"I chose to join the Engineering Design course because I have always had a strong reluctance to specialise in one area. Fortunately, the programme allowed me to gain knowledge in a wide range of disciplines throughout my degree. Even though I eventually had to specialise in the mechanical stream, I chose to take on a research project which required a lot of reading in electrical engineering. Thanks to this, I was very happy to graduate with a wide breadth of knowledge of electro-mechanical systems – a plus for anyone like myself with a keen interest in renewable technologies.
During my year in industry I worked for Arup in London as a building services engineer. I found this experience essential to motivating the final two years of my degree, as I was able to imagine how the theoretical problems posed to us would appear in an industrial environment. The placement was an essential part of understanding what it means to be an engineer – something which doesn’t come easily – and as a result makes the second half of your degree all the more enjoyable.
I also worked in many other organisations during my summers, which contributed heavily to the ‘breadth of knowledge’ I mentioned above:
1st year summer: 11 weeks at Atkins in Filton, working on the Airbus A380 check-stress project.
2nd year summer: 6 weeks at an NGO called Sunseed Desert Technology, based in the semi-arid region of south Spain, learning about and building solar distillation plants and solar ovens.
3rd year summer: 3 months on an Engineers Without Borders UK placement in Ecuador, designing and directing the installation of six small-scale water systems.
4th year summer: 6 weeks at Arup in London doing a calculation to determine the energy savings brought about by using low-energy air cooling equipment; plus 3 weeks building a small wind turbine in my garage.
Throughout my course I took a great interest in some of the global issues of today like climate change and poverty, and the role of the engineer in striving to solve them. I was heavily involved in the charity Engineers Without Borders UK where I was able to learn more about these problems and even contribute to solving some of them through their placements scheme! Through the course’s open unit allowances I was also able to gain academic credit for my extra-curricular interests by taking units in ‘Sustainable Development’ and ‘Globalisation and Development’. This interest eventually became a passion in my final year where I decided to try my hand at setting up a social enterprise, and submitted a business plan to the university’s New Enterprise Competition. Through it, I won £10,000 which has allowed me to kick-start ‘Shamba Technologies Ltd.’ and contribute to financing its start-up costs.
I would say that for anyone looking to start-up a technology-based company, this course offers a good combination of the technical skills required to research and develop a product, and an insight into the management, finance and marketing skills needed to put a successful business plan together."