Personifying the King’s experience

The teacher’s role in summer business education

Dr Andrew McFaull is a Teaching Fellow in Accounting and Finance in the King’s Business School. In the Summer, Dr McFaull teaches Business Management, International  Business, Accounting and Finance in London and Hong Kong.

Over the past few years of delivering summer schools here at King’s, it has become clear to me that the role of the tutor is much more than just teaching and is about delivering a memorable learning experience. The challenge for us as tutors and those who support us as we seek to offer a great summer school is to be aware of what kind of learning experience we want to offer.

To answer this question, I believe we need to view it from our students’ perspective and ask ourselves why would someone be willing to travel great distances, often at considerable expense to enrol for only two to three weeks in one of our short summer courses? As a business tutor, I would put this in business speak and term it our value proposition. Yet, what is it? In essence, why do large numbers of students come from across the world to our summer schools each year? It seems to me the only way to deliver the best possible programme of summer learning is to exceed our students expectations and to do that, we must first understand why they enrol on a summer school course.

It’s clearly not us personally as tutors that attracts the students. Regardless of our doctorates and other various learned credentials, it is safe to assume that none of our students will have heard about our teaching and/or research prior to enrolling upon our courses. Instead, it is almost certainly the opportunity to gain an education from an esteemed institution with a global reputation that attracts students in their hundreds year upon year. Therefore, we can perhaps conclude that the role of a summer school tutor is to personify the anticipated experiences and related expectations that comes with receiving an education from somewhere like King’s College London.

“I notice how much more heterogeneous the expectations of our summer students are.”

What complicates this process further is that this personification of a King’s education is not the same for all students and this is something I have increasingly observed of as I have been delivering summer schools on behalf of the business school. When I contrast my summer school teaching with our conventional undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, which I also teach upon, I notice how much more heterogeneous the expectations of our students are and we only have two or three weeks to fulfil and
hopefully exceed these expectations.

“Helping achieve long-term personal and professional goals”

As a broad generalisation, some enrol on our summer school programmes to advance their CVs and ultimately their future careers. Others are visiting us to be challenged intellectually and want a scholarly experience from one of the world’s leading universities. Then there are those enrolled on our summer school programmes who might be termed educational tourists, who are attracted by studying in different city or country for a few weeks. All these expectations are perfectly reasonable. Yet, the predicament we face when seeking to meet students’ expectations and hopefully exceed them to deliver a good summer school, is how do you deliver one course which meets many expectations?

The answer hopefully lies in the fact that each of these expectations mentioned before are not directly in conflict with each other and therefore by delivering in one area, we are precluded from delivering in another. Ultimately, in my mind, our goal in the summer school is to build a programmes of learning which is intellectually challenging, but simultaneously brings in both the King ’s and wider London experience and allows students to achieve their long-term personal and professional goals.

This brings me back to my original point that the role of summer school tutor is much more than teaching, it’s about cultivating a memorable learning experience both inside and outside of the classroom and this needs to be co-produced with the student, because ultimately it’s their learning experience.

Addressing the Signs of the Times

Dr Huw Dylan is a Senior Lecturer in Intelligence Studies and International Security in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London. Dr Dylan is also a Visiting Research Professor at the Norwegian Defence Intelligence School, Oslo.

 

One of the most exciting things about the King’s Undergraduate Summer School is the variety of approaches to teaching and learning that students will experience. This reflects both the scope of subjects on offer, but also the energy tutors put into creating engaging learning environments. This entry, building upon our colleague Dr Diana Bozhilova’s blog post on teaching international relations in this series, offers a brief introduction to our approach to teaching Politics and the Media.

For those of us interested in politics and international relations it seems that not a day goes by without some controversy or other concerning what is the truth of a particular situation making the headlines in the press. From the competing narratives offered to the electorate in the BREXIT referendum, to the myriad debates concerning President Trump and words and deeds, to the running series of debates between Russia and the West over a number of issues, including the shooting down of MH17 to Russian involvement in east Ukraine, matters of strategic communication, allegations of propaganda, and charges of ‘fake news’ have come to dominate several areas of our political discourse. This course aims to place many of these issues in a deeper historical context, and to consider carefully how information and messages have been utilised by political power throughout history to further their goals.

