure 3. Development of design concepts by group 12

 

The increased range in technical expertise that such a collaboration brings provides obvious benefit and the increased resource means more staff / student interaction time (there were workshops where it was possible to have one staff member working with every group at the same time).

Working with an aspirational partner (i.e. somewhere the students want to work as graduates) provides extra motivation to improve designs, to communicate them professionally and impress the team. Working and presenting in the offices of ARUP also helped to develop an understanding of professional behaviour.

Reflections and Feedback

Reflections and feedback from all staff involved was that the work produced was of a high quality. It was pleasing to see the level of creativity that the students applied in their designs. Feedback from students gathered through end of module review forms suggested that this was due to the level of support available which allowed them to develop more complex and creative designs fully.

Wider feedback from students in the module review was very positive about the project. They could see that it built on previous experiences from the course and enjoyed that the project was challenging and relevant to the real world. They also valued the experiences of working in a practicing design office and working with practicing engineers from ARUP. Several students posted positively about the project on their LinkedIn profiles, possibly suggesting a link between the project and employability in the minds of the students.

 

Figure 4. Winning design summary diagram by group 12

 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Collaborating with industry for teaching and learning, Graduate employability and recruitment

Author: James Ford (University College London)

Keywords: Civil Engineering Design, Building Information Modelling, BIM, Digital Engineering, Industry, Collaboration

Abstract: This project, developed jointly with industry partners at Multiplex, allowed Civil Engineering students at UCL to develop their understanding and technical skills around the use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) on civil engineering projects and related software. Students worked on a model of an emergency shelter (designed by UCL alumnus) and were required to consider the relevant parties involved (technical and non-technical), the information they require and how to utilise the model to organise and communicate this information effectively.

 

Background

Digital engineering tools and Building Information Modelling (BIM) are increasingly becoming important features of modern construction projects. The design teaching team in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering (CEGE) at University College London (UCL) recognised the need to embed this practice into parts of the design teaching delivery for students on the Civil Engineering undergraduate programmes.

UCL and Mulitplex (civil engineering contractor) had been partnering on school outreach activities for several years. A discussion at such an event led to a realisation that there was good alignment on how these topics should be taught, with a focus on information and communication rather than modelling. Staff at UCL had already started developing a project that would involve using elements of BIM in the design development of an emergency shelter for humanitarian relief and that the project should encourage students to think about the information and communication aspects of this. The digital engineering team at Multiplex then agreed to join the project and provide technical assistance, to develop and deliver teaching materials and to provide real life examples and case studies to supplement the project.

The Brief

Students were provided with a pre-developed REVIT® model of an emergency shelter design made, predominantly, from timber. The shelter had been designed by a UCL alumnus during their time as a UCL student and agreement was granted to use it for this project. Students were presented with an imagined scenario that they were working for a charity that was planning to build 10 of these shelters in Haiti to assist with humanitarian relief effort following an earthquake. The students needed to consider which parties would need to be communicated with, what information they would need, how this information could be communicated with them and how the digital model could assist with this process.

 

Figure 1. Image of Emergency Shelter model in REVIT®

 

Students were encouraged to consider (but not limited to) included:

Students were required to research the relevant information and populate the REVIT® model appropriately and professionally.

Requirements

Teams (of 6) were required to provide a 10xA3 page report that would run through each of the potential parties to communicated with, what information they would need and how the model would be used to enable this communication. They also needed to describe any assumptions that were made and how information was selected during the research phase. They needed to highlight the critical thinking that had been carried out in relation to sources of information and its suitability and reliability.

 

Figure 2. Use of model to explain construction sequence

 

Teams also needed to submit their completed REVIT® model files for inspection as well as an 8 min video presentation that would:

 

Emergency Shelter Digital Design Project, A UCL / Multiplex Collaboration

Figure 3. External view of model

 

Delivery

Course material was delivered over 4 sessions with a final session for presentations:

Session 1: Project introduction and software introduction

Session 2: (i) Information and exporting in REVIT®. (ii) Commercial overview

Session 3: (i) Construction and Logistics. (ii) Health, safety and environmental factors

Session 4: (i) Handover requirements. (ii) Maintainable assets. (iii) Building management

Session 5: Student presentations

Sessions were co-designed and delivered by a UCL academic and a digital manager from Multiplex. The sessions involved a mixture of elements incl. taught, tutorial and workshop time that allowed students to work in their groups.

