Alongside classroom based qualifications, students at The Studio also have the opportunity to take Project-Based Learning (PBL). PBL is a different way of learning – students get experience in solving real-world problems through partnerships with industry, gaining unique skills that not only help them in their academic subjects, but also give greater access to employment.
Imogen, a year 12 student at The Studio, did her PBL at Omori Ltd., which specialises in innovative packaging solutions. The team there uses its technical expertise to design and develop machines and production lines to create and adapt packaging.
“I chose to do this project-based learning because I knew it would enrich my education and give me an invaluable experience that I wouldn’t be able to get elsewhere,” says Imogen. “I wanted to see what a real industry environment consisted of, and how engineers worked on projects for customers. I know that a professional environment is a big change from an educational one, so I wanted to make sure that I had the experience in that setting, before entering the working world.”
Imogen helped to build a machine for a pet food line, measuring, filling, and sealing the bags. This meant Imogen needed to get involved in installations and help to build the solutions when problems arose.
“This machine has a circular system, with different stations, performing different functions to prepare and pack the bags. When installing the chain and buckets into the conveyor system, we had to overcome some obstacles,” says Imogen.
From cutting chains, correcting the tension, and making extra links from scratch, Imogen got stuck in with the engineers to solve problems and get the machine built.
“It was a great example of how obstacles are overcome in an engineering workplace, and how lots of different skills could need to be applied at any minute,” she says.
As well as helping to solve problems and build the machine, Imogen was able to gain practical engineering experience, building practical skills that she’d be able to apply in future employment and later life.
“On my first week here, I was able to have a go at TIG welding. It was such an interesting experience. I learned how to use a tungsten to tack the metal and create a weld, and how to use a welding rod to add extra metal for strength. It required very high concentration and steady hands,” says Imogen. “I learned how to do soldering, where you use a soldering iron to melt ‘soft solder’, to connect wires into circuit boards or connect them together. I was shown how to use a wiring diagram to connect the right wires into the right places, and one of the engineers took me around the workshop so I could have a go at some of the machinery.
“The thing that I enjoyed most was having to learn and apply a wide skill set to create an outcome. Given that the project was taking place in an engineering workshop I was able to learn skills like welding, milling and soldering. These are things that are very rarely available for people my age, so it was a privilege to have such access. I enjoyed being able to try new things and contribute to a real engineering project.
“Doing this project based learning has definitely helped me to prepare for my further education and work. I saw the skills that we learn in school applied into a professional engineering project, which has allowed me to be able to visualise my coursework, giving me a greater understanding of the content. It has also revealed to me how to work and behave under pressure and in working conditions. As well as this, I now have a very impressive item to add to my CV, which opens up many doorways for me, making me employable and enriching my future.
But it doesn’t stop at practical experience. Imogen’s also been able to develop her skills that help her in other subjects through her project based learning.
“Skills such as problem solving, following detailed instructions, perseverance, and clear communication, all of which I have gained from this experience, will be transferable in all my other subjects.” So, would Imogen recommend project-based learning?
“I would 100% recommend it to other students! When thinking about the jump from school to work, you can feel a bit overwhelmed and anxious, says Imogen. “Having a short experience in the working world prior to this jump can ease these worries, as you can see it first hand and get a grasp of it before actually committing. It has definitely made me feel more comfortable having this experience under my belt.”