Our teaching is based on our experience in the Department of War Studies. This department encourages an interdisciplinary and creative approach to studying conflict and war and all associated phenomena. We aim to combine teaching of core concepts and ideas, such as exploring the main theorists or thinkers of propaganda and strategic communications, in tandem with the conflicts or issues that they sought to influence at the time. And then to examine how these ideas resonate today in our contemporary debates. So, we will begin with the ideas of Gustav le Bon, and propaganda in the age of the Two World Wars, before moving on to the Cold War and the post 9/11 world. Students will engage deal with theory and practice, setting the scene for many of the issues we the class will consider during the latter part of the course.

The learning outcomes for this short course on Politics and the Media are centred upon the development of an understanding of key subject matter and fostering critical thinking. The class will consider the core components of propaganda and strategic communication narratives in various case studies. Many of these case studies involve campaigns that aimed to convert or entrench the political stance or the voting intentions of a large body of people, and have become contentious. Analysing the construction, delivery, and impact of these various campaigns will leave students equipped to more effectively engage with such campaigns in future, in particular with regard analysing and challenging the competing claims of ‘truth’. A key component of developing these critical skills will be an active consideration of the modern information environment and information technology, and how they both facilitate the propagation and the challenge of key messages.

What distinguishes a Summer School student?

Dr Nicola Kirkby is a ‘Literature in the City’ tutor on King’s Undergraduate Summer School.
In SummerTimes she is sharing her observations as an academic who this year taught on a summer school for the first time.

 

It’s a habit among critical thinkers to look for comparisons and contrasts. Throughout the King’s Summer ‘Literature and the City’ module, I prompted my students to explore differences between urban and rural experience, between London and their home town, between Dublin in the 1900s and Paris in the 1920s. From a pedagogical perspective, I was also drawing my own comparisons. Having taught a similar module, ‘Writing London’ in the Department of English at King’s for several years now, I found leading this summer school course for the first time in 2018 a refreshing counterpoint.

How do summer school cohorts differ from their term-time counterparts?
While there is much overlap (these are high-achieving undergraduates and alumni from universities across the world), I found that our lectures, seminars, and site visits had their own distinct dynamic that has impacted my teaching practice all year round.

Curiosity

Because they are open to students from any academic discipline, one of the most significant unifying pre-requisites for King’s Summer Programmes participants is curiosity about the course itself. English Literature majors were working alongside scholars with backgrounds in psychology, policy, modern languages, health science, and physics. This was invaluable in a course that interrogated what it means for people from all walks of life to live intersecting, interconnected lives. Our discussions may have focused predominantly on London, but such diversity in approach and experience meant that we were always bringing this city into dialogue with other global capitals, other networks, and other ways of understanding and organising shared space.

Thanks to such curiosity, the Summer School provided an ideal environment for exploring experimental ideas. At first, I think that students coming from more didactic learning environments found opportunities to challenge established theoretical approaches a little disorientating. But this approach fits well, both with the primary aim of literary studies: to encourage independent critical thinking, and with summer school learners themselves, who, in their choice to up sticks and study overseas for three-to-six intense weeks are more than equal to taking initiative.

Commitment

There’s nothing quite like leaving your life behind to embark on a few weeks of focussed study in a new place. Attendance throughout the summer school was sky-high in a way that is unparalleled in full-year courses where students often juggle responsibilities to home and work throughout the teaching semester. What I had not anticipated, and what I was utterly delighted to find was the tireless motivation of this group in our daily seminars, lectures, and site visits to places have changed London’s literary landscape. ‘Literature and the City’ is a fast-paced and thought-provoking module, and this year’s cohort impressed me by exploring London, Paris, and even Dublin on their own alongside our Monday-Friday classes.

