Engineering Fundamentals provides head start into engineering study

Engineering fundamentals provides headstart into engineering

WITT’s Engineering Fundamentals programme is well into its second year and continues to provide students with a head start into studying engineering.

Five schools involved in the Engineering Fundamentals programme

Ten Year 13 students from five schools – New Plymouth Girls’ High School, New Plymouth Boys’ High School, Francis Douglas Memorial College, Coastal Area School and Hawera High School – are enrolled in the 2018 Engineering Fundamentals programme.

They attend for three hours every week and are able to achieve the New Zealand Diploma in Engineering (NZDE) Engineering Fundamentals paper.
Case study: Promoting the local option

Promoting the opportunities and pathways into an engineering career

“They’re high-achieving students.” says tutor Yusuf Khan, “Some want to get a jump on studying engineering next year, while others want to see if it’s a career they wish to pursue.”

While the programme is focused on fundamentals of engineering, students learn about the fields of engineering they could potentially work in, the different study pathways and how they can follow a particular area of interest. One student, for example, is tossing up between nursing and the NZDE so Yusuf was able to introduce her to biomedical engineering which combines both interests.

Students enjoy applying their maths and physics knowledge to engineering

The three-hour lessons usually include a mixture of theory and practical activities. After learning, for example, how engineers apply their knowledge of physics to building projects, the class worked on a building activity. Each student built a structure out of iceblock sticks then used the seismic testing machine to test how well it would perform in an earthquake. After explaining their result, they repeated the process with two more structures.

Finding out if engineering is the career for them

Students appreciate the opportunity to find out whether engineering is the right career for them.

“I wanted to see if I’d enjoy engineering, but thought I’d have to go to university. The NZDE an easier, better option – only two years’ study and work experience.”

“I enjoy the work, applying maths to real-life situations.”

 “I really love the design aspect; it’s fun and that’s the future – engineering.”

Careers advisor supports the middle pathway into engineering

Lauren O’Reilly, head of Francis Douglas Memorial College’s careers department, says students are very positive about the programme; “It’s definitely opening their eyes to engineering and the advantages of the NZDE. When the tutors talk about careers it makes them more ‘real’ for the students.”

“While many parents focus on university, students tend to worry about debt, earning potential and whether there will be a job when they graduate. I promote the NZDE to students and parents, pointing out the advantages – that it takes only two years to complete during which they can stay at home, save on study costs, then enter industry at a higher level or staircase to another engineering qualification.”

“In talking about engineering – Pathways is a timetabled subject at our school – the students are familiarising classmates and family with what’s involved in engineering. And because they’re familiar with the campus, teaching team and NZDE content, they have a level of confidence about studying at WITT.

2017 Engineering Fundamentals student moved on to NZDE

Bradley Korff, a 2017 New Plymouth Boys’ High School student in the Engineering Fundamentals programme, is studying towards the NZDE this year. “I’d had an interest in engineering,” he says, “and the programme meant I could see what it was like without having to make a commitment.”

“I’d been looking at university until Yusuf explained the different pathways. I decided on the NZDE because I didn’t want to do lots more study plus I could gain work experience. I like the class sizes, that I can always go to tutors for help, and knowing the campus already made it easier at the start. I’ve got spare time this year because I’ve already done the Engineering Fundamentals paper”.

Bradley was awarded one of the new WITT scholarships for Engineering Fundamentals students.

Keeping in contact with industry

Project Manager Melissa Kay notes the importance of making students aware of engineering industry in the region and roles they could potentially take on as graduates. “We’re taking the students to visit some local processing plants which employ all types of engineers. The most valuable thing when encouraging students to consider the NZDE or Bachelor of Engineering Technology is to introduce them to graduates – this is where they work, what they do, and what you could do too.”

Paying for students to attend Powerco Future Tech conference

The STPP team paid for all Engineering Fundamentals students to attend a Powerco Future Tech conference event last month. “It was an opportunity for them to hear about and see some of the new technologies, and to make them aware of companies involved in this work.”

Is the Engineering Fundamentals programme a sustainable model?

Is the Engineering Fundamentals programme a model that will be sustainable when Engineering e2e funding ends? “Yes, Engineering e2e is an important feeder into WITT’s NZDE, which continues to grow at WITT.”

“Some school students are going from our Trades Academy into Engineering Fundamentals, and hopefully some will then move on to the NZDE.”

Evaluating the effectiveness of block courses

In 2017, WITT offered a three-day engineering taster course then evaluated its effectiveness.  “We decided that it didn’t really achieve what we wanted,” Melissa says, “and decided to change focus. We’ve put out feelers with Maths and Physics teachers – looking at how we can help them engage their students at school. We’ll also work through teachers to engage the Year 11/12 students we want for the Engineering Fundamentals programme.”

Case study: Giving students a taste of engineering 
Case study: Promoting the middle pathway into engineering

Our thanks to Melissa, Yusuf and Lauren for their time and advice; if you have any queries please contact engineering

June 2018