Learning / Skills Development

The project aimed to develop skills and learning in the following areas:

Benefits of Collaborating

The first benefit was the inspirational aspect of working on a shelter design that had been produced by a former UCL student. This Alumnus contributed to the introduction session by running through their design and this helped students understand just how much had been achieved by someone in their position.

The collaboration with Multiplex’s digital team brought obvious benefits to the technical skills development but also benefitted student understanding by showing how these skills are being used on live construction sites. The process of learning from and presenting to practicing construction professionals also allowed students to develop key professional behavioural skills that help develop and enhance employability.

Reflections and Feedback

Reflections and feedback from all staff involved was that the work produced was of a high quality and that this demonstrated an understanding of the project objectives from the student perspective. It was also apparent that students were becoming adept at using REVIT® software effectively and appropriately.

Wider feedback from students in the module review was very positive about the project and that it had improved their understanding of the role of digital technologies in the construction industry. Students said in feedback “BIM has helped us to look at all aspects of the design and to figure out more stuff in the same amount of time,” and, “Doing it this way [REVIT model] means you can see what you think might be a risk to the workers more easily.”

Several students posted positively about the project on their LinkedIn profiles, possibly suggesting a link between the project and employability in the minds of the students.

2 of the students successfully applied for summer internships with Multiplex’s digital team immediately following the project and were able to build on their digital engineering skills further.

The project was featured by trade magazine BIMPlus which ran an article on the project showcasing the relative novelty and uniqueness of the approach taken.

 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Collaborating with industry for teaching and learning, Knowledge exchange

Authors: Prof Robert Hairstans (New Model Institute for Technology and Engineering), Dr Mila Duncheva (Stora Enso), Dr Kenneth Leitch (Edinburgh Napier University), Dr Andrew Livingston (Edinburgh Napier University), Kirsty Connell-Skinner (Edinburgh Napier University) and Tabitha Binding (Timber Development UK)

Keywords: Timber, Built Environment, Collaboration, New Educational Model

Abstract: The New Model Institute for Technology and Engineering, Edinburgh Napier University and Timber Development UK are working with external stakeholders to enable an educational system that will provide comprehensive training in modern methods of timber construction. A Timber Technology Engineering and Design (TED) competency framework has been derived and a UK wide student design competition will run in the 1st quarter of 2022 as part of the process to curate the learner content and enable this alternative approach to upskilling. The EPC will gain an understanding of this alternative approach to creating an educational model by means of industry engagement. This new approach has been made possible via establishing a collaborative framework and leveraging available funding streams via the partners. This will be showcased as a methodology for others to apply to their own contexts as well as offer opportunity for knowledge and value exchange.

 

Introduction

Edinburgh Napier University (ENU), The New Model Institute for Technology and Engineering (NMITE) and Timber Development UK (TDUK) are working with external stakeholders to enable an educational system (Figure 1) that will provide comprehensive training in modern methods of timber construction. This case study presents an alternative approach to creating this Timber Technology Engineering and Design (TED) educational model by means of industry engagement and pilot learning experiences. This new approach has been made possible by establishing a collaborative framework and leveraging available funding streams via the partners.

Figure 1 – Approach to enabling Timber TED Educational System.

 

Project Aims

The aim of establishing Timber TED is to provide built environment students and professionals with a comprehensive suite of online credit bearing flexible training modules to upskill in modern timber construction techniques. To align the modules with industry need the learning content is to be underpinned by a competency framework identifying the evidence-based technical knowledge and meta skills needed to deliver construction better, faster and greener. The training modules are to be delivered in a blended manner with educational content hosted online and learners assessed by ‘learning by doing’ activities that stimulate critical thinking and prepare the students for work in practice (Jones, 2007).

Uniting industry education and training resources through one course, Timber TED will support learners and employers to harness the new knowledge and skills required to meet the increasing demand for modern timber construction approaches that meet increasingly stringent quality and environmental performance requirements.

