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Challenging, rewarding, inspiring

April Shackley and Jade Purdy, Design Engineers at AKT II, describe their work with engineering education initiative, ScaleRule.

ScaleRule's "Next Generation Design challenge" saw London schoolchildren design and build a pavilion for display in the 2018 London Festival of Architecture. April explains more.

ScaleRule pavilion under construction

Jade and I have been lucky to work on some great London projects in our careers so far, including the new Kings Cross development, the Google and Bloomberg HQs, and the Royal Albert Docks redevelopment.

Still, for both of us our proudest achievement is definitely the Next Generation Design Pavilion! Taking the students through the project, from concept, design and build, was both challenging and extremely rewarding.

Next Generation Design

Next Generation Design has been running for a few years now – it encourages students to think about careers in architecture and engineering but also to encourage diversity by targeting students from low-income backgrounds that may not think these opportunities are available to them.

We know the Scalerule directors through work and we jumped at the chance to take over the project. We were amazed by what they had achieved and loved the organisation’s mission in general – so it was a thrill to run.

Thinking about structure

Getting students on board was challenging - since many have no idea what structural engineering is, it can be hard to convince them to spend a weekend with us at the workshops.

Even so, the feedback from those that attended was really encouraging – it was particularly pleasing to find out that many were thinking about careers in engineering at the end of the workshops. They had some really creative ideas, and we think they would all do very well if they decide to choose that path.

Seeing the students stand up and present their designs to the judges at the workshops was wonderful to watch, some of them were so nervous but they did an amazing job!

The design won because the team had a really strong concept relating to the brief of sustainability that was more than just using recycled materials. The layers of string representing ‘Past Present Future’ invite visitors to look up and become more mindful of their natural surroundings. The main structure is in the 4m high inclined columns which are designed to cantilever, so that the ring beams could be non-structural, very thin elements.

Like the columns, the ring beams are made up of multiple parts which had to be bolted together – the red back drop of the timber in both cases really makes the bolts stand out, drawing attention to the structure.

Inspiring through building

The biggest barrier to young people entering engineering careers is that not enough is done to make them aware that engineering exists. At the beginning of the workshops none of the students could guess what a structural engineer does.

I don’t think I was ever aware of engineering at school, I only got into it because my mother had worked as a civil engineer when she was younger and when I had an interest in Maths and physics she suggested I try it.

That’s why Next Generation Design is such a valuable project: the opportunity to actually build something you have designed is really inspiring – for us as well as the young people: normally we just pass our designs on to a contractor and don’t get this kind of exposure to the whole build process, so we have all learned a lot from what was a wonderful collaborative experience.

Learn more about Scale Rule.

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