UTC students design level crossing to learn real-world skills

FileMaker and Network Rail teach students how to use tech to design and build level crossing to bridge skills gap

FileMaker and Network Rail have joined forces to support students of UTC Reading to design and manage a theoretical level crossing project in their local area.

Over the course of 14 weeks students aged from 14 to 18 will work with experts from FileMaker and Network Rail to learn design, drawing, coding, finance and project management.

Students will present their work to an expert panel, with the three top groups having the chance to pitch their plan to Network Rail.

Using FileMaker, the students will make a risk assessment of the crossing and plan its design and construction. The next stage of the project will require the student to build and customise a database to manage groups of data such as traffic flow, geographical data, maintenance and fault recording. This will enable them to make an informed decision about where to locate their level crossing.

Students will then produce a design before utilising a 3D printer to develop a model of their level crossing.

Six hours a week will be dedicated to project work, alongside other lessons such as teaching pupils to write a business plan.

Tony Speakman, director, Northern Europe, at FileMaker International, said: "Giving the students the chance to develop their own database gives them the ideal opportunity to learn the skills they will need to make the transition from education to the world of work. 

"We’re seeing students from the ages of 14-18 taking on and providing the solutions to everyday problems that are faced in business; managing projects and teams of people of varying age and ability. The skills that we are working with them on, such as project management and report writing, are things that they simply wouldn’t ordinarily learn, even from an undergraduate course."

Joanne Harper, principal of UTC Reading, said: “We have all heard the Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) skills gap needs plugging and, alongside our industry partners, we are taking proactive steps to resolve this. Our role at UTC Reading is to give our students the tools to fill this gap.

“By concentrating on these special projects and moulding the rest of the curriculum to support them, we can encourage technical careers across all levels of ability. We are already seeing a marked change in our students’ career plans with many of them now looking towards the skilled job market upon leaving the UTC rather than automatically choosing university.”

According to Bill Templeton, education programmes manager at Network Rail: “The enthusiasm and dedication of the young people that we are working with is hugely encouraging for the future of our industry. With a big focus on infrastructure investment, Britain needs more engineers and high skilled people.

“We have a responsibility to support education beyond our own workforce to encourage the next generation to get into engineering and show how it applies in the real world. By specialising in engineering and computer science, UTC Reading is well placed to help in this drive, and we’re playing our part by bringing real working life challenges into the classroom.”

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