Official opening for School of Engineering building

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UWE Bristol’s state-of-the-art School of Engineering building was officially opened at an event on Thursday 18 November.

Completed in 2020, the striking multi-million pound facility on Frenchay campus has transformed engineering teaching and learning at UWE Bristol and has already been named Project of the Year at the British Construction Industry Awards where judges praised its intelligent and sustainable design.

To formally declare the landmark building open, a special event was attended by students, staff, alumni and industry partners, along with guest speaker Dawn Bonfield MBE, former president of the Women’s Engineering Society, and celebrated sculptor Alice Channer who was commissioned to create an engineering-inspired public artwork in the atrium.

Staff, students and guests at the opening event

Designed with diverse student engineers in mind

Planning and design work on the new building was carried out in tandem with a renewal of the university’s engineering curriculum, drawn up in collaboration with industry to ensure engineering graduates are equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed.

Moving to our wonderful new building with its complementary practise-based curriculum has signalled a real cultural shift. Our students are now known as professional student engineers, rather than engineering students. They are studying during traditional working hours, learning in spaces that closely resemble actual engineering workplaces, and use the same specialist equipment as professional engineers. We are placing an enhanced focus on problem solving, trialling and testing, because it is beneficial for students to try and fail as it builds resilience, creativity and innovation.

Professor Lisa Brodie, Head of the Department of Engineering Design and Mathematics at UWE Bristol

In addition to a new building and curriculum, UWE Bristol is redoubling efforts to increase diversity within its engineering intake. This includes enrolling more students with neurodiversity, and providing them with enhanced levels of personal mentoring and support from enrolment to employment, and doubling the number of female engineering students.

If we want to solve the challenges we face as a society, we need to attract different types of people into the engineering discipline. We need to embrace different ways of thinking and doing, and celebrate differences. Our mission is to change the perception of the roles that engineers fulfil and raise aspirations in underrepresented groups. 

If we carry on seeing the same intake entering the profession, we will continue to come up with the same old solutions. Engineers will need to think differently and 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.

Professor Lisa Brodie, Head of the Department of Engineering Design and Mathematics at UWE Bristol

Professor Lisa Brodie was recently interviewed by BBC Points West and ITV West Country News, sharing her thoughts about the need for a more inclusive and diverse engineering workforce. You can read more in this BBC article or catch up with these short clips:

BBC Points West: https://youtu.be/pZNAwXSveIE

ITV West Country News: https://youtu.be/IF3gQ_LnKYQ

Graduate Laura Dixon, Professor Lisa Brodie and Student Engineer Thomas Dixon with BBC film crew

Inspiring the next generation

The university also aims to help attract a broader range of engineers by sparking interest among younger age groups, with school children as young as five invited to visit the building’s Prototype and Play Lab to participate in inspiring engineering outreach activities.

The school of engineering outreach team have developed a series of free engineering workshops for West of England schools and community groups, all designed to engage young people with engineering careers and solutions for sustainability.

Workshops are available to book now, details can be found in the brochure available for download below.

Local primary school students exploring engineering marvel SS Great Britain during The West in Minecraft engineering workshop

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