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The University of Southampton

Southampton wins Royal Academy of Engineering's first-ever prize for Innovation in Education

Published: 4 April 2006

The University of Southampton's School of Engineering Sciences has become the first-ever recipient of the Royal Academy of Engineering's Education Innovation Prize sponsored by BNFL plc.

The award is in recognition of the University's unique education initiative 'Design, Build, Test, Float, Fly and Race - Inspiring Tomorrow's Engineers', the inspiration of Southampton lecturer Dr Kenji Takeda.

Over three days, teams of sixth-form students take part in a design, build, test, float, fly and race activity (DBTFFR) during which they build a balsa wood glider, a radio-controlled race car or an electric speed boat. This 'Design Triathlon' gives them a flavour of the three engineering courses offered by Southampton: Aeronautics and Astronautics, Mechanical Engineering, and Ship Science.

Kenji and his team at Southampton first came up with the idea as a way of introducing sixth-form school students to the world of engineering. They teamed up with Headstart, which runs residential courses nationwide giving school students interested in technology a taster of engineering at university and as a career.

Design, Build, Test, Float, Fly and Race has now been running at the University for two years with more than 80 students taking part, and more than 20 per cent of the Headstart participants subsequently enrolling in the University of Southampton's engineering courses.

It has been so successful that the School of Engineering Sciences has replaced its traditional first week programme of lectures with an Induction Week designed by Kenji and his team and incorporating the same kind of DBTFFR activity.

Induction Week enables first-year undergraduates to get to know their peers and academic staff in a relaxed, friendly environment and also develop the different styles of thinking crucial to success at university and beyond. It even incorporates a 'parenting' scheme to foster communication between first-year undergraduates and students in the years above and facilitate peer-guidance schemes.

Kenji's imagination, innovation and determination have been the driving force behind both these projects at Southampton, and the University awarded him a Vice-Chancellor's Teaching Award last year. This latest prize from the Royal Academy of Engineering, worth £10,000, reinforces his much-deserved recognition. Kenji picked up the award on behalf of the University of Southampton at the Academy's symposium, Innovation in Engineering Education, at the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce in London.

He says: "Everyone in the University of Southampton's School of Engineering Sciences is proud to receive this prestigious award. We set out to offer a new and exciting introduction to university life and engineering study. The overwhelmingly positive response from participants has been extremely rewarding. This acknowledgement from the Royal Academy of Engineering is especially gratifying for the team, and is a credit to the students who threw themselves into the activities wholeheartedly."

Ian Bowbrick, Director of Postgraduate Programmes for the Royal Academy of Engineers says:  "Congratulations to Dr Takeda and everyone involved with the winning project. The standard of entries was especially high and everyone at the Royal Academy of Engineering was delighted to see such a wide cross section of innovative approaches to engineering education.

"The finalists represented a showcase of best practice and all the finalists are shining examples of how creativity can engage students and prove a powerful source of inspiration - exciting the next generation of and many more to come."

Notes for editors

  1. Digital images are available from Media Relations on request
  2. Royal Academy of Engineering/BNFL Education Innovation Prize is a new, single, annual award from the Royal Academy of Engineering with a prize of £10,000 and a trophy. It has been instituted to recognize both organizations and individuals who have made significant contributions in the whole field of Engineering Education. The award is focused on innovation in the approach taken to teaching the subject.
    For more information, visit:
  3. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Its fellowship - comprising the UK's most eminent engineers - provides the leadership and expertise for its activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, it provides independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain's engineering community.
  4. The University of Southampton is one of the UK's top 10 research universities, with a global reputation for excellence in both teaching and research. With first-rate opportunities and facilities across a wide range of subjects in science and engineering, health, arts and humanities, the University has around 20,000 students and 5000 staff at its campuses in Southampton and Winchester. Its annual turnover is in the region of £274 million.
    Southampton is recognised internationally for its leading-edge research in engineering, science, computer science and medicine, and for its strong enterprise agenda. It is home to world-leading research centres, including the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton; the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research; the Optoelectronics Research Centre; the Textile Conservation Centre; the Centre for the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease; and the Mountbatten Centre for International Studies.
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