Sixth-formers get a Headstart in engineering

As our undergraduate students filed out, marking the end of another busy year, the Department of Engineering Science opened its doors to a different crowd of young engineers. This July, the department hosted 38 sixth-form students from schools across the UK as part of the Headstart Broad-Based Engineering programme.

Headstart is a well-established residential outreach summer school delivered by universities on behalf of the Engineering Development Trust (EDT) – the Department of Engineering Science has been taking part since 2011.  The programme gives participants a taster of what it would be like to study engineering at university and to experience university life. 2018’s five-day programme saw students taking part in practical problem-solving activities, team projects, lectures and industrial site visits during the day and a variety of activities around Oxford in the evenings, including a final-night gala dinner at Somerville College.

At the start of the week, the students experienced a university-style lecture on mathematical modelling, which successfully stretched them past their school syllabus and introduced them to a new style of learning. During the course of the week, they then worked on a short problem sheet, which they had a chance to discuss and work through with an academic in small group tutorials at the end of the week. This challenging yet exciting exercise gave the students a great opportunity to experience university-style teaching.

Throughout the week, the students worked on three different laboratory projects including bridge build sessions, a robotics session (during which they programmed a robot to follow a line along the floor) and a Computer Aided Design session, which involved designing a keyring using SolidWorks and printing it using a 3D printer. Mid-week, the sixth-formers also got a chance to see engineering in practice, with site visits to Thames Water Sewage Treatment Site and Keble College HB Allen construction site.

Robot

Every afternoon, following the academic programme, the students were kept busy enjoying tours of Oxford, punting trips, outdoor games and evening meals at various colleges, getting a chance to explore the city and enjoy university life outside the Department.

The course was a huge success,largely thanks to the wonderful work done by the Engineering Science Student Ambassadors who helped to run the course: Stanley Speel, Rushab Badiani, Holly Wright and Ambre Bertrand. One sixth-former said: “The Student Ambassadors were amazing in every aspect, from helping us settle in on the very first day, to providing us with tips about university life”.

 Another described how much they enjoyed “getting a chance to experience not only labs, but also sitting in lectures and seeing the two different sides to an engineering course. Also, getting to talk to people currently at university doing engineering, people who have finished their course and people of my own age that I have loads in common with and that are in the same boat as me. It's nice to talk to people in the same position with very similar aspirations, but of very different personality types”.

Headstart

 Our special thanks go to EDT, Thames Water, BAM Construction and St John’s College, as well as to all our volunteers, technicians and academics who helped to make this year’s Headstart such an enormous success.

August 2018