My Year at ITL - Victoria
Victoria Ward, an undergraduate student at Brunel University, has been working with ITL for the last year as part of her Medical Engineering degree.
We asked her a few questions to find out more about what she’s been up to…
Q: Before we get into the work placement, tell us some more about your degree
A: I study Mechanical Engineering at Brunel University. My degree has a lot of contact hours and most of my lectures involve Maths. My degree is much more theoretical than practical but I have labs to conduct experiments and learn how to use computer software like Matlab and Catia. The majority of the modules I study have exams but I also do group projects.
Q: What was it like starting out at ITL?
A: When I think back to my first day at ITL I remember the excitement and nervousness I felt as I was being shown around the company, meeting new people and desperately trying to remember names! Thinking back, I had no idea how beneficial my year at ITL would be.
Q: What have you been working on during your time with us?
A: My first project, given to me within my first few days, was to make a handle attachment for a microtiter plate. It was the first experience I had of designing and manufacturing something for a real client.
It took several weeks and a lot of help from my mentor Dan Hollands, a mechanical engineer at ITL, to come up with a design. From this I gained knowledge of the design lifecycle of a product as the handle went through several reviews with project managers before it was ready to be manufactured.
My small handle project was just as important as other aspects of the overall project being undertaken by ITL and I had a huge sense of pride when I finally had my 3D printed handle sitting on my desk ready to be sent to the client. In this project I learnt how to use Solidworks more efficiently and about manufacturing processes like injection moulding, machining and 3D printing.
Another project I worked on in the last year was an X-Y Mechanism that ITL uses to demonstrate their engineering skills at tradeshows. The device consists of ball bearings located in a microtiter plate with a blue LED above illuminating and pausing at each ball to mimic a reader. The mech was originally integrated in to a real-time PCR device designed by ITL. The plate and holder had broken and I was given the task of finding an alternative as the old one was no longer being manufactured.
I learnt about time management in this project as I only had two weeks to complete it so I used Gantt charts to aid my organisation.
In the end I designed a metal plate that a new microtiter plate could fit onto. The plate was machined as I wanted to make it aesthetically the best it could be. I also had lots of contact with the manufacturer as I needed a quick turnaround.
I completed the project ahead of schedule and I was very happy with the results.
Q: What have you learnt during your time at ITL?
A: I have worked on a wide range of projects throughout the year and have been involved with all aspects of the role of an engineer. This includes thing like communicating and working directly with clients, adhering to deadlines, working with other engineers and even leading a project.
I have learnt a vast amount over the last year. As proof of how much my skills have developed during my placement, a few months ago I had to remake my handle and completed it with drawings in two days!
Q: What would you say to other students considering work placements?
A: The lecturers at Brunel University raved about the benefits of having a placement year and I now understand why. All those theoretical ideas and equations suddenly come to life when you experience engineering first-hand and I realise now that those hundreds of hours of lectures I once found laborious were important. I can’t emphasise enough how right those lecturers were and I believe that this placement has prepared me for work after University.
Q: Anything else you would like to tell us about your work placement?
A: Working at ITL has been exciting as I have been treated like a graduate engineer and thrown in at the deep end
I have been working in the R&D department but I have had experience in all other departments too meaning that I now have a much better understanding of how a company is run.
ITL is a friendly place to work, everyone is happy to help and I know everyone’s names now.
So, 12 months (and a lot of cake) later I have gained a wealth of knowledge and I am enthusiastic to get back to University to put my new skills into practice.