Togetherness

The final distinction is a simple yet important one. Working alongside one another in an intense, discussion-led course helps summer school students build collaborative closeness in a way that would take much longer in a regular undergraduate module. By the end of the programme my ‘Literature and the City’ cohort had expanded their network, forging lasting connections with peers from across the world.

King’s Summer Programmes at EAIE 2018

King’s Summer Programmes will be participating at the 30th Annual EAIE Conference and Exhibition in Geneva, Switzerland which will take place from 11th to 14th September 2018.

Dr Sarah Williamson, Director Summer Programmes, will be speaking at a leadership and strategy workshop titled Summer school euros: costs, resources and business models, where she will discuss different business models for summer schools, including their relative advantages and disadvantages and how to determine which model fits best with your institution’s strategic objectives. Dr Williamson is also a speaker at the session titled All eyes on us: how established summer programmes overcome challenges which looks at challenges facing successful summer schools.

Joint summer schools: Win-win or double trouble? is the title of our poster presentation by Dr Alexander Heinz, Education Programme Lead Summer Programmes, showcasing a live London–Amsterdam case study. He will also be participating in a networking and learning event known as the Summer Schools health clinic as a summer school doctor. We are very proud to announce that Dr Heinz has been voted as the incoming Vice Chair of the Summer Schools expert community, an EAIE forum for all things related to running and establishing summer programmes.

Ian Fielding, Deputy Director Summer Programmes, will be meeting with partners to discuss feedback and provide updates and developments on the undergraduate summer school and summer exchange programme. Ian would also be delighted to hear from other universities interested in our partnership agreements or our Summer School and Education Abroad planning and design services. Make sure you drop by our Summer at King’s exhibition stand (G22).

If you are not physically attending the EAIE conference and exhibition but still want to stay updated with our news you can follow us on Twitter @KingSummer. Further information about EAIE can be found here.

We are the city: King’s Summer Programmes in London

Dr Sarah Williamson is a university director, specialising in institutional business development with expertise in international education. She has 16 years creative programming experience in Higher Education, the last 10 of which have been spent leading and providing consultancy services on innovative institutional education projects that transform the educational portfolio of higher education institutions. 

At King’s College London, she is leading the university’s strategy to grow a summer portfolio of education projects on campus and overseas that support education abroad initiatives and research project knowledge transfer/public engagement intentions. Before this, she was the inaugural Head of Study Abroad (2009-14) and the architect of King’s study abroad strategy and programming.

Cities, like universities, are the sum of their parts and London, like King’s, is very much a product of its people. London’s citizens have long built bits on, growing the city outwards and upwards not on any grid system, but expanding it organically from its medieval footprint. London is not a city that was built then the people moved in; they built it from the inside out.

That’s the kind of city London is. It has a mindset that resists definition and a momentum that evolves in ways that are too exciting to be corralled. Just how London has been shaped and honed has become even more apparent in the last 20 years. Glorious, majestic spaces, like Somerset House, have been reclaimed as public spaces, becoming areas for public thinking and doing. Those reclaimed public spaces now influence public discourse and from there the city self-defines its future development. A city is a thinking space and the university within the city is an ideas lab, where those thoughts are grouped together to become ideas and shaped into actions.

Everyone who comes to London comes knowing it has a life blood that its citizens both create and draw from. This is what makes it such a strong magnet for creative thinkers and therefore creative learners. To be connected with and submerged into the flow of the city was always an elemental component in the makeup of our academic summer programmes at King’s. London is our classroom not just because it is our location; it’s because it is our inspiration and definition. It’s an ever-greater co-contributor to the summer classes in our sector-leading programmes.

For those seeking a starting point more profound than a traditional tourist route, having a chance to explore the city through applied study is strongly attractive. No student focused seriously on their academic career doesn’t think very carefully about how they, as global citizens, as global thinkers, will need to understand and use the city in their future as they become workers in their fields. But how to do this if you live elsewhere? What can you do to count yourself amongst the number of Londoners making waves in the world if your postcode is usually well beyond the M25? One neat answer is to join a summer programme at King’s. Short courses, run on King’s campuses over the summer season give a compact but powerful injection of intellectual rigour and dynamic personal development embedded so firmly in London’s ecosystems that your credentials as a Londoner become as established as they do as a King’s alum.

