How I gained hands-on engineering experience at UWE Bristol.

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by Razaan, MEng(Hons) Civil and Environmental Engineering

When asked what I love most about my course as a Civil and Environmental Engineering student, the first word that comes to my mind is: opportunities. Everything from educational trips* to actual hands-on projects, I’ve had experiences that I don’t think I’d be able to find elsewhere. Keep reading to find out about my engineering opportunities at UWE Bristol.

My Construction Live experience

One of the latest opportunities I had on my course was Construction Live, a four-day course project sponsored by Construction Skills and Innovation Centre at Bridgewater and Taunton College. The focus of the project was to gain proper construction skills that can be applied in real job scenarios, while contributing towards SUD culvert roads and stairs.

Day one: our induction

On the first day, an induction was given to us about the different projects offered. The SUD culvert roads project focused on the different aspects of road construction. On the other hand, the stairs project covered the constructional aspects of forming stairs and pouring concrete.

Whilst the different projects were being explained, we learned that we’d gain a variety of project management skills, such as proper time management, managing health and safety and construction skills.

After the induction, we were split into two groups to cover both projects and it was time for us to get to work. I was assigned to the stairs formwork project, so along with the others in my group, I headed out to the construction field and started working on the construction of a set of stairs.

We started by looking at the necessary measurements needed for our stairs cutout using blueprints. We then took those measurements and made cutouts according to their sizes.

Day two: learning hands-on construction skills

On the second day, we were taught how to pour concrete on a pre-made set of formwork so we’d be able to do this ourselves. This method involved pouring the melted concrete from the top of the stairs to the bottom, instead of the other way round.

This was in order to make the process of levelling out the stairs and smoothing them easier by just pushing the concrete downwards instead of having to shovel it up towards the stairs.

The levelling and smoothing of the stairs was a practical and hands-on process. This contributed towards boosting my construction skills, which I believe are essential to understanding civil and environmental engineering.

Day three: constructing the mould

On the third day, we took the pre-cut pieces that were made on our first day and started constructing the mould (or formwork) for the set of stairs.

Some students held the pieces for stability, whereas others were hammering the pieces together inside the mould. It was great that we learned the basics and were able to experience the whole process.

Day four: finishing our formwork

Although we didn’t manage to complete the formwork of the stairs that we created on the third day, the team worked on completing it on the fourth day.

Unfortunately due to time constraints, we didn’t have enough time to pour concrete on our mould. However, we were able to detach the formwork from the pre-made set of stairs (the one which we poured concrete into on day two) to reveal our set of stairs.

“I really enjoyed the out-of-classroom experience and how UWE Bristol didn’t focus solely on traditional theoretical teaching.”

Overall, the Construction Live project taught me so much as a Civil and Environmental Engineering student. This project has helped me to improve my theoretical understanding of construction, as well as my practical skills.

The experience has enabled me to gain background knowledge on the history of stairs, learn the appropriate labelling in this industry and develop valuable construction skills. I also managed to connect with people from my course, due the necessary teamwork in the project, which was an added bonus.

Find out more about Engineering at UWE Bristol.

*Please note: course opportunities, such as field trips, may be subject to change due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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