By Hannah Brooker

Before Christmas I received an email asking University of Sheffield alumni to get involved in ‘Engineering You’re Hired’ – a week long project run across all disciplines within the Faculty of Engineering, with 1300 second year students participating. I took part in this the first year it was running, and I was intrigued to see how it had developed (and hopefully improved) since then, so I signed up to volunteer as an industry mentor for the day.

The students have a week to work “full-time” in small multi-disciplinary groups on one of several projects aiming to reach proof of concept stage. The week encourages them to think about design criteria, development, and cost, as well as ensuring they are meeting the project brief. Each afternoon they visit “The Boardroom” where they must present their progress in a different way each day (when I was there, their only visual aids had to be drawn as they spoke).

My involvement took the form of four activities throughout the day;

  • Visiting a project hub to talk to groups of students as they continued to work on their project and ask questions about their solutions
  • A networking lunch, where students were able to speak to different engineers about their work in industry and ask for advice on employability and applying for jobs/summer placements
  • An ‘ask the expert’ session, where groups could consult engineers of their choosing, for 10 minutes, for specific guidance on an element of their project
  • Joining the boardroom presentations for a set of groups, to ask questions, and provide constructive feedback, following their presentation

Before the event I was asked to provide a brief summary of my areas of experience as well as the projects I would be interested in being involved with.

I was questioned as an ‘expert’ on how best to get a robot to deconstruct a building, earthquake resistance in reinforced concrete structures, and sustainable houses – three of the more structures focussed projects.

The topic for all the groups I spoke with tackled the issue of using biomimicry to improve the sustainability of domestic buildings. This was particularly interesting as it had been less than 24 hours since I had submitted my Cundall diploma report assessing the sustainability of my own house.

Some of the most creative solutions included the roof construction mimicking a polar bears fur to heat water and new build residences being built in ‘penguin huddles’ to minimise heat loss. It was really interesting hearing the ideas of the students and their range of justifications for some of the more unconventional engineering solutions.

Hear more about the programme and what the students thought in this video : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tz4h5pTzUSY&feature=youtu.be

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Future Engineers, Hannah Brooker, Volunteering

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