All of our 1,800 summer alumni this year will have explored their subjects with the help of London. Academic excursions, guest speakers from across London’s industries enrich the London campus-delivered academic content of courses. From the Victoria & Albert Museum, historic Fleet Street or crowded Brixton. A diverse range of places and encounters await the summer student and life-long Londoner alike. London can be a gateway to the wider world through its London headquarters of global powerhouses like the UN Refugee Agency, teachers on our Human Rights undergraduate summer school. Our popular and long-standing summer module “Museum of London: Curating the City” with daily sessions at the museum led by its curators, is a passport behind the scenes of one of the capital’s most innovative museums. What do the collections—ranging from art to architecture, fashion to film, music to media, giant fatberg!—tell us about London over the last century? What sorts of histories do these collections tell? What stories do they leave untold? Who are the people choosing these collections and making particular stories public? What is the impact of their decisions on London’s present-day reputation as a centre of creativity and cultural exchange?

For an intellectually challenging, often assessed summer school, this is never about glorified tourism. With its highly international King’s summer student population from more than 50 countries, London connections need to be academically meaningful and relevant. Rather, it is the case that lecturers explore their subject through the prism of London in undergraduate-level courses such as London & Film, where London as a cinematic city, the divergent spaces of London, and the capital’s relationship to film genres are explored in turn. Students reflect on the relationship between London, the advent of moving images and the birth of the cinema industry; the cultural role of cinema within the capital through the strength of its institutions, among them Film London, the National Film Theatre and the British Film Institute. London is both, a ‘realist’ and ‘fantasy’ wonderland. The evolution of London (as relayed on film) as a thriving urban space marked by increased gentrification, cosmopolitanism and architectural redevelopment is considered as well as the restaging of London’s cityscape as the set for blockbuster cinema.

Inviting new audiences to King’s, Dr Alana Harris, Lecturer in Modern British History and convenor of a group looking specifically at the integration of London in the learning experience, is this year for the second time leading a King’s Summer Weekend course with The National Archives. This weekend course is for everyone who wants to expand their research into their family tree. It combines instruction on practical researching techniques with academic insight into how key historic events shape stories across generations. Those that are interested can read more about this in a recent King’s SummerTimes blog post written by Mark Pearsall, one of the course contributors from among The National Archives staff. He describes how this summer collaboration led to a podcast on the Public Record’s Office history in what is now King’s splendid Maughan Library. The city defines its history through its people’s stories. The university defines the city through its understanding of those stories and equips its citizens to continue to draw out their ideas of how the city will evolve in the future.

Alongside the large King’s summer programmes, some of the biggest in Europe, a group of cultural intelligence courses offer invite student groups from King’s university partners to explore London’s people, institution and power in innovative ways. The rationale behind these courses is powerfully simple: they use the unique dynamism of the metropolis to empower students to reflect on their own agency and take steps to be empowered in their own lives back home. Long term Londoners come into the classroom and change perceptions. New Londoners soak up inspiration and ideas and carry a bit of London’s esprit de corps with them wherever they go next. We are the city and the city is us. #everybodywelcome #summeratkings

The start of a new term

Dr Sarah Williamson is a university director, specialising in institutional business development with expertise in international education. She has 16 years creative programming experience in Higher Education, the last 10 of which have been spent leading and providing consultancy services on innovative institutional education projects that transform the educational portfolio of higher education institutions. 

At King’s College London, she is leading the university’s strategy to grow a summer portfolio of education projects on campus and overseas that support education abroad initiatives and research project knowledge transfer/public engagement intentions. Before this, she was the inaugural Head of Study Abroad (2009-14) and the architect of King’s study abroad strategy and programming.

