In the first year of SELA, Dan and I led the cohort of 28 driven engineers to deliver two amazing public engagement projects, reaching over 2500 school children and 7000 members of the public. The Projects were called ‘Thinking Inside the Box’ and ‘The Theatre of Engineering’.
Having no prior experience in Higher Education teaching, the learning curve was steep for us, but the questions we had to ask to gain understanding helped generate conversation throughout the presentations and workshops, that ultimately let others reflect on their teaching methods compared to their peers.
Perhaps the most applicable aspect of the conference, for me, was discussing how to create methods of peer feedback that allow individuals to not feel criticised through use of ‘appreciation’ and ‘requesting’ statements.
Gary established what SELA is, what it aims to achieve, and how he organises the programme to provide countless opportunities for keen engineers. Dan and I presented the key factors that enabled the integrated learning projects to benefit us. We had reflected that an open-ended brief, authenticity, opportunity to fail, and trust and empowerment were critical to its success.
After the presentation we were approached by lots of university staff from across the UK and beyond, who were keen to discuss why Dan and I were motivated to be involved with SELA, and how we had gained so much in our time with the programme. To us the answer was simple: SELA provides unparalleled opportunity at the University of Sheffield to network, learn and develop your professional skills, if you are willing to try hard enough to achieve your goals. Every engineer that graduates will have technical competency, and experience of working in a team. SELA sets engineering graduates apart by inspiring its members to continuously seek opportunities to further their Professional Development, and give back to communities, networks and businesses by delivering projects that effect real positive change.
SELA has been the single most important part of my university experience, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity I had to talk about it. Hopefully we were able to inspire other universities to develop similar programmes, to create a new generation of well-rounded and passionate engineers.