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NMiTE’s pioneering Design Cohort helps ready the institution for 2020 students

28 August 2019

Over the last 12 months NMiTE’s (New Model in Technology and Engineering) Design Cohort has been co-designing and co-creating NMiTE’s learner experience in support of its aim to become a university for and of the future.

This group of 25 school-leavers and graduates from around the world has helped to create and test-drive everything from campus layout to course design, marketing NMiTE’s engagement programme, and building partnerships with businesses.

In the last year NMiTE has run 16 separate activities with the Design Cohort, including four trial modules based on those within their Integrated Master’s Programme. Helen Rogers, MEng Programme Lead at NMiTE said of the Design Cohort’s work this year: “Working with our Design Cohort in the way we have illustrates our pioneering approach to engineering education; working with, rather than just for young people to collaboratively build the institution. The trial modules we have run with them have gone extremely well. We have all learned a lot, and these learnings will certainly benefit our first cohort of students of the future.”

Rogers continues: “We were extremely impressed with the work that the Design Cohort produced and do hope that their learnings will be beneficial for future career prospects and projects. In fact, NMiTE has now employed one of the Cohort, Ollie Parry, as a full time Junior Graphic Designer. Ollie, who has an MA in Graphic Design, will continue working on our design, branding, animation, video and photography, building on the work he did as part of the Design Cohort.”

Ollie’s fellow Design Cohort member, Megan Lane, aged 20, commented: “For the trial modules we split up into teams of five which comprised of those with engineering backgrounds and those with non-engineering backgrounds like me. Each team brainstormed, prototyped, tested and risk assessed to develop solutions for the challenges we faced. I am certain that the experience will serve me well when I go on to study education policy and politics this autumn.”

One of the Design Cohort’s trial modules was to create a musical aid for seven-year-old Francesca Hughes, to help her realise her dream of learning to play the violin at her new Primary School this September. How Francesca – who was born with Syndactyly (joined digits) on her left hand – would hold and play the bow with fine dexterity and without pain was the subject of the trial module. 

Rogers remarks about the trial module with Francesca: “At the start of the project seven-year-old Francesca came in and presented to our group of 25 18-25-year olds. She not only delivered her practical requirements for holding a bow including the need to reduce pressure on her fingers and minimise potential fatigue, but also personal details such as her favourite colour being blue and her love of glitter. Our teams each took moulds of her hand and went away to design and manufacture their solutions. Their motivation was extremely high as they wanted to deliver the best possible solution. It was a joy to see how rewarding they found giving back and removing barriers for Francesca.” 

Lane adds: “At the end of the trial module Francesca returned to try the prototypes which included a ball and socket joint, 3D printing and a hand-carved wooden finger support. She was very impressed with all the designs, and selected one, actually the simplest design, an elasticated device easily attachable to the violin bow, to practise with over the summer holidays, before potential further refinement when she starts lessons in September.”

Francesca says of her experience working with the NMiTE Design Cohort; “I feel very lucky to have had this opportunity with NMiTE. The bow the Design Cohort created for me is so much more comfortable to grip than a regular one as I can hold it more lightly, so my hand doesn’t get as tired. The Design Cohort was such a lovely and kind group and working with them gave me the confidence to stand up and talk to people I don't know. I'm really excited to start violin lessons in September and might even think about studying engineering when I’m older.”

The collaboration between NMiTE and Francesca was aided by a charity the OHMI Trust (One Handed Musical Instruments). General Manager, Rachel Wolffsohn said: “OHMI has shown that traditional instruments can be adapted for any number of specific needs, but that's only half the story. We desperately need projects like this one with NMiTE’s Design Cohort to create bespoke yet cost effective adapted instruments for children like Francesca to ensure that they embrace, rather than turn away from learning a musical instrument. We look forward to seeing other adapted equipment, like the bow holder the Design Cohort created used by others across the country and wish Francesca all the best when her lessons start in September. We also hope this is just the start of our collaboration with NMiTE.”


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