Late June. Birdsong early in the morning. Sunrise by 5 am. Lazy evenings that go on and on to the point where you realise you should have gone to bed an hour before. (But it’s light till so late!) People start dropping into conversation that they are heading off on their holidays soon. The tabloid press is obsessed with swimwear. And universities across the world are readying their halls to welcome their summer students.

Undergraduate Summer School students exploring London with their tutor

At King’s, now in its 9th year, the summer school has grown into a full portfolio of programmes. More than 1,800 people are poised to enrol and embark on what at any other time of the year would be described the start of term. They are coming from all over. The summer has always been a moment in the year for new experiences and adventures. And for cerebral beings, that can mean relocating for a few days to several weeks and flexing their intellectual muscles in the community of learning that is King’s College London.

I’d like to say that there is something for everyone, but if the Internet has taught us anything it’s that there’s some pretty select areas of interest in human society! So, I’ll simply say that there’s an impressive range of classes on offer; a range that works hard to give the world a taste of the research and learning that is the fabric of King’s everyday. A range designed to peak the interest of you out there in the ether and beckon you in to join in the discussion.

“Lifelong friendships with people from across the globe” – Louise

From Healthcare and Technology to Ancient Greek, Psychology to Politics, King’s College London is in the happy position of being a specialist-generalist research institution, so we are luckier than most when it comes to putting together options for summer students. This year’s Pre-University Summer School participants certainly think so! 600+ of them, all high school students aged 16-18, will be heading to class to explore engineering, politics, science, history and literature, and so on. That’s 600 developing minds filled with ideas and opinions and ready to shake things up. Where better to do so than at one of the best universities in the world?!

Summer Education Abroad students in Berlin

Education abroad courses are also in the portfolio. King’s has long championed studying abroad as a stalwart of an internationalised curriculum and this year we kicked off the summer study season with a course that uses Berlin as its classroom. 50 students studying for King’s degrees flew out to explore civic engagement Berlin-style, taking a journey through the social, economic and political change in Germany. A key component of this course and many of our other summer courses has been exploring ideas around personal agency and asking how people exercise their personal agency to bring about changes in their communities. Not only is this line of inquiry a direct arrow into the heart of our university motto, “In the service of society” but also heralds King’s institutional strategy around “Service” that’s due to be published in the new academic year.

Pre-University Summer School students with their course ambassador

Education is a cornerstone of personal empowerment and there’s nothing like a truly international classroom to bring the richest of learning experiences to campus. One of the fascinating areas of any discipline is understanding transnational perspectives and their application within research hypotheses. And the summer classroom, with its intensive learning format (the summer is only so long!) leads the way on active learning. Increased contact time and an emphasis on experiential learning via practitioner speakers and academic-led site visits means that learning is intense and truly flavoursome. What the short course format of a summer education course loses in extended personal reflection time, it gains in peer-to-peer debate and a fearless critical thinking-infused classroom.

So, come July 2nd, take a moment to consider what you could be learning in summers to come. At King’s we never stop exploring. And if that idea resonates with you, you know where you should be. #summeratkings #everybodywelcome

3D Printing in Summer Health Education

Kawal Rhode, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, and head of Education for Biomedical Engineering and Imaging Sciences, talks to us about 3D printing, as a new aspect on the Undergraduate Healthcare & Technology, as well as Human Anatomy & Physiology Summer School courses.

I carry out research and teaching at King’s and have been working in the exciting area of additive manufacturing or 3D printing, as it is commonly known. 3D printing is used at King’s for research, education and also for clinical work at our partner hospitals. The technology has progressed rapidly over the last years and it enables 3D computer models to be translated into real physical models. For example, we see below how a computer model of a decorative ring has been used to produce the actual ring:

We have recently created a 3D Printing Education Laboratory at our campus at Guy’s Hospital for use by our healthcare students:

A series of hands-on sessions about 3D printing will be included in both of my 2018 Summer School modules. We will learn how to create both anatomical models from medical images and engineering models from computer-aided design (CAD) software:

Here are examples of heart models that were created by our current undergraduate students from CT images:

I am really looking forward to teaching our Summer School students about this exciting technology and seeing the 3D models that will be created by them.

