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Case Study: Oliver Hitchings (Year 12)

Inspiring the next generation of Engineers is a prime objective at UTC Reading and one that we undertake in conjunction with our many industry partners.

When it comes to motivated and accomplished students, we are immensely proud of Oliver Hitchings, who is currently on his first year of a BTEC Extended Diploma in Engineering.

Coming to the UTC over two years ago, Oliver chose the engineering specialism at Level 2. You may remember seeing him on the television with his heroic exploits during the first lockdown. Armed with a few cheaply purchased 3D printers, he went into full scale production of face masks for the NHS. Well now, he’s back in year 12, this time self-teaching himself computer numerical controlled machinery. Part of the level 3 course - he couldn’t wait to get his hands into action - operating from his home garage. It’s all part of his project to build an electric skate board, which with his battery pack, is rapidly taking place. He really is an astounding individual who is an inspiration to us all in these difficult times.

Oliver said: "Just before we broke up for Christmas, I purchased a CNC machine and since then I have been learning my way around it and the world of cad and designing parts for easy machining. Having had a 3D printer for so long helps with the design but it's still a learning curve. I have made loads of parts on the CNC both out of aluminium and wood (I am planning Delrin for the  enclosure but waiting on shipping for that). I have also completed the 1.8kwh battery boasting some impressive specs. It is a 42Ah 50.4v (37v nominal) lithium battery, it will push 450a burst and just over 300a constant (that's around 22kw burst depending on soc voltage). I built this pack completely from scratch using a spot-welder for the connections. The enclosure for the pack isn't 100% done but I have some mock-ups in wood and the 99% finished cad model. Now I'm just waiting for the Delrin to arrive before making the final part."

As well as this, Oliver has been using the CNC machine to make signs for friends and family, which he has found a brilliant way to teach himself new techniques, experiment with design and to find the boundaries of the machine in regards to feeds and speeds. As if that were not enough, he is also working on two prototype motor controller housings, which will be by far the most complex part he has machined. He is, however, always on the look out for ways to push his skills and he hopes to make an excellent heat sink out of it made from a single plate of 6062 t6 aluminium.

Just some of the CAD drawings produced by Oli of his electric skateboard:

His efforts last year were acknowledged by National Grid ESO, when, in recognition for his response to help the NHS staff, they kindly donated a substantial sum of money to the UTC to purchase a laser cutter. This is being put to good use as it cuts parts for the current cohort of Year 11 engineers, improving college facilities, as well as parts for Design and Architecture courses.

National Grid ESO is also assisting the college with its forthcoming Environmental Engineering units, which they have pushed to get onto the National Curriculum. From September, units relating to Energy Management and Sustainable Transport will be included in the UTC Reading curriculum, leading the way to exciting and rewarding careers in this growth Industry. Please contact Amy Sutcliffe (amy.Sutcliffe@utcreading.org.uk) for further details.

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