In June, the University of Birmingham’s Careers Network hosted the Birmingham Project, inviting Siemens to support the “Exploring Technology and Innovations” theme. The Birmingham Project brings together students, employers, and experts to study society through relevant topics and themes. The one-week experience provides first-year students with an opportunity to work in interdisciplinary teams to share knowledge, connect with new people, and develop communication skills.
This year’s event took place from June 12th to June 16th. Siemens joined the initiative together with other employers such as PwC, Lloyds Banking Group, The Lapworth Museum of Geology, Transport for West Midlands, and the West Midlands Combined Authority, each supporting a different theme.
Max Di Luca, Associate Professor at the University of Birmingham and team lead of the “Exploring Technology and Innovations” theme: “It was great to see how our teams worked together. There were around 12 questions over the whole challenge and to ensure each had the attention it deserved, theme leaders randomly assigned one or two teams each question within the theme they signed up for. Covering topics like inclusivity, sustainability, and societal relevance.”
Green Tech & STEM App – two challenges to think out of the box
Within the Siemens’ theme, the students were tasked to pitch their solutions to one of two challenges: either to produce a digital output to help build a future net-zero skilled workforce or to think of an app that would help excite kids for topics like engineering, CAD and STEM. Susann Kunz, Marketing Manager at Siemens Digital Industries Software (DISW) who helped to design the first theme: “We are constantly searching for ways to engage with a young audience. It is crucial for us to educate these kids in a fun and less instructional way. If we want to keep their attention, we need to concentrate on that first step and getting kids excited about STEM and engineering. From UoB students we wanted to know how an app should be designed to achieve exactly that.”
The second challenge was set up by Gert Rohmann, Training and Development Manager at Siemens Smart Infrastructure (SI) UK. Gert was one of our Siemens colleagues who joined the presentations on the final day as a judge alongside Victoria Tong to provide some expertise on the net-zero topic. Rohmann: “I think opportunities like these are great for both students and employers. Through these challenges we get to showcase the potential of our young workforce. My role in this collaboration is simply to initiate the conversation to provide the space for students to bring their own, new, perspectives on the importance of smart infrastructure and green tech.”
The two tasks tackled subjects that are relevant both societally and from a business perspective while also giving students the opportunity to gain insight and awareness through research. Nick Rakkar, EMEA Business Development Director, supporting this event from Siemens DISW shared his insights commenting, “getting young people interested in STEM is such a critical topic as, even now, our field is dominated by an older, mainly male, cohort. Even worse than that, within the next 10 or 15 years, the majority of our workforce will retire, and slowly, due to the shortage of engineers and other STEM professionals, it will greatly impact how we operate and how quickly global tech can develop.”
Checking in with the students, Victoria Tong also from Siemens DISW Business Development, along with Caroline Guo from Siemens Global Academic, assisted the students with their initial ideas. Victoria highlights from their meetings: “It was fun to work with the students on their tasks and support their first steps into the project. Seeing the students hit the ground running with their ideas was really inspirational. I was very thankful Caroline was able to join me because she had some amazing insights from her experiences providing Solid Edge CAD trainings to young students and teachers in Germany.” Caroline adds: “The students were all very keen and eager to ask questions to improve their grasp of the task and to ground their understanding.”
The event was also a nice way for Siemens to connect internally, as one task was sponsored by Siemens Digital Industries Software and the other by Siemens Smart Infrastructure. Gert Rohrmann, Training and Development Manager at Siemens SI: “For us it is important to gain new and fresh approaches and ideas from young people that have the capability to think out of the box. Students bring unique insights that someone who has been working for Siemens for 20 years won’t have.”
At the end of the event, each group presented a 10-minute videos to the judging panel consisting of University of Birmingham academics, Max Di Luca, Neil Cooke, and Malcolm Price, and Siemens employees Victoria Tong, and Gert Rohrmann. Each team also responded to a series of questions relating to their presentations and demonstrated their huge dedication and commitment to the task, Tong: “The videos captivated the panel, showcasing each team’s personality, unique ideas, and presentation styles. The standard of work these students were able to create in such a short period of time was extremely impressive and it was clear the student really cared about the topics.”
After careful deliberation, the jury decided that team 3, who tackled the challenge of getting children interested in STEM, had the best concept and execution. Their presentation demonstrated a well-thought-out idea, with a creative proof of concept for their proposed app. The team exhibited strong teamwork and effectively answered all questions. The judges praised the app for its clever incorporation of subliminal learning and its consideration of representation and identity.
Siemens & UoB – a strong & vibrant partnership
Siemens DI is actively working with the University of Birmingham on many ongoing projects, with the main goal reaching the university’s net-zero target. The collaboration the university aims to create the smartest university campus in the world using large-scale application of new technologies and sustainable energy infrastructures.
Alongside supporting the university’s smart and green initiatives, Siemens also regularly participates in other student enrichment activities like the Siemens Solid Edge Design Bootcamp. Back in January, the bootcamp was co-hosted by Siemens to provide a similar experience, asking students to design a sports device using Siemens’ CAD software, Solid Edge. Additionally, the previous year, a Hackathon was hosted at the university where students from across the UK competed in the high-stakes Sir William Siemens Challenge, where the best teams’ talents were ultimately recognized by Siemens and awarded several internships and graduate opportunities at the company.
Thank you and see you again soon…!
The Birmingham Project brought together students, employers, and experts to explore society though relevant topics and themes. The entire event was made possible thanks to the entire Careers Network team at the University of Birmingham specifically we would like to extend our thanks to our liaison Caitlin Evans from the University’s team, a huge thank you for inviting us and for making it possible for Siemens to participate in the event. Finally, congratulations to the winners, Team 3, and to all the students who showcased their creativity and problem-solving skills. We look forward to seeing the innovative solutions that these young minds will develop in the future.