Theme: Collaborating with industry for teaching and learning

Authors: Prof Lucy Rogers (RAEng Visiting Professor at Brunel University, London and freelance engineering consultant) and Petra Gratton (Associate Dean of Professional Development and Graduate Outcomes in the College of Engineering, Design and Physical Science at Brunel University London, and Lecturer in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering)

Keywords: Industry, Interview, Video, Real Life, Engineers

Abstract: A number of short videos that can be re-used in teaching undergraduate modules in Engineering Business, instead of inviting guest presentations. The interview technique got each individual to talk about their life experiences and topics in engineering business that are often considered mundane (or challenging) for engineers, such as ethics, risks and regulation, project management, innovation, intellectual property, life-cycle assessment, finance and creativity. They also drew attention to their professional development.

 

Project outcomes

The outcomes of this project are a number of short videos that were used, and can be re-used, in teaching delivery of an undergraduate module in Engineering Business in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Brunel University London instead of having guest presentations from invited speakers.  Lucy’s interview technique got the individuals featured in each film to talk about their life experiences and topics in engineering business that are often considered mundane (or challenging) for engineers, such as ethics, risks and regulation, project management, innovation, intellectual property, life-cycle assessment and finance; and drew attention to their professional development. 

The shorter videos were inspirational for students to make videos of themselves as part of the assessment of the module, which required them to carry out a personal professional reflection exercise and report upon what they had learned from the exercise in a simple 90-second video using their smartphone or laptop. 

Having used the videos with Brunel students, Lucy has made them available on her YouTube channel: Dr Lucy Rogers – YouTube. Each of the videos are listed in the following table:

 

Topic Who Video Link
Creativity in Engineering: Your CV Reid Derby https://youtu.be/qQILO4uXJ24
Creativity in Engineering: Your CV Leigh-Ann Russell https://youtu.be/LJLG2SH0CwM
Creativity in Engineering: Your CV Richard Hopkins https://youtu.be/tLQ7lZ3nlvg
Corporate Social Responsibility Alexandra Knight
(Amey Strategic Consulting)
https://youtu.be/N7ojL6id_BI
Ethics and Diversity Alexandra Knight
(Amey Strategic Consulting)
https://youtu.be/Q4MhkLQqWuI
Project Management and Engineers Fiona Neads (Rolls Royce) https://youtu.be/-TZlwk6HuUI
Project Management – Life Cycle Paul Kahn
(Aerospace and Defence Industry)
https://youtu.be/1Z4ZXMLRPt4
Ethics at Work Emily Harford (UKAEA) https://youtu.be/gmBq9FIX6ek
Communication Skills at Work Emily Harford (UKAEA) https://youtu.be/kmgAlyz7OhI
Client Brief Andy Stanford-Clark (IBM) https://youtu.be/WNYhDA317wE
Intellectual Property from Artist’s Point of View Dave Corney
(Artist and Designer)
https://youtu.be/t4pLkletXIs
Intellectual Property Andy Stanford-Clark (IBM) https://youtu.be/L5bO0IdxKyI
Project Management Fiona Neads – Rolls Royce https://youtu.be/XzgS5SJhiA0

 

Lessons learned and reflections

We learned that students generally engaged with the videos that were used.  Depending which virtual learning environment (VLE) was being used, using pre-recorded videos in synchronous online lectures presents various challenges.  To avoid any unplanned glitches, in future we know to use the pre-recorded videos as part of the teaching-delivery preparation (e.g. in a flipped classroom mode). 

As part of her legacy, Lucy is going to prepare a set of simple instructions on producing video interviews that can be carried out by both staff and students in future.

 

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

Authors: Ian Hobson (Senior Lecturer and Academic Mentor for Engineering Leadership Management at Swansea University and former Manufacturing Director at Tata Steel) and Dr Vasilios Samaras (Senior Lecturer and Programme Director for Engineering Leadership Management at Swansea University)

Keywords: Academia, Industry

Abstract: Throughout the MSc Engineering Leadership Management program, the students at Swansea University develop theoretical knowledge and capability around leadership in organisations. Working alongside our industry partner Tata Steel, they deploy this knowledge to help understand and provide potential solutions to specific organisational issues that are current and of strategic importance to the business. The output of this work is presented to the Tata Steel board of directors along with a detailed report.

