Eighty Year 12 students, working in teams of 5, were set this challenging brief at the beginning of January. It is part of UTC Norfolk’s innovative programme of employer-led Technical Challenges, which are intended to give students a realistic understanding of the sorts of projects they could one day be working on in their future careers in STEM-related industries.
Each student Design Team consisted of a Project Manager, Architect, Quantity Surveyor, Mechanical Engineer and Structural Engineer. Based on a real site in Norwich, the group were tasked with planning a housing development consisting of 10 new homes.
Over 5 weeks the students worked in their teams, overseen by staff from NPS Group and UTC Norfolk, as they worked up their plans in readiness for presentations to the fictitious client, a property investment firm.
Through the project, the students learned about the different forms of technical expertise, the practical and budgetary considerations and constraints, and how these need to be coordinated in order to deliver a successful housing development.
The outputs that each student team was required to produce included: a 3D drawing or scale model of the planned development; a budget setting out the construction costs, property valuations and potential yield from the development; strategies for energy efficiency and compliance with building regulations; and the design and building of a scale model of a bridge which forms part of the development.
On the final week of the challenge, the students had to present their plans to representatives from NPS Group, including Managing Director Mike Britch. The teams were given a combined score based on how well each role and function was carried out.
This included stress testing of the students’ bridges, with the strongest of the scale models successfully bearing a weight of 10 Kg. For its design quality and stress-bearing performance, the award for the best bridge went to Maddie Newman.
At the end of an intense 5-weeks of activity, and following an excellent series of presentations (which included the 3D designs of houses, the cost, budget and yield and ideas for heating the properties), the winning group were announced as Shaun Burnett-Kiernan, Denzil Dube, Scott Gilbert, George Haythorpe and Georgia Pegg. The winning team were presented with prizes including architecture kits, NPS goodie bags and a tour of the actual site.
George Haythorpe, 17, from Wymondham, who was Project Manager for the winning team said of the experience:
“It’s taught me how to manage a group a lot better. Instead of just allowing people to do everything themselves, you have to keep checking what they are doing and making sure they are doing the right thing and that they are going along the same path. My management’s got a lot better I think.”
Georgia Pegg, 17, from Happisburgh, said the Technical Challenge had opened her eyes to a potential future career:
“I got to see what it was like to be an architect. Doing this challenge has helped me to decide that I would like to be an architect. It’s been really useful working with NPS, as they can guide you on how to go about it.”
Georgia has since been offered work experience with NPS in their Architecture team.
Mike Britch, Managing Director, NPS Group, praised all of the UTC Norfolk students for the effort they had put in and for the quality of their presentations, adding:
“The construction industry is very short of professionals, so encouraging youngsters into construction and engineering is vitally important. This Technical Challenge is a fantastic way of getting young people to consider some of the opportunities that are available in construction and property work. It’s great to see the enthusiasm of everyone at UTC Norfolk for engineering and hopefully we can encourage some of these students to come and join us in the future.”
Alex Hayes, Principal, UTC Norfolk, commented:
“The opportunity for our students to undertake Technical Challenges like this, which are designed by our employer partners to be as realistic as possible, is a unique learning experience that you can only get at a UTC. Our students have learned so much from this Technical Challenge and have greatly impressed with their attitude and commitment. Crucially, it has also deepened their understanding of the many career opportunities available within the property industry and put our students in direct contact with a potential future employer.”