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New residential programme gives GCSE students taste of engineering at Oxford

34 participants joined the Uncover Engineering programme to learn about engineering careers, try out some of the workshops and subjects they would experience as an undergraduate engineer, and stay in an Oxford college

Uncover Engineering is a new residential access programme at Oxford offering girls and non-binary students aged 14-15 the chance to learn about engineering, supported by the Waste Environmental Education Research Trust.

34 female/gender-fluid year 10 students visited Oxford for 4 days and 3 nights. The students were selected from over 200 applications using a variety of selection criteria, including their school type, POLAR (areas classified according to participation rate in HE), ACORN (demographic data, social factors), and more. Participants came from all over the country, with 29 coming from state schools.

Professor Ron Roy, Head of the Department of Engineering Science, says: "Residential programmes such as Uncover Engineering and the other access initiatives we offer are a key part of our effort to encourage young female students to consider engineering as a career, learn what attributes a successful engineer needs, and to study the subjects required to apply for a university degree in engineering."

They took part in activities from a variety of engineering branches, including a beam build workshop to create and test a beam from a flat piece of aluminium; a CAD workshop to design a 3D keyring on CAD which was then 3D printed; a workshop showing them some practical applications of origami principles in space; and a packaging challenge where they were asked to design the packaging for a wine glass to protect it when it was dropped from a platform. The students also had talks on What is Engineering? and Engineering at University to help prepare them for their future studies. They were also invited to visit the Grundon waste recycling facility where they experienced engineering in action.

Professor Antoine Jerusalem, the outreach academic lead of the department, said of the programme, "Uncover is one of the very few programmes which addresses concerns that female/non-binary year 10 students might have about engineering and studying at Oxford. Seeing the success of this programme after a great deal of thought and preparation, and with the tremendous support of Engineering staff, current students, college representatives and the students’ parents, was genuinely rewarding”.

 “I loved all the engineering activities and workshops but one of the best was the beam building because it was a chance to get hands on and see the practical side of the course. It was really fun to use all of the new equipment and materials too.”

Participant quote

To experience college life, they stayed in undergraduate student rooms at St Hugh’s College, eating meals in the main dining hall and enjoying evening activities in the grounds. Five engineering undergraduate student ambassadors helped the Uncover participants to settle in and make the most of their residential. Experiencing life at college allows potential students to see how they would fit into Oxford irrespective of their background, with some commenting that “Not everyone here is posh or privately educated and most students are similar to me”, and on “the welcomingness and support by tutors”.

At the end of the residential 85% of the attendees felt that the experience would help them make an informed decision about their future, with 26 of them stating that they would be very likely to or would definitely consider a future in Engineering after attending.

“I really enjoyed this course and I'm open to considering engineering seriously now I'm well-informed thank you for this opportunity!!”

Participant quote

Students examining 3D printed models

Packaging challenge

Origami workshop

Results of the origami workshop

Students building a beam in the design and build workshop

Students spot welding their beam in the design and build workshop

Results of the beam workshop before being tested for failure!

Talk by two student ambassadors

Group photo in University Parks