Pioneering summer school - First report
Monday, October 7, 2019

For the past two years, PLuS Alliance partners have been collaborating to develop a new kind of engineering school in London.

The school will transform engineering education to transform lives. Delivering an innovative curriculum based on real-life project work from day one, it will bring a new kind of engineer to the profession.

The shortage of socially aware and globally focused engineering talent is widely reported, with the UK alone lacking in 20,000 skilled professionals annually. The PLuS Alliance, as a global thinker and influencer, recognised the need for a new type of engineering education provision to help address the lack of people studying engineering.

This summer, students from the PLuS partners worked together on three projects that typify how PLuS Engineering will train engineers of the future.

  • A rehabilitation device for patients needing repetitive therapy to recover from conditions such as stroke
  • A drinking fountain to purify storm water
  • An information hub for the local community

In interdisciplinary teams that comprised engineering, philosophy and business students, the students piloted the PLuS Engineering project-based learning approach. Future students in the program will be supported by a state-of-the-art online learning portal to develop their knowledge and skills to work through the projects, but these pilot groups brought their learning from the programs in their home university, and the research skills those programs are teaching them.

The pilot summer school culminated in an industry showcase, for a select group of organisations who have been supporting PLuS Engineering. Guests noted the collaboration demonstrated across the teams and the benefit of the multi-disciplinary approaches brought by the various channels of expertise.

The students themselves were very positive about the experience of working in teams with different elements of knowledge – and in particular the ‘non engineers’ were surprised at the value they added on a practical engineering project with the technical background of their colleagues.

Nienke Bos is a 2nd year philosophy student at King’s, working on the Citizen Hub with four other team members. Nienke commented, “I wanted to test out my transferrable skills.  I’m used to reading books and theorising. This has been a refreshing change, doing something with a practical objective.  Two of the projects seemed very engineering focussed whereas the citizen hub seemed more about bridging a gap between the community and students.  In the first week I felt that I contributed as much as the other students and didn’t feel any different.  I think my degree has helped our group by looking at the ethical reasons for the citizen hub, analysing questions such as what do we need for the new campus? what does the community want?” She added “I can’t do the engineering element of a project, but I could be part of the project management team and skills such as 3D design can be learnt.”

Mariam El Sheikh, a Biomedical Engineering student at ASU comment “I liked showing everyone what we finally came up on this amazing project.  The fact that we were able to develop a fully functioning device within 3 weeks is awesome”

Stories from the summer school can be found on the @PLuSAllianceedu Instagram, #TEDILondon

More summer schools are planned to further develop and test elements of the PLuS Engineering at the campus in Canada Water, London, just two stops from world-famous London Bridge.

Contact Helen.merrills@plusalliance.org if you have any queries.