BAE Systems Engineering Taster Week 2013

Apprentices from BAE Systems Electronic Systems operation in Rochester, Kent were involved in running an Engineering Taster Week during the first week of July. Report by technical apprentice Adam Ramsay.

The project teams This is a week-long event designed to help encourage Year 12 students into the world of engineering, and to promote the study of science, engineering, technology and maths (STEM).

The first day of the week started off with ice breakers: short activities aimed to encourage the students to talk to each other and teach them how communication is important. This involved them needing to ask certain questions to various people to try and discover new knowledge, and to help discover new people as a whole to help complete objectives.

Learning to work in teams

Later was a block of tasks known as the round robins, which are a cycle of activities which everyone does in small teams at different times, and then they all rotate. The tasks undertaken were all about working in small teams and getting the students to learn how to quickly cooperate to complete an objective.

Such tasks included having to build the tallest tower with the least amount of bricks, whilst also having to account for cost as each brick had a price. Another task required the students to try and draw the BAE Systems logo, but without being able to touch the pen or paper. Parallel to this, the students were also shown the BAE Systems flight simulators, which they were all each allowed to try and were able to put on and see through one of BAE Systems’ advanced combat helmets.

Flight simulator Project work - building fighter plane cockpits

During the course of the week, the students had to complete a project that BAE Systems had given them, which involved five teams consisting of eight members. The aim of the project was to try and construct a (hypothetical) fighter plane cockpit.

Each project team had a datasheet pack which contained various different flight components (such as: flight sticks, HUD’s, mission/flight control computers etc.) of which they had to go through to try and put together a system which best met the specifications provided, all of which was in their briefing packs.

Throughout the week, the teams would receive various emails listing specification changes, and emails stating that certain items in their datasheet packs had gone obsolete. All of this was to test the teams to see how well they could react to sudden changes in their product design, and to see if they were able to re-construct their setups to again try and meet the spec, just like a real-life scenario.

Encouraging innovation and teamwork

As the week went on, the students were pulled away from their project to perform two more tasks. One of these tasks was for the students (in teams of four) to design and build a contraption that would allow an egg to be dropped from a ledge and land without cracking.

Another task (in teams of two) required the students to construct a plane from wood and paper that would be powered by a propeller connected to a wound up rubber band. These were tasks that tried to encourage innovation as well as improving key team-working skills within a tight deadline.

There was one more major task performed, which focused heavily on communication. This activity required half the students to play the role of headquarters, whilst the other was required to play the role of servicemen surrounded in a civilian stronghold. 

With each team placed in separate rooms, they both needed to digest the specific information given to them and then build a vehicle that would be capable of completing the objective. From time to time during the task, the ‘servicemen’ would be able to make a phone call to HQ to attempt to share the information they held, whilst also attempting to interpret and share the information given to them. The calls would cut off after thirty to forty seconds, and only three phone calls were allowed.

This was very important for both teams, as both would only be able to design and build the correct vehicle by knowing the correct information about the situation at hand, so not only did the teams need to be able to communicate well with each other, but both teams also needed to be able to listen and give the correct information and share that well with their teams.

Finding out about career options at BAE Systems

It may surprise you to hear, but the Engineering Taster Week was not completely activity-based. Throughout the week, the students were given various presentations.

These included presentations from senior staff talking about BAE Systems and what the various business units are. Others were aimed at informing the students about the work BAE Systems UK Electronic Systems division in Rochester does specifically, and how these products and technologies are designed and function.

From this, other presentations included talks about the various routes into BAE Systems, whether through the apprenticeship scheme, the graduate development framework, industrial placements, or simply through direct entry.

On the final day of the week, all the students were given certificates for their attendance, followed by a speech from the apprentices’ co-ordinator who wanted to thank all of the apprentices for their devoted hard work to making the week a success.

All in all the week was an educational experience, not just for the students, but also for the facilitators as this was something outside of their normal roles. With only positive feedback received from the students, the week was deemed a resounding success; a testament to the dedication from the apprentices.