Fuelling ambitions

Tim Weston says Oakham School is inspiring the world’s future designers – one trip at a time

While the current educational environment for Design and Technology is in flux, one thing remains resolutely constant – the need to inspire students to study the subject both now and in the future. 

Generating enthusiasm for design, alongside fuelling ambition to really make a difference in the design world, is absolutely critical if we are to develop tomorrow’s designers. One way to encourage this, alongside great teaching, is to offer a range of inspiring trips that help bring the subject to life in a way that simply isn’t possible through other teaching resources. Books, the internet and multi-media resources are all useful tools in teaching D&T, but nothing compares to students being able to see both the design process at work, and manufacturing in action.

The trips we offer at Oakham are designed to ‘wow’ students and to really engender a passion for design that they carry with them to university and into the world of work. We’ve recently returned from our biennial trip to Bologna, which sees students visiting some of world’s most expensive and exotic car designers and manufacturers. Often referred to as ‘Motor Valley’, the location provides an awe-inspiring concentration of design experiences. The trip saw students visit the Ferrari Museum, which one student described as “an awe-inspiring experience that all of us will treasure.”  Here they were able to see a selection of different Formula 1 cars and see for themselves the improvement and advances in technology over time. They also visited the Ducati Factory and its museum, where again, in their own words, they could see first-hand “the evolution of Ducati’s motorbikes – a long line of stunning and progressively more impressive feats of clever Motorsport design and impressive engineering.” The students were also able to take guided tours of Pagani Autos and the Lamborghini Factory where they thought it was “awesome” to see some of the most famous classic Lamborghini’s and to be able to watch the Aventador  (v12) and the Huracán (v10) under production.  

Of course students don’t have to travel out of the country to see outstanding examples of manufacturing and design; we also offer a range of UK trips to inspire our D&T students.  We visit Jaguar Land Rover multiple times during the year – with younger pupils visiting their HQ to see the development of cars before they reach the market, whilst older students visit the main manufacturing site to see high volume production in action.  While students also benefit hugely from trips to the Design Museum and Science Museum, factory visits to see design and manufacturing in action are critical – this is where mechanisation, automisation and robotics comes alive.

It is not enough to simply educate students that everything they pick up is a product of design and manufacturing. We must show them, first-hand, the effort and processes for how these things are designed and made – not just so they don’t take products for granted, but to inspire them to become the designers of the future. 

Tim Weston is Head of Design and Technology at Oakham School.

Alumni have gone on to forge careers at companies that include Jaguar Land Rover, Dyson, Rolls Royce and the Caterham F1 Team. In 2014, the department was awarded the Design Mark, an accolade for schools that demonstrate excellence in their teaching of design.


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