 

Aims of the program

In today’s world, our responsibility as academics is to ensure that we provide an enabling learning environment for our students and deliver a first-class education to them. This has been our mantra for many years. But what about our responsibility to the employing organisations? It’s all well and good providing well educated graduates but if they are not aligned to the requirements of those organisations then we are missing the point. This may be an extreme scenario, but there is a real danger that as academics we can lose touch with the needs of those organisations and as time moves on the gap between what they want and what we deliver widens.

In today’s world this relationship with the employment market and understanding the requirement of it is essential. We need to be agile in our approach to meet those requirements and deliver quality employees to the market.

How did we set this collaborative approach?

In reality the only way to do this is by adopting a collaborative approach to our program designs. Our aim with the MSc Engineering Leadership Management (ELM) at Swansea University is to ensure that we collaborate fully with the employment market by integrating industry professionals into our program design and delivery processes. In this way we learn to understand the challenges that organisations face and how they need strength in the organisation to meet those challenges. This of course not an easy task to accomplish.

In our experience professionals within organisations are often overrun with workload and trying to manage the challenges that they face. A university knocking the door with an offer of collaboration is not always top of their priority list, so how do we make this happen? You need to have a balance of academics and experienced industry leaders working within the program who understand the pressures that business faces. They also often have networks within the external market who are willing to support such programs as the ELM. The power of collaboration is often overlooked. It’s often a piece of research, dealing with a specific technical issue, it is rarely a continuum of organisational alignment. If the collaboration is designed for the long-term benefit of improving employability, then organisations will see this as a way to help solve the increasing challenge of finding “good” employees in a market that is tightening. So overall this becomes a win-win situation.

How was the need for the program identified?

Our program was developed following feedback to the university from the market that graduates were joining organisations with good academic qualifications but lacked an understanding of how organisations work. More importantly how to integrate into the organisation and develop their competencies. This did come with time and support, but the graduates fell behind the expected development curve and needed significant support to meet their aspirations.

Swansea University developed the ELM to provide education on organisations and how they work and develop the skills that are required to operate in them as an employee. These tend to be the softer skills, but also developing the student’s competence in using them. Examples include working as teams and providing honest feedback via 1-1s and 360s and team reviews.

In our experience the ability to challenge in a constructive way is a competency that the students don’t possess. All our work is anchored in theory which provides reference for the content. The assignments that we set involve our industry partners and provide potential solutions to real issues that organisations face.  The outcome of their projects is presented to senior management within the host organisation. This is often the high point of the year for the students. This way the students get exposure to the organisations which extends their comfort zones preparing them for the future challenges.

What are the program outcomes?

September 2022 will be our fifth year. The program is accredited by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). Our numbers have increased year on year, and we are running cohorts of up to 20 students. It’s a mix of UK and international students. The program requires collaboration between the university faculties which has brought significant benefits and provided many learning opportunities. The collaboration between the engineering and business schools has made us realise that working together we provide a rounded program that is broad in content, but also deep in areas that are identified as specific learning objectives.

The feedback from the University is that students on the ELM program perform well and they have a more mature approach to learning and have confidence in themselves and are proactive in lectures. From our industry partners they feed back that the ELM students are ahead of the curve and are promoted into positions ahead of their peers.

What have we learned from the program?

As lecturers, over the years it has become very clear that the content that we deliver must change year on year. We cannot deliver the same content as it quickly becomes out of date. The theory changes very little, but the application changes significantly, in line with the general market challenges. It is almost impossible to predict and if we sit back and look at the past 4 years this pattern is clear. We also need to refresh our knowledge and we have as much to learn from our students as they do from us. We treat them as equals and have a very good learning relationships and have open and honest debates. We always build feedback into our programs and discus how we can improve the content and delivery of the program. Without exception feedback from a year’s cohort will modify the program for the following year.

Looking ahead

We are being approached by organisations interested in the University delivering a similar program to their future leaders on a part time basis which is something we are considering. We do however recognise that this program is successful because of the experience and knowledge of the lecturers and the ability to work with small cohorts which enables a tailored approach to the program content.

We believe that collaboration with the market keeps the ELM aligned with its requirements. Equally as importantly is the collaboration with our students. They are the leaders of the future and if the market loses sight of the expectations of these future leaders, then they will fail.

The ELM not only aligns its programs with the market, it keeps the market aligned with future leaders.

 

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.

Authors: Professor Dawn Bonfield MBE (Aston University); Johnny Rich (Engineering Professors’ Council); Professor Chike Oduoza (University of Wolverhampton).

Keywords: Ethical principles; Code of conduct; Engineering professionals; Ethical decision-making; Ethical behaviour.

