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Careers Encounters

27 Aug, 2019 | Return|

Experiencing a successful engineering business - right on our doorstep!

As part of their career’s encounters and experiences curriculum, year 6 pupils visited Norbar Headquarters in Banbury to get a glimpse into how an engineering organisation is run.

We planned sessions that focused on three areas: Design engineering and marketing; quality control; and maintenance engineering. Linked to the year 6 curriculum, sessions were skilfully designed to incorporate geometry, ratios and electricity.

Design engineering linked to geometry 

Pupils learned about geometry and its purpose in, and impact on, their everyday lives. 2400 years ago, Euclid, a Mathematician wrote a book about geometry classifying shapes as:

Plane Geometry: triangles, circles, lines (2D shapes)

Solid Geometry: cubes, cylinders, sphere (3D shapes)

Pupils learned why geometry matters today. It matters because many careers use it:

scientists, mathematicians, pilots, astronauts, plumbers, electricians, golfers, snooker players and bowls player to name but a few. To be successful in these careers, you would need a good understanding of geometry.

The pupils experienced CAD (Computer Aided Design) software to observe how geometry is used to create logos. Children used their understanding of triangles and angles to guess well-known company logos, for example to create the Mercedes Benz logo, pupils knew to divide a circle into 3 (360 ÷ 3 = 120 degrees) to create the three spokes on the Mercedes logo. They discussed parallel and perpendicular lines; different triangles and tangents (curves into lines).

Matt Tongue, Design Engineer, explained how he got in to his career: ‘I was good at DT at school and went on to study product design at university’.  He has spent a lot of time learning, with many hours learning how to use the CAD software effectively: ‘The more you practice the more you improve’.


Pupils then met Julian Bremner-Smith, Marketing Manager

Linked to their Term 6 Make £5 Grow, Julian discussed the importance of effective marketing: the business of promoting and selling products and services including market research.

Pupils ascertained that money, profit, communication and selling all needed to be carried out effectively in order for a product to sell with the key aim of being a profitable business.

Pupils discussed the use of video and social media as Julian explained the benefits of this new modern-day advertising. ‘Videos prove that the product is fit for purpose; you can test the product and record it for potential customers to see’.

Marketing covers a vast array of areas from the website, social media, box/packaging designs, display panels for exhibitions and literature/brochures. More money is now spent on digital advertising than on traditional methods.

Julian explained to the pupils that he started his career as an engineer but took the opportunity to look at another side of the business and this changed his career path. He still has a passion for engineering so enjoys that he works in marketing within an engineering company.

Comment from Matt – PRT & Julian - Marketing

“We found the 5 days of visits to be a very positive experience, as we’re sure it was on the children also. Trying to devise ways to illustrate how we use geometry on a daily basis was challenging initially, but once we established a standard format (using the CAD to create numerous 3D models of logos and products that they would recognise) we feel that the sessions flowed well and kept the children entertained and engaged throughout the 30 minutes. Hopefully we got over our core message: all the products we design at Norbar are designed first on the CAD, and before they appear as 3D CAD models they are created from 2D geometry (lines and curves) – not really dissimilar to the types of shapes that they are used to dealing with in their lessons. We were genuinely impressed with their knowledge of shape names (e.g. isosceles triangle) and some showed even greater ability in being able to perform their own calculations when creating the geometry (e.g. calculating the number of degrees between spokes on a Mercedes logo).

It was also very fortunate that Julian was able to give the children an introduction to Marketing as they are about to begin a marketing related project, so we hope this will be a great benefit to the children also.”

Quality Control

Pupils went on to meet Mark Poole and Matt Parylo in Quality Control who had planned a series of very engaging activities to help the pupils understand the importance of quality control. We learned that quality is focused around controlling how something is made and measuring it against a known standard to meet the customer requirement.

Pupils thoroughly enjoyed using their understanding of ratios to formulate a mix of colours to match a set standard.

They learned that it takes several attempts to get it right and that they were learning from their experiments. One pupil noticed ‘the shades are not quite right; we need to keep trying different ratios’. A new unit of measure was also learned; ‘gloss units’ measure how glossy/shiny a product is. Accuracy and precision were also discussed and pupils carried out some tests to deduce how accurate or precise their results were. Various measuring tools were explored and there was great enthusiasm at the opportunity to measure different objects with precision and accuracy.

Comment from Mark & Matt – Quality Control

“We enjoyed the visit very much and it was great to see such enthusiasm from the children. They were all very involved and we had a lot of fun, we have no doubt that the future holds great things for them. The colour making (design of experiments) was a particular favourite of ours and it was great to gauge the reactions of each group. Thank you for providing the opportunity to show some of the things we do here at Norbar.”

We met Paul Bush, Maintenance Manager, who discussed preventative maintenance to ‘keep on top’ of the building and keep everything running smoothly. This included the building itself and the machinery and maintenance within the building – a huge undertaking!

Focusing on electricity, pupils discussed their understanding of heat, light, sound and movement energy. They explored circuits; plugs and amps; and a thermal imaging camera.

Paul explained about how his career stemmed from a love of finding out how things work and from taking things apart and putting them back together.

Comment from Paul - Maintenance

“It was great to see so many kids with so much enthusiasm and energy. They asked some great questions and seemed genuinely interested in the topic of electricity and maintenance. It was fun building the circuits with them and watching them check the voltages with the meter. I hope we have inspired them to pursue a career in engineering. Thanks.

Reflections of their experiences at Norbar

From the voice of the pupils:

Female: I was interested in the machinery - they were all so big and looked very complicated – each doing a special job.

Female: The visit was intriguing.... I was curious about everything. I found the CAD really interesting because it involves maths and I love maths! I’ve never seen CAD before!

Female: I found the quality control really interesting.... testing colours to ensure we got the right shade. We made a new colour and even gave it a new name – ‘grellow’! (green and yellow)

Male: I found the machinery fascinating because they can be set to work whilst the operator is at lunch. No time is wasted. That is how profit is made.

From Annelise: Initially, the pupils were fascinated by the sheer size of the Norbar building; the visits really opened their eyes to what goes on inside a large business. They learned about the different areas of the business and how each is a vital part of running a successful company.

The design and marketing sessions definitely inspired our pupils for their ‘Make £5 Grow’ ventures and gave them ideas and important points to consider for product design and effective marketing.

This was further developed in Quality Control where they learned the importance of producing quality products that would meet the needs of the customer. The electricity and maintenance session superbly supported our science curriculum learning and gave pupils the opportunity to deepen their understanding and explore electricity through practical testing. The session helped them to appreciate how circuits and electricity are used throughout the infrastructure of a business and are used to make every machine work.

The tour of the factory inspired a real sense of awe and wonder: curiosity about the different machines; the different roles and skills of the many employees; the array of products produced; and an opportunity to question how some of the employees began their career. It was incredibly interesting to learn about the different study and career paths employees had taken; their career changes as they learned more about their passions and their evolving skill-set; and the importance of apprenticeships for this generation to learn from experienced people.

Make sure you check out the Mechanical Circus at the Banbury Museum from the 25th May – 7th September 2019, for more details visit the website: https://www.banburymuseum.org/events/mechanicalcircus/