Sixteen students from Staffordshire University’s School of Creative Arts and Engineering took part in a five-day virtual design challenge set by Swedish technology company VX Fiber.
The competition brought students together from Engineering and Design as part of Staffordshire University’s “Get Ahead” and “Creative Connection” projects. They were tasked with designing street-side furniture to house fibre-optic cables, which would complement or even improve their surroundings.
The challenge was presented by VX Fiber and a team of academic mentors. The company was overwhelmed with the creative confidence and quality of the submissions produced in the five-day sprint and they plan to work with the University to bring a combination of the design concepts to market in the coming months.
VX Fiber Chairman Mikael Sandberg awarded the prizes at a virtual prize-giving this month, and stated: “The project has been a tremendous success already, and we’ve had great fun reviewing the entries for the challenge. VX Fiber is working closely with Stoke-on-Trent City Council to rollout full fibre gigabit connectivity to homes and businesses across the region. Access to Gigabit connectivity is an essential part of modern day living - it’s about faster speeds and more reliable connections for residents and businesses, but it also plays a vital role in transforming communities with improvements such as better access to employment, education and healthcare.
“Our involvement with the citywide project goes beyond being just an infrastructure delivery partner, we’re keen to work collaboratively with key stakeholders such as Staffordshire University as part of our approach to fully engage with local communities across the region and put the Council and its citizens first with the UK’s first part-publicly-owned Open Access Gigabit Network.”
Five students were awarded prizes, with first place going to Ed Andrews, who studies Aeronautical Engineering. Joint-second went to Product Design students Zac Lewis and Jessica Weigelt who teamed up together during the challenge, and third place was awarded to Mechanical Engineering student Aimee Walters. An extra fourth prize was given to MA student Tobias Ziegler for the innovation in his concept.
Student Ed Andrews commented: "I want to say a huge thank you to VX Fiber for not only providing me with a thought provoking and challenging project, but also for helping me to develop my design skills and improve my confidence in my own work. It took me a couple of days to get over the shock of winning, and I am delighted that I have come up with a potential design solution that will not only benefit the company but also the wider community in Stoke-on-Trent."
Jess Power, Associate Dean for Students and organiser of the event, said: “I am delighted with the partnership with VX Fiber. The Project synthesized everything that was great about Creative Connection and brought the first year of a three-year Royal Academy of Engineering funded project to a very positive close.
“Part of the Staffordshire experience is about creating sustainable networks whilst studying and working outside your comfort zone. The focus of the Creative Connection is three-fold: to increase learning opportunities, build sustainable networks both within and beyond the University and develop skills for life. This challenge brought together all three on the last week of term.”
Councillor Daniel Jellyman, Cabinet Member for Infrastructure, Regeneration and Heritage, added: “It’s great to see VX Fiber working with the University to give students a taste of a real-world Engineering and Design brief. This is the sort of collaborative project that can inspire young people to achieve even greater things and hopefully be Stoke-on-Trent’s world-class Engineers of the future. It also helps to show the fantastic things that are happening with digital technology in this great city.
“This innovative full fibre broadband project with VX Fiber is going to provide access to gigabit connectivity for residents and businesses, which is an essential part of 21st century living. A gigabit connection also puts the city in charge of its digital future and at the forefront of broadband technology in the UK, which will help to bring huge economic benefits to the area.”