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Engineering Product Design graduates celebrate 30th anniversary at LSBU reunion

Six 1982 graduates return to LSBU to talk about career success and share their experiences with current students
28 October 2013

The BSc (Hons) Engineering Product Design course (EPD) was set up at what was then the Polytechnic of the South Bank in the late 1970s and the first group of students successfully graduated in 1982.

Recently, six EPD alumni reunited and returned to what is now London South Bank University to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their graduation. Left to right in the photo: Roberto Fraquelli, Nik Hills, Ian Tansley, Trevor Towler, Nigel Morris and Shane Sullivan.

Most of the group had not seen each other since then and they had a lot to talk about but before their social evening they wanted visit their former design studios and workshops where they witnessed great changes and investment in technology. In 1982 all students made models and prototypes either by hand or on hand-operated machines; in addition to the traditional tools and machines however the workshops now include a range of computer-operated model and prototype-making equipment such the rapid prototyping and 3D printing machines.

The alumni particularly wanted to meet the current students and spent time offering advice and sharing information about their careers. They all agreed that a sandwich placement was invaluable and that all students should spend a year working in industry - the experience gained makes for better final year projects and significantly improves employment prospects. Another example of the benefits of a sandwich placement was described by Nigel Morris who returned to Rolls Royce after graduation and has been happily and successfully employed there as an aerospace engineer ever since. Trevor Towler spent his placement year with Peerless Pumps which also helped him to secure employment as an engineer following graduation and this experience helped him win his current position as a Business Development Manager for Vokes Brand SPX Flow Technology.

The other alumni also progressed to a variety of engineering and design related jobs. At various points in their careers Ian Tansley, Nik Hills, Shane Sullivan and Roberto Fraquelli returned to education and studied for masters level qualifications at Cranfield and Bath universities and at the Royal College of Art. Ian subsequently worked for Dulas for several years where he developed renewable energy-based products for use in developing countries. In 2003 he founded True Energy and he continues to develop similar kinds of vital and ethical products. Nik worked as a design engineer for Electrolux before embarking on his teaching career in 1990 and he is now Design Director at University of Bradford. Before moving to the south coast Roberto worked as a designer for IDEO and he still practices as a freelance design consultant as well as being an academic at Plymouth University. Initially Shane worked as a production engineer but used this experience to realise his ambition and move into IT and he recently landed his dream job as the track-side IT portfolio manager for McLaren Formula One.

When asked why these former students chose the EPD course the answers were virtually identical to those given by many more recent and current students: the course had an excellent blend of practical elements (in the form of design-and-make projects) combined with more formal training in engineering subjects. As the Design capital of the UK studying in London on the EPD course offered students experiences and opportunities that are not available elsewhere.

The alumni also acknowledged the contribution that the staff made to their development, which Shane described as follows: 'EPD put me on track for a great future – we don't always recognise that when we are young, which is why we owe so much to all the staff who help us on our way through the system, but also in particular to the dedication and excellence of a number of special staff who go the extra mile for us and with us'.

All the past and present Engineering Product Design and Product Design students and staff who took part in the reunion really enjoyed meeting each other. The students also stated that they had broadened their understanding of potential careers and were really inspired by the final piece of advice from the alumni offered:

  • Work hard – don't waste this golden opportunity
  • Learn some people skills (as well as engineering, design & technical skills)
  • Find what you love doing, as quickly as possible, and pursue it – Enjoy!