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Fancy building your own desert island retreat?

last modified Aug 15, 2017 04:14 PM
For thirty young “castaways” from the Sutton Trust Summer School it’s a practice in Engineering for Self Sufficiency.

Under the tutelage of 3 resident Robinson Crusoes: FIBE students Bryn Pickering, Mark Allen and André Neto-Bradley, the Sutton Trust students were given a project to design a home for their family on one of 4 desert islands. The remote islands each had particular climate conditions which make it important to consider different structural, energy, and water infrastructure designs.

On the first day, the students were showed the ropes through a series of engineering talks. Prof Peter Guthrie took them through the overarching design principles for designing buildings so they would understand the most important aspects of their structure to concentrate on in their 3D Trimble Sketchup models. Next Bryn gave a talk on how they can calculate their energy needs and possible ways to meet these needs while looking at how difficult it is to be self-sufficient from the national infrastructure. André then spoke about ways in which a single building might meet its water and waste disposal requirements.

When they came back a month later the young engineers were asked to present their ideas with a 3 minute presentation on one PowerPoint slide in front of a panel of judges. “It was a lot of fun and and we awarded the top 6 presentations with a Raspberry PI as a present!” – Mark Allen, 1st year PhD student.

For Bryn, this is the second Experience Cambridge Outreach he spearheaded. Last year he led a project for young engineering hopefuls to look at parts of the design of the Rio Olympics velodrome, including the structure, energy needs, environmental sustainability and the mechanical engineering that describes how the bicycles actually travel around the track. 


Both have been successful ways of communicating the highly varied nature of engineering to a group of bright 16-17 year olds. These school students are generally from backgrounds that wouldn't normally consider applying to Cambridge University. Their work showed that many have the talent that would be required of them to be remarkable engineers!

                                                        - Bryn Pickering, 2nd year PhD student.