Building a passion for engineering – the future generation

Published Monday, 2nd July 2018

School pupils from Worcestershire have been learning about what it takes to design and build a new railway station.

Year 7 youngsters from St Barnabas C of E First & Middle School in Drakes Broughton became 'engineers for the day' by looking at the challenges in designing Worcestershire Parkway Station.

Worcestershire County Council and the Engineering Director, Samantha Uren, from SLC Rail, who are managing the scheme on the Council's behalf, first visited the school last autumn to talk to pupils about civil engineering and other professions involved in the construction industry.

With Worcestershire Parkway Station on their doorstep, it was the perfect opportunity to talk to pupils about engineering in action. More recently, pupils also enjoyed a visit to the site where, their classroom learning was brought to life on a real life construction site.

Worcestershire County Council Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Economy and Infrastructure, Dr Ken Pollock, said "As this scheme is so important for the county, it's great that we have been able to involve, and had such a positive response from, a local school. Their enthusiasm for the project, especially the sustainability side of what we do, is really encouraging as this is vital in keeping the county's environment as one of its key features. We're looking forward to welcoming the pupils back next year when the station is complete".

Maria Leach, Year 7 Teacher at St Barnabas, said: "As part of a Year 7 geography project, I wanted to not only help my pupils to really grasp what engineering was all about but also inspire our oldest pupils about their future potential career.

"With Worcestershire Parkway so close to the school, and familiar to most of the pupils, this project gave us a great opportunity to learn lots about geography, engineering and even managing budgets when planning and building such a big scheme. The pupils were particularly interested in the ecological side and everything that happens to try and reduce the impact to the local environment. The Team have done a great job of engaging with the students in a really innovative way, and I wouldn't be surprised if at least one of the class follows a similar career route!'

The pupils were asked to develop a design for the new station near Norton based on the genuine constraints faced with the design and delivery of the project.

These included the best location for a station at the intersection of two railway lines, what facilities were required for the passengers, including those with disabilities, and ecological considerations such as bats and reptiles.

Each group of pupils then presented their design to the other groups, teachers and SLC staff.

Samantha Uren, Engineering Director at SLC Rail, said: ’We had a fantastic day and always love talking to young people about what we do.  This Year 7 group were completely engaged and enthusiastic in their approach to the challenge we set them. Engineering is a fantastic career choice and we enjoyed sharing our passion with these youngsters showing them how exciting and interesting being involved in these big schemes can be.’

One of the pupils was particularly enthusiastic about what he had learnt during the classroom design and on site sessions.

Calum, aged 12, said "It was great to have the chance to think about the design of the new station and then to see it being built. I didn't know about all the different things to think about when planning such a big project and all the different jobs that are needed. The sessions helped me to think about my future - I can see myself being a Civil Engineer as I like the idea of managing a big projects and getting stuck in! I've already looked at which GCSEs and A Levels I need to take to help get me there and I'm going to make sure I work super hard on them."

Learning about the ecology involved with the scheme, from the reusing of onsite material to being sensitive to the native animal life in the area, was a highlight for the pupils. They learned that much of the topsoil that has been removed has been stored and will be used onsite in the final landscaping, helping to reduce the carbon footprint and keeping the original, Ph balanced soil onsite.

The pupils were amazed to learn about the three different reptile sites located within the scheme that have a wide variety of healthy reptiles in each, all of which will be moved to a new permanent habitat being constructed next to the new station building.

The work the team has done, to protect the several rare species of bat that were discovered, utilising the tree lines and embankments as sonic highways to hunt, also went down really well.

The class was happy to know that this important tree line has been protected and maintained, special bat boxes have been installed around site and the final landscaping and lighting for the project has been designed to encourage increased bat activity in the area. 

They were even lucky enough to see where a blue tit has nested in an old marker post next to the railway line and were impressed to see the lengths the team has gone to not disturb the new family, which included enclosing the area with material that lessened noise, whilst continuing the works onsite. The team are happy to report that since the school visit onsite, the blue tits have successfully fledged their young and have now flown the nest.