Who is this article for?: This article should be read by educators at all levels in higher education who wish to integrate 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 Statement of Ethical Principles published by the Engineering Council and the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2005 (revised in 2017) contains the recommendations to which all UK engineers should comply. It sets out four fundamental principles that all engineering professionals should aspire to follow in their working habits and relationships.

At the launch of the revised document, the Chair of the Engineering Council said “The profession needs to ensure that the principles are embedded at all stages of professional development for engineers and those technicians, tradespeople, students, apprentices and trainees engaged in engineering.”

These principles are based on the premise that engineering professionals work to enhance the wellbeing of society, and in so doing they are required to maintain and promote high ethical standards, as well as to challenge unethical behaviour. The principles are the foundation for making decisions when faced with an ethical dilemma in engineering.

 

The four principles:

The code defines four fundamental principles of ethical behaviour: Honesty and integrity; Respect for life, law, the environment and public good; Accuracy and rigour; and Leadership and communication.

The requirement for engineers to embody honesty and integrity is based on the expectation that engineers can be trusted. It seeks to position the engineering community as one that possesses the respect and confidence of the public. People should feel confident that the word of an engineer is a reliable one, and that decisions taken by engineers are fair and without compromise or conflict.

Respect for life, law, the environment and public good demands that engineers are law-abiding and have the public’s best interests at heart. This allows people to feel safe when they drive over bridges, fly in aircrafts, and use electrical equipment. It reassures them that engineering designs have been tested, are legally compliant, and that the engineer puts, above all else, the wellbeing of the public, future generations, other members of the profession, and the environment in which we live. This principle also covers the protection of data and privacy of the public.

Accuracy and rigour ensures that engineers are trained, competent and knowledgeable, and that they do not pass themselves off as experts in areas where they are not competent. It requires that engineers keep their knowledge up-to-date, and share their knowledge and understanding with others in their profession. It calls for engineers to take a broad approach to problem-solving, considering a variety of external factors which may influence the risks of any project.

And finally, the principle of leadership and communication ensures that engineers lead by example, that diversity and inclusion are valued, and that people are treated fairly and with respect. It is concerned with the impact of engineering on society in the broadest sense – with how the public sees engineering and how engineering addresses public, social and environmental justice concerns. It requires engineers to be considerate and truthful when acting in a professional capacity, and to raise concerns where necessary.

These four principles underpin professional codes of conduct for engineers, and they provide guidance on how ethical decisions should be made, giving a set of values against which engineers can behave.

 

Using the principles to unpick right from wrong and make the best decision:

While these principles can form a useful basis for ethical decision-making within engineering, it is often the case that conflicts arise that prevent the decision pathway from being straightforward, when there is no obvious right or wrong answer. There may be other principles that need to be considered, relating to the organisation or the institution that the engineer is working for. Furthermore, there may be other considerations associated with a person’s religion, culture or belief system. We shouldn’t forget that other constraints such as cost and time will also impact on the possible options available.

So, decision-making in engineering is rarely straightforward. It is not like a mathematical equation with right and wrong answers, but rather with degrees of rightness, balances of pros and cons and, often, with some costs incurred for the sake of a greater good. Various tools and frameworks exist to help the decision-maker with ethical problems. Probably the simplest logical method considers each of the possible solutions against the ethical principles that are to be complied with. These can then be considered in relation to the stakeholders affected, and a list of pros and cons can be developed. They can even be scored and weighted.

What if a decision is required quickly? How do we ensure that we are likely to make the best one? These questions are partly due to the values that we subscribe to as engineers, and as individuals. They become embedded in our subconsciousness through our training and practice. When decisions need to be made in a hurry, we rely on heuristics, or simple rules or instincts that feel consistent with the ethical knowledge and expertise that we have built up during our career. These heuristics, however, are subject to cognitive biases – psychological patterns of thought that divert us from purely rational approaches. Being aware of these biases can help to minimise or compensate for them.

 

Conclusion:

Engineers should utilise the Statement of Ethical Principles and knowledge of the specific context they are working in, to make the best decisions on the situation or dilemmas at hand. Ultimately, decisions that we make as a professional engineer are our individual responsibility, and whatever decision results, we should be prepared to justify and stand by them, knowing that we have taken these in good faith and for the right reasons. Ethical decision-making can be practised throughout an engineer’s education by using a variety of case studies to explore a range of scenarios an engineer could face. The Royal Academy of Engineering and Engineering Professors’ Council’s Engineering ethics case studies can be used for this.

 

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.

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