Principal’s Blog: March 2017

Engineering ‘Making things that work and making things work better’

I am an avid viewer of the news- especially Channel 4 news every day at 7pm. It is a great programme as the news stories are often detailed,  interesting and debated. There is often news relating to science and engineering too. Earlier this month, a particular story really caught my attention. It was about  a father from Wales who designed a ‘bionic’ (or prosthetic) arm for his son using an Xbox scanner and a 3D printer. Ben Ryan got the inspiration for the arm by studying the way spiders make their webs, and was prompted to develop it after being told there was nothing the NHS could do for baby Sol until he was at least a year old. Sol, now two, can use his arm to grip and power the hydraulic arm.

This story reminded me about the simplicity of one definition for engineering which is ‘Making things that work and making things work better’. UTC Portsmouth is all about inspiring students to behave like Ben Ryan; to identify problems and solve them using that essential combination of creativity and practical application. It is our intention that UTC Portsmouth college leavers will go on to fulfil rewarding STEM-related careers in which the type of innovation of Ben Ryan can be emulated

I spent much of the beginning of March seeing as many students planning to join Year 10 in September at their current schools. Overall, this was a very interesting and helpful process. I was struck by a number of shared characteristics so many of our new students have. As well a very real passion and appetite for being in a college specialising in STEM education, many of our future students are already deeply engaged in independent ‘engineering’ projects in their own time. These range from building a drone from scratch in the garden shed to writing complicated robotics-related programmes. This is a wonderful indication of the sort of fun we are going to have from learning at our college.

I learned a little more about the ‘Formula One in Schools’ technology challenge  recently and I am very keen for us to enter a team in the future. In a similar vein, it was exciting to hear from our new Head of Engineering (Wendy McCormick) about all the student teams competing in this year's Royal Navy UTC amphibious vehicle challenge at HMS Sultan. We are looking forward to our own Year 10 and 12 teams entering (and winning!) in 2018.

I am really  looking forward to seeing our sixth form students in due course. Please remember to respond to your offer of a place promptly and complete the accompanying survey by 24th March at the latest. As I mentioned in my last blog, when we receive this information from you we can set about arranging an information event about the sixth form to let you know how our preparations are progressing and to give you an opportunity to ask more questions.

Several of my  teaching staff have now been appointed and I will be recruiting the rest in the next few weeks. You will be able to read their profiles on our website in due course. I am committed to only appointing the very best teachers and  I am so proud to announce that this what we have achieved in the appointments made to date. Whether you join UTC Portsmouth as a sixth former or in Year 10, you can rest assured you will experience the very best teaching and learning delivered by experts.

Lastly, the college is starting to look brilliant both inside and out. Now that the building is weather-manageable and nearly weatherproof, it is starting to look more like a college and less like a building site. I have been involved in many meetings to make decisions about all manner of things- from hand driers for student toilets to table top colours to computer models. All of these details we are now deciding on help to make UTC Portsmouth less like an idea and more like an exciting reality every single day.

Ciaran O’Dowda

UTC Portsmouth Principal