Learning Ancient Languages in London

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Dr Fiona Haarer, FSA

The Classics Department has a long tradition of running Summer Schools. For over forty years, we’ve hosted (in alternate years with UCL) the London Summer School in Classics and we usually get about 250 students of all ages. But though the students could study Greek or Latin at any level, the course lasts for only eight days, and UK students were forced to travel to Cork or the States if they wanted a comprehensive summer course which allowed them to go from complete Beginners to being able to read simple texts in the original. And so, with opportunities for studying Ancient Greek and Latin at school in decline (although happily the trend is now turning for Latin), we realised we should offer BA, Masters and Doctoral students and newly qualified teachers the opportunity to use their summer to make up some of this gap. So we organised a six-week course, which could be taken in two halves, Beginners and Intermediate, allowing students to take just the first period, or to join half way through.

We were delighted to offer Ancient Greek and Latin to just half a dozen students as part of the first cohort in 2010. This year nearly fifty students enrolled. As in previous years they came from a wide range of countries including Australia, Brazil, China, India, Japan, Norway Singapore, Sweden, Taiwan, the USA and many parts of Europe, with a wide range of educational backgrounds, and many with the additional challenge of learning an ancient language via a language which is not their first.  Last year saw the introduction of another initiative: the use of the Intermediate courses to allow Classics Department students who have no previous knowledge of Greek and Latin to achieve a Classics degree by using the summer school courses to accelerate their language learning. Several students have chosen this Access Pathway and it has allowed King’s to follow Oxford, Cambridge and other Russell group universities in widening access and making it possible for students with no A Level in Greek and Latin to graduate with a Classics degree.

Although the Undergraduate Summer School courses are intensive in name and by nature, there is still time for extras. We offer lectures on key skills such as epigraphy and papyrology from visiting experts, and arrange ‘behind the scenes’ visits to the British Museum, where the students enjoy guided tours by curators, and an introduction to the research activities of the Departments of Greece and Rome, and Coins and Medals. A variety of learning environments and instructors allows the students to put their new language skills into practice, puzzling over inscriptions, legends on coins, and papyri.

The Ancient Languages students are a little different from the standard profile of the Summer School student. Some are taking the course for credit, some hold offers from their own universities which depend on successful completion of the course, some know that they won’t be able to read the relevant texts for their PhDs if they can’t master the language: they all come to King’s to work seriously and are therefore less attracted to the general summer school experience. On the other hand, this encourages a close and supportive esprit de corps within the classes as they bond over the experience.

If you want to learn a language you need a lot of concentration and consolidation, diligence and determination. To cover the same material in six weeks that regular courses would cover in a year or two needs an even greater degree of dedicated hard work and, while some struggle, the numbers who achieve high marks are impressive. It is also a testament to expertise of the team of language tutors, some of whom have been teaching these courses since 2010.

Finally, we are very grateful to the Classical Association which offers a grant every year to allow us to provide bursaries to students with particular financial hardship. In the discipline of Classics and the study of the Ancient World, we must we offer students every opportunity to acquire language skills, and the King’s College London Undergraduate Summer School is a great way to do this.

The “I” in Team: Catering for the individual in team-based projects

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By Jamie Barras

With this year’s UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD), almost upon us, this seems a good moment to look back at the “Engineering: Creating Technologies to Help People” module that ran for the first time as part of the 2017 undergraduate summer school.  It seems particularly timely as the theme of this year’s IDPD – “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient society for all” – chimes so well with the brief we had for the module project, which was centred on sustainable prosthetics.

Rising to the challenge of working with a diverse cohort
The challenge we faced in coming up with a teaching programme was how little we knew, and could know, about the students who would sign up for the module.  Yes, we could expect them to be studying an engineering subject at university, but we could make no assumptions as to where they were in their courses of study, the depth and breadth of their knowledge in any given engineering domain, nor the type of teaching they had experienced in their home countries.  This meant that the project brief would have to be quite open.

