Success of Headstart for Sixth Formers continues

This year the Department of Engineering Science ran its 17th Headstart residential course for sixth formers from throughout the UK. The programme included practical problem-solving activities, team projects, industrial site visits, lectures and tours of laboratories. On their last evening, Headstart students attended a gala dinner at Hertford College.

The Department’s Headstart course enabled sixth formers to meet and talk to University staff, postgraduate students and representatives from industry.

Inspiring site visits

A key highlight is the site visit, which is part of the Headstart programme. This year Lotus F1 Team, Sharp Laboratories of Europe and UKAEA Fusion, Cullham Science Centre hosted three unique and enthralling experiences. This is what some sixth formers said:

Headstart 2013 Lotus F1 Visit
Photo courtesy of Lotus F1 Team
"The trip to Lotus F1 Team headquarters was really enlightening. I was thinking about going into mechanical engineering but wasn’t really sure. After finding out about the designing, manufacturing and testing of vehicles, my mind is set on a career in F1Aamanh, Year 12 student.

My visit to a fusion reactor was really good. It was amazing to see how the concept actually works on an industrial scale after learning the basics at GCSECharlotte, Year 12 student.

From pens to microwaves, LEDs to 3D technology, Sharp has inspired me to pursue a career in engineeringBrenda, Year 12 student.

Practical Problem Solving

Headstart 2013 Fluids LabDr Douglas Hamilton, who has been Course Manager of the Department of Engineering Science’s Headstart courses since 1997, said: “We had 38 students, from all over the country, who quickly got to know each other within an hour or two of arriving and then with great enthusiasm tackled the wide range of engineering-based activities we offered them, including bridge-building, investigating and testing engines, testing a water turbine, robotics, computer-aided design, and building a solar-powered model car. They also had an industrial visit and talks from researchers in the Engineering Department. The overall feeling at the end of the course was of having had a thoroughly interesting time that was great fun as well.

College dinner

On their last night in Oxford, sixth formers enjoyed a three-course dinner at Hertford College, which was sponsored by Winton Capital Management. This provided sixth formers with the opportunity to mix socially in historical surroundings, and gain a sense of what life at the University would be like should they decide to study engineering science in Oxford.

Headstart 2013

Dr. William Cobern, who was a member of the Department for eight years (read MEng at Oriel College and then a DPhil in Biomedical Engineering ), is now a researcher with Winton Capital Management, one of the world’s largest hedge funds.

Headstart 2013 HelpersHe delivered the after-dinner speech and said: “The Engineering course at Oxford is very varied, and you learn all of the basics before specialising in later years. If like me, you don’t feel ready to join the real world after completing your undergraduate degree, the research facilities here are world class. I spent four years on research to use mobile phones to help people with asthma and diabetes to manage their conditions. The truth is that the skills you learn in an engineering degree are highly prized by employers… in addition to specialist knowledge, an Engineering degree gives you advanced problem-solving skills and a pragmatic approach”.

The department relies on the goodwill of undergraduates and graduates to help with the smooth running of the Headstart programme. Pictured here are: Volunteers, Alexandra Floyd, Alice Vacani, Maria Higson and Ken Chatfield, together with David Carrier and Dr. William Cobern from Winton Capital Management, Dr Douglas Hamilton and Glynn Guest, Headstart Supervisor.

Over 2,500 sixth form students applied nationally to Headstart this year, with 37 attending the Department’s course in Oxford. Students came from a variety of schools; including maintained non-selective, maintained selective, independent, further education and sixth form colleges, and academies.

Headstart, part of the Engineering Development Trust, has been established for more than 16 years as a charitable trust providing hands-on Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) activities and engineering taster courses to encourage young people into technology-based careers. It is run under the auspices of the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Research by Headstart (not by Oxford) shows that the scheme is very important in helping students decide on their course of study and over 60% tracked through university are reading engineering degree courses. Approximately 86% of participants declare engineering or science-based roles as their first job destination.

Our special thanks to Headstart, Winton Capital Management, Lotus F1 Team, Sharp Laboratories of Europe, Culham Science Centre, and Hertford College, as well as to all volunteers, technicians and academics from the Department of Engineering Science who helped to make this year’s Headstart such a huge success.

On a final note…

Coming to Oxford, I was apprehensive about the type of students I would meet on Headstart and how smart they all would be. However, having met some undergraduates and graduate students I was pleasantly surprised by how ‘normal’ and grounded they all were. I would definitely recommend taking part on a Headstart courseYear 12 student.