Last year, three of our Sixth Form students, Kaat, Minnie and Angel, participated in the Engineering Education Scheme (EES). This is a 6-month programme run by the Engineering Development Trust which links teams of Year 12 students and their teacher with local companies, with whom they work on real, scientific, engineering and technology projects. During their 6 month project for Wessex Water, our students were encouraged to show industrial enterprise, creativity and innovation whilst gaining extensive experience of the key life skills of problem-solving, team-working and project management. They all worked incredibly hard, and as a result of their endeavours, they were awarded both a British Science Association Gold CREST award and a Gold Industrial Cadets award.
To give you a flavour of all that the EES entails, the team have written a brief article about what happened during their 6-month programme.
Our task for Wessex Water was to “redesign a chemical dosage point to improve the distribution of ferric sulphate into effluent”. In simpler terms, we were redesigning a pipe through which a chemical entered some sewage. The chemical, called ferric sulphate is added to the effluent to remove phosphates, which essentially cleans up the water allowing it to be released safely back into the environment. Wessex water’s current pipe had uneven distribution so we were trying to improve the design.
At the start of our project, we went on a site visit to Wessex Water’s Saltford plant where we were able to see the existing dosage pipe which we were redesigning. This helped us to understand the scale of the problem and how it impacted on the rest of the plant. As a team, we brain-stormed initial ideas, which we then made up into prototype models in the DT workshop and tested in a Physics lab. We then developed the principles which worked well by making and testing more models, from which we decided on two final ideas. These consisted of the straw model and the cone model. We also made the current model as a control so we could compare the new models’ effectiveness.
We then got the opportunity to test our models at the University of Bath during a three-day residential workshop. Together with different EES teams from schools through the Southwest, we were allowed to use the facilities of the Mechanical, Electrical and Civil Engineering departments. We faced a couple of challenges on the way, but the University technicians were helpful and we got the freedom to use their machines to solve our problems. In the school DT Workshop, we had also made two different designs of a weir, which would increase the turbulence in the effluent and therefore mix the ferric sulphate better with the phosphates. After testing and recording the effectiveness of our pipe models at Bath University, we arranged to use the flume, which would allow us to test our weir designs. This was a great experience as this type of equipment is not available in school.
A major part of the EES was to create a professional engineering report to present the project findings back to the sponsor company. In our report we first introduced our project, explaining the problem we were trying to solve. We then documented the design, manufacture and testing of our initial and developed ideas. We explained the testing of our final models done during the university residential, quantifying the performance of each through the use of graphs. After that, we analysed the data, evaluated each model using star diagrams and concluded with our recommendation to Wessex Water, for the most economical solution to the problem being experienced at their Saltford plant.
After we sent off our finished report to the assessors, we started to prepare for our 15-minute presentation for the EES Celebration & Assessment Day at the University of Bath. In our presentation, we explained the process of our project and presented our final recommendations to Wessex Water. We had the opportunity to practice our presentation at their headquarters in Bath in front of our Wessex Water mentor’s team. A week later, we presented it at the University of Bath in front of a panel of engineering judges and a Wessex Water representative. We also had to design a display stand to present our project to the judges, interested parents and students. We made laminated posters with our designs, the manufacturing process and the evaluation of our models. Following our presentation, we had an interview with the panel of judges who came to our display stand as we talked them through our project and answered any questions they had. We were also interviewed by an assessor from CREST, so that he could ensure all the criteria had been met in order for us to obtain our Gold CREST awards.
In conclusion, the EES project was an amazing experience for all of us as it showed us what a real engineering project entailed. It was a brilliant opportunity to work together and to come up with a cost-effective solution for Wessex Water. It also improved our research and communication skills, which could be beneficial and helpful to our future university studies. We all really enjoyed the whole process from start to finish and would highly recommend it to anyone who is thinking about considering a future career in engineering.