Serendipitously, an open brief matched up with one of the lessons about creating technologies that help people that we wanted to deliver: don’t start designing until after you’ve asked the people you’re trying to help what they actually need.  For our students and their prosthetics projects, that meant only getting down to work once they’d had a chance to sit down and talk (via skype) with a South-Africa-based double amputee.

The idea of asking people what they need can be found both in the principles of humanitarian engineering and in best practice in business.  And social entrepreneurship – using business techniques to achieve social good – was one of the secondary themes of the module.  An idea we returned to again and again was that there is an overlap between doing good and being a successful entrepreneur – which is not to say you need to be an entrepreneur to do good, but, rather, that there are some shared requirements that are worth keeping in mind:

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Just as serendipitously, we found in this list of shared requirements the final key to rising to the challenge of working with a diverse cohort: soliciting feedback.

The central role of soliciting feedback in meeting the needs of the individual
We talked to our students about their individual expectations and goals not just once but several times during the course of the module.  These one-to-one chats were our means of defining, monitoring and reviewing individual learning outcomes and associated goals for each student.  They also allowed us to identify the more reserved students, who could then be encouraged to take up additional roles in the project that would promote interactions with their team-mates – taking on administrative tasks, for example (organising meetings, checking schedules etc.).  A second group of students that we identified in this way were those further along in their studies than the rest of the cohort.  These students we encouraged to become mentors to their team-mates for a richer project experience.

And what formal feedback did we receive at module end?  That the thing the students liked most about the module was the chance to be part of a team.  But I’m sure we wouldn’t have had that feedback if we hadn’t have worked so hard to treat everybody in our teams as individuals.

Applied Maths Summer School

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By Dr Peter H. Charlton and Dr Jordi Alastruey

In our day-to-day research we dedicate much of our creative thinking to meeting the needs of patients and clinicians. It is unusual that we are given time to reflect on how best to inspire the next generation of engineers. A range of questions spring to mind upon doing so. How do you foster engineering mindsets capable of developing ingenious solutions to sometimes overwhelming problems? Which are the most important engineering tools to equip future engineers with? What is the best way to become fluent with these tools? Try coming up with insightful answers whilst juggling your daily work.

The Applied Maths Summer School was different.

A group of highly talented students travelled to London from across the globe, eager to apply their skills to challenging real-world problems. A syllabus was prepared covering the fundamentals of engineering – all the bricks required to lay a solid foundation. Our task was to instil in students the excitement of becoming inventors. We were to provide them with the necessary tools, and create an environment in which they could find the creativity within themselves to develop as applied mathematicians and engineers.

How do you foster engineering mindsets? Introduce students to the fore-fathers of modern engineering through a research assignment. Summer school students had the opportunity to study the great thinkers of the previous millennium, whose work will continue to form the basis of engineering solutions deep into this millennium. Ever wondered how you supply water to remote mountainous areas at times of drought? You’ll need to apply your knowledge of calculus, developed by Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz in the 17th century.

Which engineering tools are most important? Perhaps differentiation, which can be used by policy makers to decide how best to allocate taxpayers’ money. Perhaps integration, which is used to design cargo vessels which transport goods around the world. Maybe vector algebra, suitable for generating 3D virtual reality to enable robot-assisted surgery? On each day of the course the students were given a lecture on one of the fundamental mathematical tools, equipping them with a toolbox for solving engineering problems.

What is the best way for students to become fluent in these tools? Each lecture was followed by a problem class, in which a range of engineering problems and solutions were presented to students. They quickly became familiar with the pattern of using mathematical tools to develop innovative solutions to complex problems. Each day finished with a group activity, in which students were challenged to apply the tools in new settings. During the course each student used differentiation to develop methods for heart rate monitoring, creating valuable tools for clinicians and fitness trackers alike. Students also applied integration to the problem of monitoring the delivery of oxygen to bodily organs – vital for life.

So, how can we best inspire the next generation of engineers? A summer school seems like a great starting point.