Solihull college wins manufacturing competition

WMG Academy secures main prize at MAN Design & Make Challenge.

A Solihull-based academy has showcased its engineering excellence last week when it won one of the main prizes at the Manufacturing Assembly Network’s Design & Make Challenge.

WMG Academy beat off the challenge of eight other schools from across the UK to take the Design for Manufacture title for the way it created a hand-crafted vehicle that ran down the test track and could be easily produced in large numbers.

More than 40 Year 11 pupils and A-Level students swapped their daily lessons to take part in the competition, which is funded by nine local SMEs and designed to inspire young people to consider a career in engineering by encouraging them to work together and problem solve.

The four-strong teams were given a box of goodies they could use to build a vehicle that would be propelled by a plywood pendulum, ensuring their designs could withstand the strike whilst also avoiding the friction of the track.

In addition to the main award, there were accolades for Efficient Design and Innovative Design and these were won by John Taylor High School and Alcester Grammar respectively.

Austin Owens, Founder of Grove Design, was the inspiration behind the initiative: “As manufacturers we can’t just sit back and continually reflect on the lack of skills or the number of engineers coming through.

“There is no better way of inspiring young people to consider a career in our sector than showing them first-hand what we do and how we do it, then getting them to put their own ideas into action. The competition gets really intense and there was a massive buzz in the room when the vehicles came to perform.”

He continued: “Last year’s Challenge involved seven teams, this time eleven and we are hoping that next year’s will be even bigger. One of the major issues we face is recruitment… we need that to change with manufacturers and educators working more collaboratively to increase awareness.”

The MAN Design and Make Challenge, which was hosted by the Advanced Propulsion Centre and Warwick Manufacturing Group, featured nine schools in total, including Ashlawn, Great Wyrley Academy, Lawrence Sheriff, Nicholas Chamberlaine, Southam College and Ysgol Bro Dinefwr.

The tool kits presented to the students featured doweling, plywood, duct tape, axles and wheels. Students were given the task of sketching out concepts and turning their designs into reality by using basic hand tools to come up with a vehicle that could travel down a monorail.

A prototype testing area was also set up to encourage pupils to put their ideas through their paces before submitting their final solution.

The three winning teams each received an Ultimaker 3D Printer for their schools. These were kindly donated by the CREATE Education project, which brings together game-changing technology with inspirational content and creative minds.

Cameron Collier, one of the pupils from the award-winning WMG Academy, commented: “We had a great day, topped off by winning ‘Design for Manufacture’ prize and being able to take a 3D printer back to use in our studies.

“The Challenge gave us the opportunity to work in a team, contribute our own ideas to the design, test it and then refine it into the one of the best vehicles out of all the schools. It’s definitely given me a taste of what a career in engineering looks like and I’m keen to find out more.”

The Manufacturing Assembly Network is a collective of eight sub-contract manufacturers and an engineering design agency.

It is made up of Alucast, Barkley Plastics, Brandauer, C-MAC SMT, Grove Design, KimberMills International, Mec Com, Muller Holdings and PP Control & Automation.

Together they offer every engineering discipline imaginable, including automation and control systems, casting, design, forging, plastic injection moulding, PCB development and precision machining and precision stamped parts.

MAN is also currently working with Warwick Manufacturing Group to improve processes and commercialise new technologies.

Austin concluded: “The event is getting bigger and we really needed to tap into the expertise and resources of our member companies, with Managing Directors getting involved and, importantly, apprentices mentoring the students as they developed their designs.

“What was especially pleasing this year was the number of potential female engineers who attended – it was almost double what we saw in 2018 and that bodes well for getting more girls interested in industry.”

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