Barcelona Tower rebuilt by Abertay students21 October 2013
The entire cohort of second year BSc Civil Engineering students at Abertay University went to Scotland’s Constructionarium last week, to gain hands-on engineering experience.
The Constructionarium is located on the site of Sibbald Ltd in West Lothian and runs week-long residential courses, where students are faced with the challenge of building scaled-down versions of world-famous engineering projects.
Split into three teams, the Abertay students were presented with drawings of the Barcelona Tower, the Kingsgate Footbridge in Durham, and the Millennium Galleries in Sheffield.
Their task was to work out how to turn the drawings from 2D pictures on pieces of paper into 3D versions of the real thing.
However, far from being left to their own devices, the Constructionarium is run so that the students get to work alongside industry professionals.
The students work as the 'contractor' on the building site of their designated project, while people from industry take on the role of the 'client' and the 'consulting engineer'.
In the scenario put together for Abertay, the 'consulting engineer' was The Waterman Group – an internationally renowned engineering consultancy.
Their role on site was to help the students interpret the design of the drawings – should they need any assistance.
The 'client' was Dunne Building & Civil Engineering Ltd who are, in reality, a leading contractor, specialising in groundworks, reinforced concrete frame construction, the design and building of car parks and commercial industrial units.
Acting as the 'client' at the Constructionarium meant that they were able to take on more of an advisory role so that the students got to do the building work themselves, only seeking practical help from the experienced engineers if they got into difficulties.
In addition, Leica Geosystems kindly provided land surveying equipment and their expertise.
Dr David Blackwood, Leader of the Division of Environmental Engineering and Systems Visualisation at Abertay University, said:
“Gaining practical skills is an essential part of our engineering course here at Abertay, and it gives students the experience engineering companies look for in graduates when they are recruiting.
“We are the first university in Scotland to have a practical element at the Constructionarium built into our curriculum, and it’s great because it gives students the chance to experience the real-life ups and downs of working on a construction site.
“Within each team, each student has a specific role, with someone being project manager and someone being site foreman etc., so as well as finding out what it’s like working in a team, they all get a real feel for what working as a contractor on a building site is actually like.
“They have to do everything a real contractor would do – in the run-up to the week away they had to do things like work out what building materials they would need and in what quantities, arrange for these materials to be delivered at the appropriate time, and work out how much the whole project would cost.
“Then, during the residential week, they got their hands dirty as they brought their projects to life and the structures started to go up – but they also learnt that things don’t always go to plan and that you need to be able to adapt to different situations, with orders not turning up on time, for example, which can hold things up, but is the sort of thing that an engineer working on a real construction sites will have to deal with.”
Brian Keenan, Director at Constructionarium (Scotland) Ltd said:
"Participation in Constructionarium provides students with a unique opportunity to put theory into practice and gives them the platform from which to establish their future careers in the construction and related industries.
“By including Constructionarium within its degree programme, Abertay has taken a very positive lead in recognising the benefits to its students.
“We must also recognise the immense contribution from industry in its support of the students, in this case, the Dunne Group, the Waterman Group, Leica Geosystems and CITB Construction Skills (Scotland), without whom participation in Constructionarium would not be possible."
Craig Lindsay, Project Manager of Dunne Building & Civil Engineering Ltd, said:
"Dunne Building & Civil Engineering Ltd are pleased to support the development of tomorrow's civil engineers through our contribution to Constructionarium. We were impressed by the students' enthusiasm and commitment, and we are very supportive of Abertay University's focus on enhancing employability within their Civil Engineering programme which has led to the integration of the Constructionarium within the programme modules. I am looking forward to helping in the assessment of the students' posters.”
Speaking about her experience at the Constructionarium, second year student Helen Martin said:
"It was an excellent opportunity for us to apply the theory we have learned in University to a real-life build, as it’s given us a deeper understanding of the subjects we’ve been studying on the Civil Engineering Honours degree programme.”
Sarah McDonald, also in second year, added:
“Working in teams alongside experienced construction professionals has allowed them to pass their knowledge onto the next generation of engineers and this will definitely have increased our future employment prospects."
The students will be assessed on the work they carried out at the Constructionarium and will give poster presentations on their projects.
These will be assessed by academic staff at Abertay, as well as by staff from Dunnes, Watermans, the Constructionarium and Leica Geo Systems.
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