Using a single project to integrate learning across years and disciplinary areas

Research output: Contribution to conferencePoster


The innovative use of a project to facilitate the integration of curricular and co-curricular learning across years and disciplines is described. The learning is framed in a realistic context and enables students to develop both disciplinary and transferrable skills regardless of background or stage of programme.

Over recent decades engineering design had largely been taught in an abstract manner by universities. As the focus had moved from engineering practice in the 1950s to engineering science in the 1980s, so had the relevance of the engineering curriculum. However, the shortcomings with this approach became increasingly recognised and by the 2000s change was taking place as individual academics started to introduce more realistic learning experiences, and communities of like-minded individuals started to form.

In 1999 the School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering (as it was then known) became involved in the newly introduced Formula Student competition. The competition challenges students to design and build a small single-seat racing car and then complete with it at the annual UK Formula Student competition.

Formula Student was cleverly designed so that successful participation would require the demonstration of a range of skills required by professional engineers, and it was therefore a perfect vehicle for the development of those skills. While technical skills, such as design, manufacture and assembly, are important. Successful involvement in the competition also requires the demonstration many transferrable skills, including effective teamwork, communication skills, business awareness and financial management.

The School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering has been involved in Formula Student continuously since 1999, but the scale of involvement has grown from the two initial MSc student projects in 1999 to the current team of 47 students from all disciplinary areas (Mechanical Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, Product Design Engineering) and all levels (Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3, Stage 4, PGT, PhD) undertaking both curricular and co-curricular activity.

Involvement allows students to develop a real product from design through to testing. It provides them with the opportunity to work in a real team. It teaches them how to interact with different personalities, how to manage conflict, the art of compromise, and the importance of working towards a shared objective. Formula Student also teaches them how to operate within a real business (Queen’s) and how to communicate and negotiate with other businesses, such as suppliers and sponsors.

The team’s evolution from 1999 to 2018 has been an interesting one, with many successes and many mistakes. The operation of the team has had to flex to accommodate changes in the curriculum, but the core objective has always remained the same, to bring a very diverse group of students together with the single objective of building a racing car to complete against other universities.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 28 Mar 2018


  • co-curricular
  • multi-disciplinary
  • multi-year
  • design-build-test
  • Formula Student


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