The final product will be a recognised, accredited qualification with a bespoke digital assessment tool, suitable for further and higher education as well as employers delivering in-house training, by complementing and enhancing existing CPD, built environment degrees and apprenticeships.

The Need of a Collaborative Approach

ENU is the project lead for the Housing Construction & Infrastructure (HCI) Skills Gateway part of the Edinburgh & Southeast Scotland City Region Deal and is funded by the UK and Scottish Governments. Funding from this was secured to develop a competency framework for Timber TED given the regional need for upskilling towards net zero carbon housing delivery utilising low carbon construction approaches and augmented with addition funding via the VocTech Seed Fund 2021. With the built environment responsible for 39% of all global carbon emissions, meeting Scotland’s ambitious target of net zero by 2045 requires the adoption of new building approaches and technologies led by a modern, highly skilled construction workforce. Further to this ENU is partnering with NMITE to establish the Centre for Advanced Timber Technology (CATT) given the broader UK wide need. Notably England alone needs up to 345,000 new low carbon affordable homes annually to meet demand but is building less than a third of this (Miles and Whitehouse, 2013). The educational approach of NMITE is to apply a student-centric learning methodology with a curriculum fuelled by real-world challenges, meaning that the approach will be distinctive in the marketplace and will attract a different sort of engineering learner. This academic partnership was further triangulated with TDUK (merged organisation of TRADA and Timber Trades Federation) for UK wide industry engagement. The partnership approach resulted in the findings of the Timber TED competency framework and alternative pedagogical approach of NMITE informing the TDUK University Design Challenge 2022 project whereby inter-disciplinary design teams of 4–8 members, are invited to design an exemplary community building that produces more energy than it consumes – for Southside in Hereford. The TDUK University Design challenge would therefore pilot the approach prior to developing the full Timber TED educational programme facilitating the development of educational content via a webinar series of industry experts.

The Role of the Collaborators

The project delivery team of ENU, NMITE and TDUK are working collaboratively with a stakeholder group that represents the sector and includes Structural Timber Association, Swedish Wood, Construction Scotland Innovation Centre, Truss Rafter Association and TRADA. These stakeholders provide project guidance and are contributing in-kind support in the form of knowledge content, access to facilities and utilisation of software as appropriate.

Harlow Consultants were commission to develop the competency framework (Figure 1) via an industry working group selected to be representative of the timber supply chain from seed to building. This included for example engineered timber manufacturers, engineers, architects, offsite manufacturers and main contractors.

 

Figure 2 – Core and Cross-disciplinary high level competency requirements

 

The Southside Hereford: University Design Challenge (Figure 3) has a client group of two highly energised established community organisations Growing Local CIC and Belmont Wanderers CIC, and NMITE, all of whom share a common goal to improve the future health, well-being, life-chances and employment skillset of the people of South Wye and Hereford. Passivhaus Trust are also a project partner providing support towards the curation of the webinar series and use of their Passivhaus Planning software.

 

Figure 3 – TDUK, ENU, NMITE and Passivhaus Trust University Design Challenge

 

Outcomes, Lessons Learned and Available Outputs

The competency framework has been finalised and is currently being put forward for review by the professional institutions including but not limited to the ICE, IStructE, CIAT and CIOB. A series of pilot learning experiences have been trialled in advance of the UK wide design challenge to demonstrate the educational approach including a Passivhaus Ice Box challenge. The ice box challenge culminated in a public installation in Glasgow (Figure 4) presented by student teams acting as a visual demonstration highlighting the benefits of adopting a simple efficiency-first approach to buildings to reduce energy demands. The Timber TED competency framework has been used to inform the educational webinar series of the UK wide student design competition running in the 1st quarter of 2022. The webinar content collated will ultimately be used within the full Timber TED credit bearing educational programme for the upskilling of future built environment professionals.

 

Figure 4 – ICE box challenge situated in central Glasgow

 

The following are the key lessons learned:

Currently available outputs to date:

References

  1. Jones, J. (2007) ‘Connected Learning in Co-operative Education’, International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 19(3), pp. 263–273.
  2. Miles, J. and Whitehouse, N. (2013) Offsite Housing Review, Department of Business, Innovation & Skills. London

 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Let us know what you think of our website