Rail Week Case Study: Crewe UTC
“This project has provided an excellent and relevant opportunity for students to work on a challenge similar to those faced each day in the world of work, it has given them a flavour of the multi-faceted considerations required as part of growing our railway network. This kind of curriculum enrichment will hopefully inspire our future workforce and attract them to the rail sector.”
James Richards, Network Rail
As part of the Rail Week initiative students at the Crewe Design & Engineering UTC used a resource pack produced by HS2 Ltd and Transport for London. The pack was circulated by Cheshire East Council’s Economic Development Team to schools and colleges to support STEM curriculum. This was particularly relevant in Crewe which has an unrivalled 175-year heritage of railway engineering and a potential strategic role in the development of HS2 and the rail industry as a whole.
The Crewe UTC used the pack as part of its Y12 enrichment sessions which are used to bring real-life challenges to the classroom and to allow students to put into practice what they have been taught.
35 students worked in small groups of 5 and 6 over 6 weeks and took on the Smeaton Challenge, a fictional city chosen as the site for a new high-speed rail terminus. A river crossing is being proposed to better incorporate the station into the city. Students evaluated crossing types, and selected from a tunnel, two types of bridge, cable car or ferry crossing to research, design and manufacture a solution.
The teaching pack provided an excellent opportunity to help the Y12 students to integrate at the start of the new term and gain important employability skills such as team-building and communication.
The research and design phase gave students the opportunity to evaluate the different options before selecting their preferred solution. Students then moved onto building a scale model of their design using the UTC workshop facilities. This enabled students to gain model making skills and confidence using the equipment and hand tools as they delegated tasks amongst the team. As the Y12 group was a mix of existing and new students, the challenge helped new students to build their confidence, integrate into the year group whilst the existing students were able to pass on their workshop skills.
Becky Whim, Assistant Principal, Key Stage 5, Crewe Engineering & Design UTC said “We used the resources in our weekly 1 hour enrichment sessions; for us employability skills are just as important as qualifications, and the Smeaton Challenge gave the students confidence and developed their professional skills across research, presenting, design and model making, so I would be very happy to recommend it to other schools and colleges.”
Feedback from the students has been very positive. They all participated in the design stage and then learned how best to delegate tasks to build the scale model. The opportunity to consider the impact of their proposed solution on local stakeholders, the environment, businesses, residents, tourism and the city’s local authority was also very beneficial. This extended the learning beyond purely design and technical considerations, touching on Geography – exploring the idea of sustainable development helped recognise its implications for people, places and environments; and English – evaluating content, viewpoints and presenting evidence. Feedback included:
“A great mix of theory and practical challenges”
“A good opportunity to learn and mix with my year group and get to know everyone better”
“I liked the opportunity to consider the river crossing from different perspectives and evaluating the best solution to meet the needs of the local community”
“It helped me understand real-life situations and how a blend of skills are needed”
For more information on Rail Week see: www.railweek.com
Crewe UTC: www.utccrewe.co.uk