Principal's Blog- April 2017

I hope you all have been enjoying at least a few days off during the spring break. April has been a hugely exciting month for the world of engineering. It seems like every newspaper, magazine or news programme is invariably informing us of the next life-changing or life-improving innovation. Two stories that have caught my imagination are so different yet similar in terms of their magnitude.

Firstly, you may have heard about an amazing material called graphene that was first produced in 2004. Here are a few facts about it:

  • It is a superb conductor and can act as a perfect barrier - not even helium can pass through it.

In addition to this impressive list of properties, the University of Manchester have just announced that they have found an application for graphene that could change the world. In short, their new research shows graphene can filter common salts from water to make it safe to drink. This has real-world potential of providing much cheaper clean drinking water for millions of people who struggle to access adequate clean water sources.

Secondly, and after two decades of development and heartbreak, scientists and engineers are on the verge of sending missions to explore the ocean world of Europa. Orbiting the giant planet Jupiter, Europa is an icy world, just a little smaller than Earth's moon. Scientists are asking ‘could this be our best shot at finding life elsewhere in the Solar System?’ This is because Europa’s ice shelf, floating on a sea of water, could contain the right conditions to support microbial life. The engineering feat will firstly be a flyby mission called Europa Clipper that would likely launch in 2022. The second is a lander mission that would follow a few years later.

Both these stories are special to me because they superbly bring together Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) to either solve a problem (in the case of graphene) or push the realms of what is possible (in the case of the mission to Europa)

April is also to end on a high note as I will have three key staff starting their roles well before the college opens: James Doherty (Assistant Principal), Lee Purslow (Assistant Principal) and Wendy McCormick (Head of Engineering). This means that all our plans will be firmly in place by September. I am also pleased to announce that I have appointed nearly all of my teaching staff (there is only one vacancy to fill). You can read the profiles of each new teacher appointed on the UTC website. I hope you will agree that it is a privilege to have attracted so many highly qualified, dedicated and experienced teaching staff. I am certain that all students will be able to experience a first class education at UTC Portsmouth with the added value that all my teachers are able to offer them.

I cannot write a blog with at least mentioning the college building. To those of you who pass the site, and maybe glance out of a car window, it could look like there is not much happening. Well, there really is a great deal happening. But, as you might expect, most of the attention is on the inside of the building from now on. Here, progress is impressive and some rooms have already got a coat of colour on the walls! On the outside, you will see the grounds works being transformed in the coming weeks.

Lastly, a few students and parents have been making some enquiries about what the college ‘uniform’ will be like. Rest assured, and as we are primarily a college for STEM, attire will be entirely comfortable and appropriate.  We will be letting you know the details of the dress code very soon once I have consulted some more with staff, our employer partners and potential suppliers.

Ciaran O’Dowda