A light-bulb moment for engineers and artists

10th December 2010 at 00:00

Build a trailerboard complete with working indicators, brake lights and fog lights: that was the final task set for engineering students on last year's SQA Skills for Work course. It would have tested their electronic skills, but at Telford College in Edinburgh, the lecturer wanted to "up the ante".

"I felt it was a bit restrictive for them and they were capable of more," says John Murray, curriculum leader for engineering and the built environment. So, instead, Mr Murray got permission from the Scottish Qualifications Authority to set his own task - to design table lamps based on concepts dreamt up by the college's contemporary art students.

Last month, the lecturer's creativity was rewarded when the college scooped Scotland's Colleges' "learner engagement" award for Lighting up Learning.

The engineering students study four units - mechanical, fabrication, electricalelectronic, and manufacture and assembly. The final unit is designed to give them the opportunity to apply all they have learnt by producing an artefact.

At Telford, the nine students - pupils from the Royal High and Broughton High in Edinburgh - were put into groups of three, each with an art student acting as their client. The artists issued their respective groups with a design brief and agreed a concept. The engineering students then developed working drawings and manufactured the product.

"This is exactly the kind of situation pupils would face in the workplace," explains Mr Murray.

The award is not the only thing Mr Murray can be proud of. Retention of students on Skills for Work courses is highly variable, but last year he started with nine students and ended with nine - eight of whom achieved their Intermediate 1 qualification.

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