The host of engineering past, present and yet-to-come

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Old photograph of Bristol Technical College engineering workshop circa 1950

Our landmark building marks a new era for engineering at UWE Bristol. Designed to revolutionise the way engineering is taught, it’s equipped with the latest digital technology.

So what are the roots of engineering at UWE Bristol and how has the way we teach engineering changed over the years?

Where we started

Although UWE Bristol is a modern university we can trace our educational roots back a long way.

In 1894 the Merchant Venturers’ Technical College occupied a premises in Unity Street, Bristol city centre. By 1909 the basement was a motor car engineering workshop run by England’s first professor of motor engineering and housed a collection of equipment including a 12-14 horsepower Talbot car*.

 This college divided and in 1949 the Bristol College of Technology in Ashley Down was born, later becoming Bristol Technical College (college engineering workshop pictured above, from an early prospectus circa 1950 – 60).

By 1974 construction was underway to build Bristol Polytechnic at Frenchay, housing the new Engineering department. N block was the home of engineering up until last year.

Photo of machining workshop, N block Frenchay campus
N block machining workshop

Photo of the exterior of N block, Frenchay campus
N block exterior

Our new building

Officially opened on 19 November 2021, our School of Engineering sets new standards for the industry. It won Project of the Year at the British Construction Industry Awards where judges praised its intelligent and sustainable design.

The new School of Engineering

It also achieved an “excellent” rating for its sustainability credentials from the international scheme BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method).

The building is home to specialist laboratories equipped with the latest digital technology, including engine test cells, driving and flight simulators, a virtual and augmented reality cave, and ‘smart factory’ testing facilities. Watch a short video tour on twitter of the new facilities by MSc Mechanical Engineering student Emaan.

New light-filled workshop

Tod Burton, Executive Dean for the Faculty of Environment and Technology at UWE Bristol, said:

“With our fantastic new contemporary building, fit for the 21st century and the digital era, we now have one of the top engineering facilities in the South West that will inspire the engineers of the future.”

Engineering the future

The new building has been designed to attract a new more diverse engineer. The department actively seeks to enrol more students with neurodiversity and double the numbers of female engineering students.

Lisa Brodie Head of the Department of Engineering Design and Mathematics at UWE Bristol explains why we’re aiming to produce more ‘non-standard’ engineers in the coming years, and attract different types of people into the profession. She says,

“If we keep having the same type of people, we’ll keep having the same types of solutions.”

Brodie is clear that to solve tomorrow’s problems, we need to embrace different ways of thinking and doing, and celebrate differences.

“Engineers will need to be far more creative and innovative over the next decade, particularly with some of the challenges we face in areas such as the climate crisis. We aim to be the difference,”

she explains.

Your memories

Did you study engineering at UWE Bristol? We’d love to hear about your memories. Share your stories and photos with us.

*taken from ‘University of the West of England, A Family History’ by William Evans.

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