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The Hands On Technology Centre

School: The Hands On Technology Centre

The Partnership Centre
Swindon Pressings
BridgeEnd Road,

Tel: 01793 551276
Fax: 01793 551719

Snapshot of the Project: The Hands on Technology Centre is a new facility developed on the BMW pressings site in Swindon, set up jointly with Dorcan Technology College.

The aim of the centre is to provide school students with a practical hands-on experience of manufacturing processes such as CAD/CAM, Robotics, Pneumatics, PLCs, Material testing and Hydraulics.

School students are able to gain greater understanding of a large manufacturing plant not only by visiting different areas of the BMW plant, but while on the site being able to understand how these processes work using up-to-date simulations and state-of-the-art equipment. As well as the large investment by Dorcan Technology College and BMW, Boxford have contributed to the CAD/CAM equipment.

The core schools currently using the centre are Dorcan, Greendown, Kingsdown, Churchfield and Highworth-Warnefield, with other Swindon consortium schools using The Centre a less frequent intervals to enhance their Technology Curriculum.

Dorcan opened in 1970 and was designed as a purpose-built community comprehensive school for the urban villages of Swindon. Separate buildings provide specialist accommodation for Science, Design and Technology, Mathematics, Music, The Arts, Languages and The Humanities. ICT is taught cross-curricularly and there are four fully equipped computer suites. Community use of the school is high and a joint provision with Swindon Council provides a swimming pool, squash courts, floodlit artifical pitches, sports hall, gymnasium and a redgra athletics track.

Dorcan Technology College’s Community Education links were recognised in the school curriculum award of 1997 and it was designated Specialist School Status for Technology in 1999. Examination results at Dorcan Technology College are good. From the cohort examined for GCSE in 2001 71% gained passes in 9 or more subjects which included 44.9% obtaining 5 or more passes graded at A* to C. The Head of the Hands-on Centre is a teacher seconded full-time from Dorcan Technology College.

Range of D&T GCSE’s offered: Vocational GCSE’s.

Number of teachers teaching D&T: Teachers come to the centre with students from their own school. Sometimes they help with the teaching.

How is ICT for D&T Resourced? Money for ICT comes from a trust fund.

How much ICT training have members of the D&T dept had? The centre leader’s training was resources by Boxford.

Date of Case Study: July 2001

The Case Study: As mentioned in the opening comments, Dorcan Technology College has a well established partnership with the BMW Group and is now focussing on the development of a technology centre specialising in vocational and engineering courses located at The Swindon Pressings Plant. Students from Dorcan, along with other local schools, access the centre and pursue courses for GNVQ accreditation.

The atmosphere at The Hands-on Centre is relaxed and informal. Chris Gill (seconded teacher from Dorcan seen here on the left) is very welcoming and here he is seen receiving a group of students from one of the other consortium schools.

A facilitator from the graduate apprenticeship scheme of Swindon Pressings is provided to enhance the learning experience of each of the visiting groups. Both students and facilitator find this quite a daunting experience, but as time goes by each feel more comfortable with each other. Facilities at the centre are first class and provide students with experiences that would be difficult to replicate in a school situation. The following set of thumbnails are provided to give an overview of the experience and a feel of the quality of provision at the centre.

The CAD/CAM and robotic production experiences are very important parts of the GNVQ Engineering part 1 syllabus. Staff at the centre see the industrial context of their work as a very important factor. During their time at the centre the students undertake a factory tour and undertake worksheet activity during the tour.

Typical of the processes that the students participate in is watching the automatic assembly of a Freelander tailgate. During this visit, the machine broke down and production had to be halted. Students were lucky to have the experience of being able to get inside the protective shielding and examine the robot at close quarter.

Upon returning to the centre students are able to undertake exercises that put their shop floor visit into context. Using ProDesktop students then design an artefact which they then produce on the CNC lathe. The Boxford company is a major sponsor for this GNVQ course and by using this equipment the staff are confident that they are able to supply prospective employers with students that have the necessary skill base to work in the manufacturing industry.

As well as the CAD/CAM experience the students are provided with a series of set exercises. One of the focus areas chosen for them to work in is that of Robotics, here the students simulate what they have already seen on the shop floor and write a computer program so that the robot arm can undertake that process.

Where possible students are given the opportunity to work with real industrial components. In the next photograph we see two students fault finding on a hydraulic rig for the brake and suspension system for the “new mini”.

ICT Policy and Planning for the future: Policy planning is undertaken in conjunction with the partner schools.

Teacher observed during the case study: Mr. Chris Gill

GCSE focus area for this study: GCSE Voc courses

Number of D&T rooms: 4 rooms in the centre and access to the industrial plant is encouraged.

No of students in group & boy/girl split: 5 Boys and 6 girls.

Band/stream/mixed ability: Mixed ability

ICT resources: Lucent Technologies is another local (Swindon) company that sponsor Dorcan Technology College. The partnership targets developments in ICT, giving, mathematics, technology and science support, by providing practical links to support the feeder junior schools. The aim of the scheme is to raise the capabilities of primary aged children before entering Dorcan College. A link with INTEL has resulted in the development of a third computer suite of PCs.

Classroom/workshop layout and management: There are four specialist rooms with one central lecture/teaching area with Interactive whiteboard and projection equipment.

Teacher support: Support is provided by a full time technician and apprentices from the company are seconded to the centre for one month block placements.

Differentiation – learning support and EFL support: All the teaching material is very interactive and student focussed. Differentiation is built into the tasks.

Other things happening in the department: Other links with industry ensure that the curriculum provided at Dorcan Technology College is relevant to pupils and provides them with the capabilities and experiences required of a modern technological work-force. Companies currently involved in the partnership scheme are, Southern Electricity, Allied Dunbar, Marks and Spencer, Burmah Castrol, Lloyds Bank, W.H. Smith, Raychem, Woolworths, British Telecom, Texaco and Railtrack.

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