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Intensive training for would-be engineers

Posted 9 September 2010

Ben Cooper and Lewis Clarke, both 14 are pictured with Simon Woods, mechanisation lecturer at Harper Adams.

More than 100 Year 10 students from the Midlands have been spending the week at Harper Adams on an intensive training course led by a new engineering school.

The £22million JCB Academy, is the first in the UK to be dedicated to engineering and welcomed its first pupils on September 3 - four years after the vision for the school in Rocester, Staffordshire, was conceived.

This week saw the arrival of the 120 students to Harper Adams where they have been living in the halls of residence, taking part in technical lessons and team building sessions, and enjoying social time in the evenings.

Mark Henshaw, Vice Principal of the JCB Academy, said: “We have come to the University College for the whole experience - the staff, the equipment and the team building.

“The students have been able to learn about technical skills such as suspension, construction, chassis design etc, and then have six weeks to complete a challenge set by Harper Adams, where they have to design and build a radio controlled off road vehicle.

"Harper staff will then choose the winners and prizes will be given out. So far the whole experience has exceeded our expectations.”

The Academy is designed to produce the engineers and business leaders of the future, while still teaching the students core GCSE subjects. It is the brainchild of JCB chairman, Sir Anthony Bamford, who is due to receive an Honorary Doctorate of Science from the University College later this month.

Senior Engineering Lecturer at Harper Adams, David Allan, said: “As a leading engineering university we are always seeking to encourage education in engineering at all academic levels.

“This activity has given us the opportunity to introduce these pupils to off road vehicle design in a way that will enable them to take on the technical aspects of the challenge that we have set.

“We have also specifically developed activities which have helped the pupils to function as teams and work towards common goals. This will also help with other challenges during their academic year and give them an insight into the world of engineering.”

The JCB Academy has been equipped with in excess of £1 million worth modern engineering equipment which will help pupils turn their design ideas into reality. The equipment includes the only plasma cutter - a machine tool commonly used in industry - to be based in a UK school.

Paula Gwinnett, from the JCB Academy, said: “The facilities at the Academy and here at Harper Adams are second-to-none and offer the students the opportunity to learn about manufacturing and engineering in a way that is exciting and practical. Learning these skills and developing the emotional intelligence to work well with others are high on the list of employer requirements.

“For many, it is the first time they will have done anything like this. As well as the practical lessons, we hope the Academy will give students the confidence to set and achieve ambitious targets.

The Academy is funded by the Department for Education, but as main sponsor JCB contributed 10 per cent of the capital and donated the mill in which it is based.

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