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The future looks bright for new UTC Reading students

Students at UTC Reading have been developing their own bright ideas for the town’s Festival of Light.

The students are supporting the event through their first employer-led project of the new school term.

Employers from Peter Brett Associates (PBA), Network Rail, Great Western Railway and the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) gave students a real-world example of how they can apply their skills through the “Connections Challenge” on Friday (9 September).

The challenge was linked to the Reading Festival of Light, which will take place in December as part of the Reading Year of Culture 2016. The festival aims to unite the existing arts and culture organisations in Reading and increase the cultural ambition of Reading to make the town a destination for arts and culture in the UK. Several spectacle light installations will be exhibited around Reading supported by local businesses, independent artists and organisations.

UTC Reading students were tasked with designing an installation to exhibit at the event. Following a technical briefing from our industry partners, students divided into their assigned teams and worked together to create a new design concept with advice from mentors from each of the companies involved.

All 80 teams presented their designs to a panel of judges, before five of them were chosen to compete in the final in the afternoon. At the end of the day, the winning team was announced; students Caitlin Sutherland, Thomas Clarke and Sam Dawson won with their idea based on bicycles, using kinetic energy and projectors with solar cubes to develop an eye-catching and interactive centrepiece for Reading Station forecourt.

Principal Joanne Harper commented: “The challenge was a fantastic opportunity for our new students to get their first experience of working with our industry partners. This is something that they will be doing on a regular basis now that they’ve joined the UTC as we continually work to prepare them for their next steps after education.

“It’s been a very positive start to the new term and we are extremely grateful to all of our partners who came to work with our students on this valuable project.”

The challenge was sponsored by IET, who provided £500 of prize money for the winning team. Kevin Lewis, IET Berkshire Treasurer (voluntary), BT Supply Chain Manager (professional role), said: “This event was a great opportunity for students to engage with a creative but technical project and interface with experienced people to refine their solutions and compete for a prize. It gave a good insight into a real life project and the processes and methods required to make it happen. I hope they see the project come to fruition in December.”

Amongst the industry mentors was UTC Reading alumnus Alex Nichols. Alex graduated from UTC Reading in July 2015 and is now studying Mechanical Engineering at Cardiff University. PBA are sponsoring Alex throughout his degree, and he does work experience with them during his summer holidays. He joined PBA at UTC Reading for the chance to visit his old school and help mentor students in the same way he received mentoring when he was completing projects as a sixth former.

Alex said: “Working on this project with the students has been really interesting and I’m glad I could be a part of it.

“It’s great for the students to get this exposure to industry like I did when I was at UTC Reading. It’s very interesting for them and gives a real insight into the working world.

“Having been a student here, it feels great to come back to the UTC but this time as a mentor from business. I hope to be able to help with more projects like this in the future.”

  • Active Learning
  • Microsoft
  • Cisco
  • University of Reading
  • Network Rail
  • Peter Brett