This project increased the collaboration and partnership between Aston University Engineering Academy in Birmingham (UK) and HTL Mödling in Mödling (Austria).
About Aston University Engineering Academy (AUEA)
AUEA is an inner city, technical school based in Birmingham, UK. Students from aged 14 - 19 attend the school and follow an engineering and science focused curriculum. Over 60% of students attending come from some of the most deprived post codes with in the UK. AUEA's deprivation index and Free school meals are significantly above the national Average.
About HTL Mödling
HTL Mödling is a Höhere Technische Lehranstalt (HTL, Higher Technical Education Institute), for 14-19 Year olds focused on engineering in Austria. Located around 14Km south of Vienna with around 3500 students it is one of the largest schools in Europe and largest in Austria. Students follow a discrete and focused curriculum in chosen specialties including electrical, mechanical, mechatronics and design.
Objectives of Project
1)To look at applying improvements we have discovered in teaching methods in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education across both schools.
2) To further enhance the use of CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) in STEM education.
3) To apply findings from our previous Erasmus+ project on the use of ICT in the classroom,particularly for the purpose of long-term mobility and collaboration between the partner organisations.
4) To apply ECVET, Europass Mobility and other methods of recognition of learning completed abroad during learning experiences abroad. To give an opportunity for students to have some of their learning completed and recognised in another European country.
5) To complete a Cultural Exchange focusing on the local industrial heritage of both regions, and to allow students to complete a collaborative project which involves mobilities.
6) Dissemination to the wider community must be part of all project objectives.
As identified in the project objectives, each partner brought significantly different strengths and areas for development to the project. For AUEA, the key strengths were its recent establishment and therefore modern outlook, its strong industrial links with local business partners and also the focus on technology in the classroom, particularly the use of smart devices, all of which formed part of the project aims. Both partners also brought with them the experience of collaboration over the previous 4 years through the previous KA2 Project, and also the Leonardo Mobility Project priorto that (2013-2015).
As the well-established school, HTL Mödling has a wealth of experience to offer in the field of technical education,having just completed its centenary this year. HTL Mödling has also already collaborated with a number of international partner schools and other organisations both in Europe and further afield, and therefore brought a significant amount of experience to the table when it came to international collaboration.
The strengths of each organisation had an impact on the choice of project aims. While HTL Mödling has been able to continue to benefit from AUEA's positive approach to the use of technology in the classroom, AUEA has been able to learn from an experienced technical school about the implementation of the curriculum. Staff at all levels, including the coordinators, were able to work together and use each other's strengths to further the aims of the project.
Year 13 Sandwich year
From February 2017 until December 2017, following a rigorous selection process, 5 students were selected for the Engineering Futures placement year. These students following completing their first 4 terms at Aston University Engineering Academy, were transferred for a year to HTL Mödling. During this time they were required to live independently as a group at the Austrian school's accommodation and attend classes with other HTL students.
Simultaneously two sets of two students from Austria, in two shorter blocks of 4 months, moved to Birmingham, UK and attended Aston University Engineering Academy.
Living in Austria was hard especially as I had to leave my friends and family behind. However, it was not until I returned that I realised the impact. Not only had I learnt new engineering skills, but surviving for so long abroad taught me independence, new languages and also increased confidence in my ability.
Challenges were expected with a pioneering project such as this and the lessons learnt will be used to develop future placement courses.
These challenges included: How to appropriately integrate the students into German speaking lessons, monitoring and attendance of students hundreds of miles away, academic challenge and social integration (especially with students from different ethnic backgrounds and vastly different to main Austrian cohort)
Although we believed that we had covered all potential problems, one challenge that materialised early on was how do the students eat when the school was closed? This was solved by the students placing online ordering from local supermarket, signed off each week by UK. This has logistical challenges as well as language barriers with local suppliers, but the students overcame these and became a self sufficient unit.
For the reciprocal Austrian students, they adapted well to life in the UK. As AUEA did not have accommodation a challenge was ensuring safe and secure accommodation could be found. This was achieved via local student flat.
The whole experience of living for my Year 13 in Austria at HTL Mödling was incredible. It taught me increased practical skills like lathe work and mechatronics. I learnt increased skills in CAD work and moulding processes. Having done a lot of theory work at AUEA it was really good to see manufacturing side. Having this unique cross-cultural experience in engineering has given me confidence to further study and complete work experience abroad.
The impact has been wider than our project considered. Each of the students benefited individually from gaining additional language skills, increasing their Engineering ability and qualifications as well as the wider social and soft skills including team work, independence and resilience. This was replicated in the Austrian Students living in Birmingham.
It was hoped that the students would become semi-fluent in German during their visit. Each of the UK students German did improve, however, the significant impact was seen in their Austrian classmates. By having the UK students in the class and their Austria classmates acting as mentors for the engineering, this expectantly led to strong friendships developing.
This extended into the evenings and weekends. Consequently the spoken and written English ability of the Austrian students exponentially increased allowing them to achieve higher grades in English.
Another impact was to the teachers pedagogy at HTL Mödling , as the school sort for many of the lessons (regardless of this project) moving to be delivered in English. The presence of the UK students within the class, forced teachers to engage with this methodology, improving their own teaching and English proficiency.
Short term exchange
As well as our long term placement year, for 5 students this project also had the opportunity for impact on a larger number of students via short 2 week exchange visits. During this time 24 Austrian students visited AUEA (December 2017) and 16 students visited HTL Mödling (February 2018). The visits to both schools included four key components.
- Attendance of academic lessons and workshop skills,
- Visits to local employers
- Social integration and peer mentoring
- Cultural visits and experiences.
"I have really enjoyed spending time at AUEA with the students. They are very different to the students in my school as they come from different backgrounds and religions, I have enjoyed being in lessons, working with other students. I also liked visiting Jaguar Landrover and looking at Automotive Engineering. I am looking forward to having AUEA students at my school in February to take them to my classes""
Following on from our Leonardo project in which we explored integrated classroom technologies within the two schools, technology formed an integral part of this project. This included:
All students were provided access to our VLE Firefly and a dedicated Erasmus resource zone. This enabled UK students to learn some fundemental German prior to going to Austria and Austrian Students to learn English.
To keep everyone both in Austria and UK updated with our project and visits, a blog was utilised within our firefly site. An example of post is included within the file section of this page (bottom)
A key component of this Erasmus partnership was the sharing of knowledge and skills in the use of engineering manufacturing processes. Given the age and experience of HTL Mödling in manufacturing their staff were able to help and guide our team at AUEA to support our manufacturing capabilities. Example of this is shown with our Denford Milling machines in action making F1 in schools cars as part of a workshop project.