Today we launched Engineering Knowledge Club with a group of civil engineering students at UCL. The idea is to help engineering students to become excellent engineers by helping individuals individuals identify the knowledge they need, and then helping them develop imaginative ways of generating this knowledge.
Recap of the first session for anyone who couldn’t make it
We had twenty-two students turn up – not bad for what sounds like a hair-brained scheme!
We kicked off with a bit of educational theory. The potted version is this. Many of the things that engineers do, like identifying problems, understanding contexts, designing solutions, creating prototypes and persuading others, are very advanced skills. But all of these advanced skills are founded upon a broad range of general engineering knowledge.
The problem is that universities don’t teach you this general knowledge. And that’s probably a good thing as it would probably be boring if they did. That leaves it up to you, the engineering student, to develop this knowledge yourself. Engineering Knowledge Club is intended to help you do that.
Two students acted to be our guinea pigs.
The first said she wanted to become a structural engineer and to work on the design of tall buildings. We then as a group decided what it would be useful for her to know about tall building design. For example – what are the ten tallest buildings in the world? How designed them? What are they built from? What are the common structural systems for resisting gravitational load? What are the common structural systems for resisting lateral loading? What is the construction sequence? Which towers are being built in London at the moment, and how etc etc
And how should our volunteer go about developing this knowledge? Lots of ways: by keeping a photo diary of tall buildings in London; by writing a series of blog posts about the tallest buildings in the world; by creating a series of tall buildings top trumps, or writing a series of questions for Engineering Mastermind (soon to be launched on Workshed), by arranging, with our help, a site visit to tall building site in London, and interviewing a senior engineer; by making a short film about tall building design, by creating a wiki page on tall buildings etc etc
Our second guinea pig said he wanted to work in construction site management. Again, we opened the question to the assembled gang – what should he probably know about? The answers: the common types of construction plant, including cranes, concreting equipment, hand tools; methods for building concrete slab buildings; concrete for erecting steel structures; construction site jargon; basic H&S on site; what the construction sequence is for major developments in London etc etc.
And how should he go about it? Again, lots of ways: he could keep a weekly diary of the Noho square development, noting changes on site each week, and finding out what is happening, organising a site visit, creating a site language jargon guide which we can share with other students, by creating a model of a construction site out of Lego, and to photograph the construction sequence etc etc
I hope you are getting the idea that there is lots to learn about, and lots of interesting and creative ways to do it. 90% of the students who came said they were up for it – which is pretty good in my book.
Engineering Knowledge Club will run at UCL until Easter. During that period, members will be asked to choose an area of engineering knowledge that they want to develop, to go about it, with our support, in whichever imaginative way they choose, and then at the end to present or demonstrate the knowledge that they have acquired.
So, if you’ve read this far, and you have decided you want to get involved, then all you need to do is drop us an email at email@example.com with the words ‘Engineering Knowledge Club’ in the title, and we will sign you up. Details are being circulated in UCL CEGE department about the times of the next meeting.