On Tuesday 16th October 2018, Wirral Met’s engineering students welcomed the Mayor and Mayoress of Wirral, Councillor Geoffrey Watt and Mrs Anne Watt to the STEM Centre at the Twelve Quays Campus. Performing Engineering Operations level 1 students have designed and built a sports wheelchair for use in wheelchair rugby sevens competitions and were keen to show the Mayor and Mayoress how successful this project has been.
This occasion is even more notable as it has fallen within ‘LoveOurColleges’ week which is the Association of Colleges’ campaign to showcase the many things that colleges do, day in and day out, to transform lives and improve their communities.
Wirral Met’s IT Technician Stuart Williams was a former Digital and Computing Technologies student at the college and it was his idea to ask the engineering department to build a sports wheelchair for him to use in competitive rugby competitions. Stuart is the captain of the Welsh Wheelchair Rugby 7s and is also the Secretary for the Wheelchair Rugby 7s UK governing body. He regularly takes part in rugby football league matches which take place at Deeside Leisure Centre in Queensferry and he needed an innovative new wheelchair to help him continue competing in wheelchair rugby sevens matches.
Five Wirral Met engineering students, Richard Boston, Roy Coleman, Joshua Hibberd, Thomas Bather and Steve Hough formed a conscientious team that produced an outstanding product which meets the challenging requirements of competitive wheelchair rugby. The students initially created a sketch for the design of the wheelchair and then worked on the detailed manufacturing brief using a computer aided design programme. Supported by industry experts DaVinci Mobility, they then researched and identified the best materials to be used, taking into account the requirements for a lightweight, flexible, easily manoeuvrable, robust, load bearing chair that would survive heavy knocks and crashes which form part of this competitive sport. They went on to build the wheelchair using welding techniques they have learnt on their courses and they then organised a range of tests to ensure the wheelchair was ready for use.
Wheelchair rugby player Stuart Williams recently put the wheelchair to the test in the charity Peacock Cup match on Sunday 7 October 2018 and was delighted with its performance. The outcomes of this project have been far reaching, as these five students involved in making the chair will be able to evidence their new skills when applying for apprenticeships or completing their UCAS applications when they progress to university in 2019. Stuart said, “The chair looks different from the original designs, but it’s incredible. I am grateful to the Wirral Met tutors and managers who supported this project and to DaVinci Mobility for helping make it possible.”
The Da Vinci Mobility team were so impressed with the skills and commitment of the students during the project that they are offering two work placements to students in their organisation, helping with the manufacture of specialist mobility equipment.
Sue Higginson, Principal of Wirral Met, said “I am very proud of both the staff and students who have designed this wheelchair. It is yet another example of the difference Wirral Met College makes in supporting the Wirral community and in this case, a national sporting event. #LoveOurColleges!”