Framework Training supported Queen's University Belfast & University of York with specialist training on best practices for software development to support a new interdisciplinary project called RIED: ReImagining Engineering Design - to drive the generation of new methods for design engineering.
Queen’s University Belfast is a prestigious Russell Group university with a strong focus on pioneering research, especially in the areas of medical science and engineering. Belfast is one of the main manufacturing and engineering hubs in the UK, enjoying connections with local companies such as Bombardier Aerospace, and has been named among the UK’s fastest growing tech cities.
The university has a large undergraduate and international population and according to a 2021 report, has approximately 25,000 students in the university and 4,300 staff.
University of York is also a Russell Group university and part of the N8 Research Partnership; a partnership created in 2006 of the eight most research-intensive universities in Northern England – Durham, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and York. It aims to maximise the impact of this research base by identifying and co-ordinating powerful research teams and collaborations across the north of England.
Established in 1963, the university has a green, parkland campus and approximately 22,020 national and international students. The university’s School of Physics, Engineering and Technology offers a wide range of courses and is at the forefront of pioneering research and technological development in eight core themes which includes communication technologies and science.
Between 2017 and 2019, the universities worked on a research project that began with a focus on engineering and evolved into the development of a software system. During the project, it transpired that the team needed specialised training on best practices for software development and commissioned Framework Training for this work.
Dr Imelda Friel, Research Fellow at the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Queen’s University Belfast and Simon Hickinbotham from the School of Physics, Engineering and Technology at the University of York, are part of an important new interdisciplinary project called RIED: ReImagining Engineering Design. An initiative of Queen’s University Belfast, it brings in expertise from other engineers and computer scientists and uses a technique called ‘evodevo’ to drive the generation of new methods for design engineering. Loughborough University is also working on the project.
Imelda and Simon had identified that, despite a wide range of skills and expertise across the team of eight researchers, some key skills were missing.
The distributed research team, which encompasses mechanical and aerospace engineers, biologists and computer scientists, needed training that not only plugged knowledge and skills gaps, but also provided a methodology that could be used in the team's day-to-day practice. They needed to be equipped with the technical tools to collaborate effectively during the ongoing multi-discipline project and skills that could be applied back to the project right away.
The training programme also had to be delivered in an allocated time period of eight days and within the parameters of an overall project budget.
Following a very positive experience with the previous project and the quality of training provided, Imelda and Simon were keen to work with Framework Training again.
After initial meetings with Tom Walker, our Technical Director, they concluded that our proposal was the most approachable and well thought-out. In particular, they were impressed that we took the time to understand the project aims and to appreciate the academic environment the researchers operated in. We were delighted to be working with Imelda and Simon again.
Between March and May 2022, we delivered an extensive training programme that comprised Python programming best practices (largely Test Driven Development), key DevOps platforms for team collaboration and an introduction to Agile.
The RIED team uses a software management system called GitLab and had asked if this could be incorporated into the programme. We were happy to oblige, and worked with Imelda and Simon to design a bespoke syllabus that covered the following topics:
As the teams were cross-institutional and geographically dispersed, the training was delivered remotely and split over six full days and four half days to avoid content overload.
Imelda and Simon provided very positive feedback on the training programme.
Crucially, they were impressed with how well the brief was met and that the project team had a full methodology moving forward. They liked that the programme was bespoke, and took into account the three university’s different infrastructures and software tools, and was taught over three differing operating systems.
The trainers for each respective element of the training programme were Mo, Calvin, John and Andy. Imelda and Simon could not find fault with anything they did. Simon noted that, “We had very different levels in programming that would have been a challenge for them. The fact that they took that on board and were able to facilitate that for the duration of the training was very impressive.”
Imelda and Simon believed the trainers showed great flexibility and were incredibly accommodating. They said, “The trainers had a unique challenge; approaching the delegates as an academic group that were cross-institutional with a varying skills set — which they did not shy away from”.
During the training they were being taught about what was going on behind the scenes of a complex command-based file handling system, which the trainer was able to simplify with visual tools.
They noted that our trainers asked for examples from the delegates of the work they did on the project and an idea of how the knowledge and skills they would be learning would be directly applied after the programme. They believe this accelerated the learning process.
Finally, they valued the hands-on, approachable manner shown by the trainers and came away with a sense that they were firmly on the delegates' side and helping them to achieve their goals; by putting everyone at ease, providing helpful examples and encouraging them to become involved and ask questions.
All of these factors combined resulted in a very positive learning experience overall.
Imelda and Simon can see the impact the
training programme has had on the project team and their work. It has filled
the required knowledge gaps and increased the team's confidence.
As part of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council programme, the RIED project uses a Gantt chart which outlines a plan for the five year duration. As a result of the training, the project team are revisiting this and breaking down the plan into sprints, including the area of software management, which the training with Framework Training has shown was not being used effectively.
Finally, the project team now has testing in place, which they did not know how
to set up or use before, and have reviewed some of their working practices
based on the training delivered.
Imelda and Simon would definitely consider using Framework Training’s services again if a future training need arose — and we would be delighted to work with them for a third time.
We would love to design a technical training programme catering to your learning and project goals - we can take into account your team's existing skills, the tech stack you've identified, and help advise on useful tools and techniques to put the finishing touches on a learning strategy tailored to meet your needs.
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