“I really connected with the Equal Adventure dream of helping as many people with disabilities as possible to embrace and relish the outdoors.”
In the summer holidays, MEng Mechanical Engineering student George Billington undertook a voluntary placement with Equal Adventure - a not-for-profit organisation that develop equipment for disabled people, specifically focussed around outdoor pursuits.
George, 22, is not the first Harper student to be involved with the organisation as one of their main products -the Boma electric off-road wheelchair- was originally designed by another Harper engineering graduate, Chris Swift.
“After seeing how much freedom using a similar electric off-road wheelchair gave my disabled uncle, I became interested in using my engineering skills to help people with limited physical abilities to fully experience the outdoors and have active and fulfilling lives. So, when I heard about Equal Adventure, they seemed like the perfect company for me.”
George had heard about Equal Adventure in passing at Harper Adams but it was an engineering assignment that really introduced him to the company.
“In my fourth year, I worked with Suresh Paul, the director of Equal Adventure and a visiting lecturer at Harper Adams, on a project we had to produce a product design specification for the next version of the Boma. After speaking to Suresh about the company and my particular interest in the Boma he offered me a summer placement with the company at their base in Morayshire.”
“I started my 8-week placement by tidying and sorting the tools and hardware in the workshop and fitting a digital readout (DRO) systems to the metal lathes to make it faster to use.”
“I also machined, soldered, and assembled parts for two new Boma wheelchairs, and wrote up multiple improvements to the manufacturing instructions and parts I was making.”
“Myself and the other two placement students alongside Suresh, went up Cairn Gorm mountain with a customer and a ‘demonstration’ Boma to test the machine on rough terrain.”
“The last weeks were spent manufacturing various more parts for sale and designing a ‘first draft’ model of the new generation of Boma based on my experience and the ideologies of the organisation.
“I really enjoyed being part of Equal Adventure specifically as they have an integral policy of listening to everyone’s opinions when it comes to improvements to the products.
This organisational growth mindset was very unusual and fantastic to be included in as it made each of us feel really valued. I’m actually planning to work there again next summer after finishing university with a view to longer-term involvement with the organisation.”
To undertake his placement, George who is originally from rural Suffolk, temporarily moved to Morayshire.
“I really enjoyed the area, the people are very friendly and the landscape is amazing. I settled in very well with the other two placement students and we found a shared interest in rock climbing, which we did together most weeks after work or over the weekends.”
“My studies really prepared me for both my work with Equal Adventure and my year-long placement, especially the mathematics, suspension physics, and materials science,” says George, who adds that “the placement year was the main reason I choose Harper Adams as I thought that it was important to get ‘real world’ experience alongside my degree.”
“I have enjoyed my time at Harper Adams - it has been fantastic to be involved in the community and work alongside like-minded students who love the outdoors. The atmosphere and rurality have been great and the small class sizes have meant that I have had a more intimate and personal learning experience.”