EDUCATION LINKS CASE STUDY
Building on success
A 2016 pilot programme for Year 12/13 students – Integrated Engineering – proved very successful, with almost half the group going on to study engineering at tertiary level. It's being run again this year, covering a wider range of disciplines to give students more career options.
Preparing students to study engineering
All of the 23 students from Fraser High School and Fairfield College who completed the 2016 pilot programme achieved Level 3 NCEA. This in itself was a pleasing result for the schools, given that some of the cohort might otherwise have failed to gain NCEA or left school during the year. Even better, 11 students went on to enrol at Wintec this year to study towards the New Zealand Diploma in Engineering (NZDE).
Timing and timetabling constraints in setting up the pilot meant the course was comprised of two five-month blocks: Mechanical Engineering and Carpentry. All the students who enrolled at Wintec chose to study Mechanical Engineering which, Mechanical Engineering tutor and schools liaison Stefan Auliff says, perhaps reflects their familiarity with that discipline. The 2017 programme is focused on giving students a broad overview of engineering so that they can make more informed decisions about which discipline to specialise in.
2017 Integrated Engineering programme
25 students are involved in the programme this year; 10 Year 12-13 students (including one girl) from Fraser High School and 15 Year 13 students (with four girls) from Fairfield College. Each school group comes to Wintec two days a week, where they are work in groups of three to produce a six-wheeled robot chassis. Five tutors from different disciplines are delivering the units, which include:
- CAD – designing the robot
- Mechanical – fabricating the body
- Electrical – wiring and electronics
- Civil – designing a track with obstacles
- Communications – developing a presentation for peers, teachers and tutors at school.
Gaining engineering knowledge/skills plus NCEA
Students can gain up to 60 NCEA credits altogether, with Wintec tutors assessing their work towards unit standards. While there aren’t any standards that fit neatly with the Civil Engineering unit, it’s important that students are exposed to this discipline to give them that overview of engineering and potential career opportunities. So, to help students get credit for their work, a Wintec Communications tutor is working with the Civil Engineering tutor on a communications assignment which can be assessed for NCEA credit – Students have to prepare and give a presentation about their work in this unit.
Johnny Gordon, Wintec Youth Pathways Manager, says the combination of engineering knowledge and skills plus NCEA credits sets the students up for various career pathways. “It allows them options – they can go straight into a job, study here or go elsewhere based on this foundation.”
In contrast to some initiatives, the emphasis in this programme is on integrating what students are learning at school and at Wintec. The students are in the same class at school for core subjects so that they can learn content knowledge and skills within an engineering context.
While there isn’t any formal professional development aspect for staff, this inevitably occurs as part of the initiative. During the pilot programme, teachers at each school observed and worked with Wintec tutor Trudy Harris as she taught a contextualised Maths/Science unit to their students. Fairfield College teacher Bandana Kumar says it provided a great opportunity to learn about engineering and that she has adopted the same methods. “I’m giving the students projects which incorporate the engineering steps they work through at Wintec. The programme is getting the disconnected students connected with science; I’d rather help someone catch up on any science they’ve missed if they’re enthusiastic about this opportunity.”
To emphasise to the students that they are learning maths and physics within an engineering context, Bandana now calls her subject Engineering Science. She collaborates with the class’s English teacher; they set English assignments based around engineering and mark them together, each concentrating on their area of expertise.
Stefan has regular meetings with the schools and observes how the teachers deliver their programmes. A teacher comes in most days to see how their students are getting on at Wintec, during which they get the opportunity to practise skills in the workshop.
Making links with industry is an integral part of the programme, and over the year students will have six visits to local engineering companies – two civil, two electrical and two mechanical. Students will see how engineers apply their generic engineering skills along with specialist expertise to specific projects, while gaining an increased awareness of the different types of engineering companies operating in the region – places where they could potentially work in the future.
Growing student awareness of engineering
Last year’s students were mostly shoulder-tapped at their respective schools to join the pilot Integrated Engineering programme. At the conclusion of the project the students gave presentations at their schools about their experiences in the programme, and rode the trikes they’d worked on around the school. This, along with informal chats about the programme, meant the 2017 intake had more idea about what it involves and the potential career opportunities.
While some of this year’s students bring some knowledge and skills from participating in the Waikato Trades Academy last year, others don’t have any background in engineering. Most of the group don’t know what they want to do after leaving school but see the programme as a chance to try something new, have some fun and learn more about careers.
Supporting the students
Wintec supports the students to stick with their studies by encouraging them to make use of its student advisor services, emphasising that they should ask for help if they’re struggling or have personal problems or want to chat about career pathways and the next steps, “We try to be proactive,” Johnny says, “and address any issues early, because kids can be shy about asking for support.”
Looking towards next year, Johnny hopes to have second-year ex-pilot programme NZDE students come in to mentor the 2018 students. Their experience, enthusiasm and advice, he says, should be good motivation for the new cohort. In the meantime, staff have made time for some of the ex-Fraser and Fairfield engineering students to meet up with the groups to chat about how things are going for them.
While two of the current NZDE students joined the Integrated Engineering programme with different levels of experience – one without any knowledge of engineering while the other had come through from Wintec’s Manufacturing and Technology trade academy – both are enthusiastic about how well it prepared them for tertiary study. ““It gave us exposure to the engineering environment, and we learnt how to study and plan our time.”
Wintec is still looking to extend the programme to other schools in 2018, and will repeat other initiatives, such as providing training for teachers around project-based learning, during the year.
Our thanks to Johnny, Stefan and Bandana for their time and advice; if you have any queries please contact firstname.lastname@example.org