A team of students from Ysgol Gyfun Gwyr School in Swansea has won the ‘Project with the Most Commercial Potential’ from The Engineering Education Scheme Wales (EESW) for developing a mechanism that automatically checks the weight of parts-handling containers before they are lifted by production staff at the Schaeffler UK plant in Llanelli, South Wales.
Ysgol Gyfun Gwyr secondary school in Gowerton, Swansea, has continued its successful partnership with Schaeffler UK’s Llanelli plant by winning the ‘Project with the Most Commercial Potential’ award, sponsored by Tata Steel. This is the ninth year that Gwyr has won an EESW award working with Schaeffler UK.
Schaeffler’s manufacturing plant in Llanelli produces high-precision engine components for the automotive market. The plant acts as an EESW ‘link’ company and so each year devotes time and resources in advising students on their selected projects.
The EESW scheme operates through local companies such as Schaeffler, who set teams of Year 12 A-Level students project briefs relating to actual industrial problems. For 6 months of the year, between October and March, the students work together to solve these challenges by cooperating with engineers from the link company.
Derrick Lewis, Industrial Engineering Manager at Schaeffler UK and contact for EESW projects comments: “In September , rather than working with one team of between five and seven students, we started the process with 10 students, who we split up into five groups. In a three-hour morning session at Gwyr School, these teams took part in an Egg Challenge, while we observed. The idea was that we would then select the five best-performing students, who would then make up a single team that would work on the EESW project.”
In the Egg Challenge, the teams were provided with basic office stationery items such as paper, elastic bands, pencils, sticky tape and balloons. Each team had to design a mechanism that would allow them to drop an egg from shoulder height when standing on a desk, to the floor without the egg breaking.
Derrick Lewis states: “In the end, it was impossible to separate the students, as they all performed extremely well. So we decided, in the initial stages at least, to work with all 10 students in two teams of five.”
After completing a training day at the Schaeffler plant in September 2014, the 10 students were invited back the following week, when they were presented with a selection of possible projects to choose from. Derrick Lewis adds: “Allowing students to choose the problem they wanted to solve gave them ownership of the project. This has worked very well with previous teams.”
Health and safety projects
Both teams chose projects related to health and safety. One team worked on developing an automatic detection and warning system for forklifts. The system would detect if a person approached to within 1m of an operating forklift and would activate an alarm if this personnel were detected within the 1m area.
The other team chose a project to develop a mechanism that automatically checks if the weight of a parts-handling container exceeds the safe limit of 25kg, before the container is manually lifted by personnel at the Llanelli plant.
Derrick Lewis explains: “After a couple of weeks working on their projects, both teams were asked to present their design concepts to us at the local college [Coleg Sir Gar]. Both teams performed well but we selected the container lifting team as the winner, primarily because their presentation included detailed plans and drawings of their novel prototype mechanism. We also had EESW deadlines to meet and reports to submit and so we felt that this team had a better chance of meeting these strict project milestones.”
The winning team of five students comprised Rhys Griffiths, Daniel Jones, Dewi Kalsi, Dafydd Lloyd and Tomos Sleep. The team’s solution was based on a medical crutch-type device with a locating clamp on each end to enable the device to be fixed to the handles located on the sides of the parts container. Strain gauges are used to detect whether the weight of the container is above or below 25kg. In addition, an amber warning signal is activated if the weight approaches close to 25kg.
Over the next 6 months, the students continuously developed their prototype with support from Schaeffler UK, and carried out extensive tests on the mechanism at Coleg Sir Gar. Towards the end of the project, a working model was demonstrated firstly to a selection of past students, teachers and the project co-ordinators from Schaeffler at Gwyr School before visiting Schaeffler Llanelli to also present to a selection of senior Schaeffler UK staff.
As Derrick Lewis states: “The students thoroughly deserve their EESW award. We pushed them really hard throughout the project, challenging them on every technical aspect of their solution. This year, we focused on team building and trying to make the students think for themselves a bit more. Project management was also important and so we taught the team how to use SMART [Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely] objectives to manage the project. At the time, thinking back, it was a painful process for the students to go through, but the rewards of their effort has made up for this hard work.”
Team captain Daniel Jones comments: “Due to the time we spent at the plant learning about specific project management tools and techniques, we knew how to develop our ideas into a working prototype. Derrick and the Schaeffler UK staff ensured that we spent time writing an accurate and concise statement of requirements using SMART objectives, which made it easier for me as team captain to monitor our progress throughout the project and to meet all the deadlines.”
At the EESW / STEMCymru ‘Big Bang Fair South Wales’ on 16th March 2015, held at The Celtic Manor Convention Centre, Newport, the team presented its solution.
Rhys Browning, Head of Physics at Ysgol Gyfun Gwyr School, says: “We are delighted to win another EESW award. We’d like to thank Derrick Lewis and his team at Schaeffler for their continued support over the last nine years. The valuable experience and skills learnt during the competition will aid the students in their future careers.”
More success for 2014 winners
Previous EESW award winners from Gwyr School have continued to thrive after their initial success. In 2014, a team of eight students – Nerys Griffith, Fynn Bishop-Guest, Iwan Cole, Tom Francis, Gareth Goss, Aled Rees, Katherine Rees and Christian Stobbs – won the EESW ‘Airbus Award for Best Innovative or Adaptive Design’ for developing a system for the automatic detection and treatment of bacteria in cooling towers at the Schaeffler UK plant in Llanelli. After winning this award, the team was nominated by EESW for a Wales Quality & Innovation Award, an annual awards scheme organised by the Wales Quality Centre.
The team presented its cooling tower project to a panel of judges at the Wales Quality Centre. This was followed by formal interviews and a Q&A session.
The team and Rhys Browning were invited to a gala dinner at The Vale Hotel in Bridgend on 26th March 2015, where they received the ‘Education Award’.
For more information about Schaeffler’s support of the The Engineering Education Scheme Wales (EESW), please visit www.schaeffler.co.uk.