Schaeffler (UK) Ltd,
West Midlands B76 1AP
Tel. +44 121 313 5870
Fax +44 121 313 0080
2012-06-28 | 000-003-546 GB-EN
SCHAEFFLER (UK) LTD, SUTTON COLDFIELD
A team of A-Level Physics students from Swansea has won Best Overall Team Performance from The Engineering Education Scheme Wales (EESW) for developing a novel solution for Schaeffler UK’s engine component manufacturing plant in South Wales.
“The attraction of participating in EESW projects,” says Derrick Lewis, Technical Manager at Schaeffler UK, “is that Year 12 A-Level students actually get an opportunity to solve a real life engineering problem. They get the chance to really make a difference, which is challenging and exciting for them.”
Established in 1955, Schaeffler’s manufacturing plant in Llanelli produces high precision engine components for the automotive market. The plant has been a key supporter of EESW since the scheme’s introduction across Wales in 2007. The plant is a ‘link’ company for EESW and so each year devotes time and resources in helping to advise and guide students on their chosen projects.
“By giving students a positive experience working with professional engineers in a real life working industrial environment, the EESW projects demonstrate to the students that science and maths subjects are diverse and stimulating and can provide intellectually challenging careers,” continues Lewis.
As a nationwide scheme in Wales, EESW is helping to enlighten young people about the challenges and opportunities presented by Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects. This is carried out each year through a project involving schools across Wales and industry. The aim is to encourage these students to study STEM courses in further or higher education and to take an interest in a career in engineering.
The scheme operates through local companies such as Schaeffler, who set R&D briefs relating to real industrial problems, for teams of first year (Year 12) A-Level students. The students then set about solving these problems over a period of around six months (October to March) by cooperating with engineers from the link companies, arranging site visits, presenting their ideas to senior managers and attending technical presentations and workshops at the ‘link’ company.
This year, from October 2011 to March 2012, Schaeffler worked with a team of eight students from Ysgol Gyfun Gwyr School in Gowerton, Swansea. This mixed team comprised six boys and two girls, studying first year A-Level Physics.
“Over the last two years, we decided to change things a little in order to maximise the buy-in from students,” explains Donna Williams-Bevan, Training Officer at Schaeffler UK. “In previous years, we chose a project for the students to complete, which meant we didn’t always get maximum buy-in from them. However, in the last two years, we’ve given students a choice of four to six projects, which could be production, design, maintenance or Health & Safety-related projects.”
“After being briefed by Schaeffler senior managers and engineers, the students are then given a guided tour of the Llanelli plant. They also get to see each of the projects in a bit more detail, including the precise nature of the challenge. The team then goes away and discusses which projects appeal to them and why. It gives them a chance to match their interests and skill sets to a suitable project. This year, the team selected a Health and Safety project related to some cooling towers at the plant,” adds Williams-Bevan.
Derrick Lewis, the key contact at Schaeffler UK for EESW projects describes the project selected by this year’s students: “We have a set of cooling towers at Llanelli whose function is to cool the quenching oil for the heat treatment furnaces here. The aim of the project was for the students to develop a method of detecting any oil present in the cooling tower water tanks, which if left undetected, could lead to contamination issues. The second stage of the project, if time allowed, was to then devise a method of extracting this oil safely from the cooling towers.”
Over the six-month project, the students developed a prototype scale model of their solution, which involved a laser-based sensor and detector system mounted to the cooling tower. A centrifuge was developed to take samples of water from the cooling tower for analysis. As any oil present in water separates and sits on top of the water’s surface, the laser-based sensor/detection system was set up to project a laser beam onto the surface of the water. This laser light deflects at different angles depending on whether oil is present. The students used their Physics knowledge of laser light diffraction techniques to devise a suitable solution. The system enabled the oil-water concentration to be accurately detected. A separate detector system was set up to receive the deflected laser light and to record the angle of deflection. This would indicate how much oil was present in the water, which could then be used to trigger an alarm.
“The solution devised by the students was elegant but also practical and well thought through. Although we haven’t implemented the solution yet, we intend to in the near future,” enthuses Lewis.
The students were rewarded for their hard work. On 26th March 2012, the students attended the EESW’s annual South Wales awards and presentation ceremony held at The Celtic Manor Resort, Newport. The team’s prototype scale model solution was on display, along with a detailed written report and presentation slides. The solution was judged by a panel of EESW assessors and was subsequently awarded the ‘Best Overall Team Performance’ prize.
“We are delighted for the students, who worked very hard on this project. These projects work so well because they give the students a taste of what it is like to work in an industrial environment. The projects provide a link between what the students are being taught on their courses and applying this knowledge to help solve real practical engineering challenges.”
According to Lewis, as well as strengths, these projects also help to uncover team weaknesses. Each year, he says, the teams he has worked with have struggled with project management and how to divide the tasks between team members, as well as to meet project milestones and deadlines. “Another area of concern is usually presentation skills, which for most students I have worked with, are lacking in October when the project starts, but by the end of the project in March have normally improved significantly. We try to help the students here by asking them to present their solution to senior managers and engineers at Schaeffler and to their own school colleagues and teachers, as well as to the EESW assessors. It’s all about teaching the students to present in a professional manner as if they were selling their solution to a customer.”
But the benefits of the EESW are not only for the students. As Lewis concludes: “For link companies involved in the scheme, the students help to solve genuine problems that add real value to that company’s business. The scheme also provides opportunities for the link companies to get to know potential recruits over an extended period of time.”
For more information, please call the Marketing Department on 0121 313 5870. Alternatively, email email@example.com.