The University of Southampton’s Faculty of Engineering has become the first ever recipient of The Royal Academy of Engineering’s Education Innovation Prize sponsored by BNFL plc.

The award is in recognition of ‘Design, Build, Test, Float, Fly and Race – Inspiring Tomorrow’s Engineers’, a unique initiative and the inspiration of Southampton lecturer, Dr Kenji Takeda.

Over three days, teams of students take part in a design, build, test, float, fly and race activity (DBTFFR) during which they build a balsa wood glider, a radio-controlled race car or an electric speed boat. This gives them a flavour of the three engineering courses offered by Southampton; Aeronautics & Astronautics, Mechanical Engineering and Ship Science.

Kenji and his team at Southampton first came up with the idea as a way of introducing sixth- form school students to the world of engineering. They then teamed up with Headstart, who run residential courses nationwide giving school students interested in technology a taster of engineering at university and as a career.

Design, Build, Test, Float, Fly and Race has now been running at the university for 2 years with more than 80 students taking part, and more than 20% of the Headstart participants subsequently enrolling in a Southampton University Engineering Course.

So successful has it been, that Southampton University have replaced its traditional university freshers’ first week programme of lectures with an Induction Week designed by Kenji and his team and incorporating the same kind of DBTFFR activity.

Induction Week enables first-year undergraduates to get to know their peers and academic staff in a relaxed, friendly environment and also develop the different styles of thinking crucial to success at university and beyond. It even incorporates a ‘parenting’ scheme to foster communication between first-year undergraduates and students in the years above and facilitate peer-guidance schemes.

Induction Week too has been a massive success!

Kenji’s imagination, innovation and determination have been the driving force behind both these projects at Southampton, and the University awarded him a Vice-Chancellor’s Teaching Award last year. This latest Prize from The Royal Academy of Engineering, worth £10,000, reinforces his much deserved recognition. Kenji picked up the award on behalf of the University of Southampton at the Academy’s symposium, Innovation in Engineering Education, at the RSA.

He says,

“Everyone at Southampton University Faculty of Engineering is proud to receive this prestigious award. We set out to offer a new and exciting introduction to university life and engineering study. For us, the overwhelming response from participants has been the reward in itself – but the acknowledgement from the Royal Academy of Engineering makes our efforts even more worthwhile.”

Ian Bowbrick, Director of Postgraduate Programmes for the Royal Academy of Engineers says,

“Congratulations to Dr Takeda and everyone involved with the winning project. The standard of entries was especially high and everyone at The Royal Academy of Engineering was delighted to see such a wide cross section of innovative approaches to engineering education.

“The finalists represented a showcase of best practice and all the finalists are shining examples of how creativity can engage students and prove a powerful source of inspiration – exciting the next generation of and many more to come.”

Notes for editors

  1. The Royal Academy of Engineering/BNFL Education Innovation Prize is a new, single, annual award from The Royal Academy of Engineering with a prize of £10,000 and a trophy. It has been instituted to recognize both organizations and individuals who have made significant contributions in the whole field of Engineering Education. The award is focused on innovation in the approach taken to teaching the subject.
  2. The Academy looks at engineering education in the broadest sense and suitable candidates may be drawn from schools, colleges, universities and business schools; e-learning organizations; company specific and industry-wide training programmes; private or publicly funded award schemes; learned society IPD or CPD programmes; training providers and individuals.
  3. Six projects were short listed for the new Education Innovation Prize. The other five finalists were: Imperial College’s Constructionarium, a learning event involving a residential week where 20 to 30 students take control of their own construction sites replicating real-life projects; King’s College London’s EngineeringArt which involves undergraduates, the arts community and the public in exploring the relationship between engineering and art, and in particular the link between the aesthetics of modern science and the ideals of contemporary art; Liverpool University’s steeluniversity.org which is an interactive free-to-use global resource dedicated to steel and associated technologies; Innovative Education for Engineers at Queen’s University Belfast, and Strathclyde University’s Christmas Lectures along with the Careers Scotland Space School which is run in partnership with NASA.
  4. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship – comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers – provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, it provides independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.
  5. Headstart courses provide an opportunity for students at the end of Year twelve/ Scottish Year five (sixteen and seventeen year- olds) to spend four days in the summer at a university engineering facility to learn more about engineering and allied courses, and be briefed about engineering careers prior to making their UCAS application.
  6. The Best Programme is The Royal Academy of Engineering’s programme of schemes aimed at encouraging and enthusing students to embark upon a career in engineering. ‘Best’ stands for ‘Better Engineering Science, Technology’ and the programme offers young people from the age of 7 upwards opportunities to gain an understanding of engineering and its importance in the world around us.

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or photographs please contact: Claire McLoughlin at The Royal Academy of Engineering