Student Extra-curriculum Programme allows creativity to become reality

25 August 2021

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2021 is the tenth year that the Faculty of Science and Engineering (FoSE) of the University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC) has offered the Student Extra-curriculum Programme (SEP). Unlike previous programmes, this year the SEP extends across the whole academic year. During the last term, the programme included 14 scientific research projects with the participation of 124 students. This summer, approximately 400 students joined over 100 scientific research projects.

The FoSE Undergraduate Research Placement is a crucial part of the SEP, which aims to provide opportunities for students to contact and interact with peer students from different disciplines and years; it serves as a platform for students to explore the essence of scientific research, improve scientific research skills and find their own interests, to release the potential of students and enhance their comprehensive capabilities. Considering the impact of the pandemic, there are also quite a number of projects available to off-campus students.

The Innovation Lab, another significant component of the SEP, serves as an innovative platform hosting a number of student-centred projects. Here students are able to explore their field of interest and turn their innovative ideas into practice. The University offers students a professional supervisory team to support them to integrate theory and practice, improving students’ ability to apply knowledge and think independently.

The Bionic Manipulator Controlled by Muscle Electronic Sensor developed by two undergraduates Aiyang Yu, Jiancheng Sun and PhD candidate Xinpei Wang, was very innovative. The device can be used to help patients with limb or finger disabilities, and each finger and each joint of the “bionic manipulator” is proven to be independent – with a success rate of control over 80%. “This is one of the best summer research projects that I have supervised,” said Dr Chengbo Wang, Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

The team of Weixin Zhang, Zhanhui Lu and Zongxuan Liu of Civil Engineering carried out research on developing green cement-based material out of industrial waste. Dr Bo Li, Associate Professor in Structural Engineering and their supervisor, commented that the experience of the complete scientific cycle, from literature review to result analysis, promoted their academic literacy as well as their innovative thinking.

Encouraging students to participate in industrial and commercial projects rather than innovation without practical possibility is a key feature of SEP. Haozhong Yang and Yizheng Wang joined the project team of Dr Haonan Li, Associate Professor in the Department of Aerospace, focusing on path planning of milling tool for complex parts and machine tool optimisation. “The problems solved are real demands from the industry, which makes the students' research more purposeful and practical,” said Dr Li.

Focusing on students’ experiences and respecting each student’s innovation and creativity, the summer research programmes have developed rapidly over the past ten years. A UNNC team won third prize in the international group in the RoboMaster competition founded by DJI. The team members started their own business after graduation to develop adaptive electronic suspension control systems suitable for two wheeled vehicles. In addition, four projects from the Innovation Lab headed to compete in this year's Challenge Cup.

“After years of exploration, we are pleased to see that students have not only found their own interests and research direction, but also discovered a new possibility for knowledge transfer, innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Professor Tao Wu, Dean of FoSE.

In his opinion, the SEP reflects the concept of student-centred international talent cultivation and quality control of higher education of UNNC. Currently, all engineering undergraduate programmes (except new programmes) at UNNC have obtained international accreditation, as well as multiple other programmes such as Architecture, Computer Science and Computer Science with Artificial Intelligence. Through interactive and heuristic project-based teaching and individual or team-based programmes, FoSE helps student to improve their innovation, design abilities, cross-cultural communication skills, as well as helping to develop independent and engineering thinking modes. It has also cultivated generations of graduates favored by world-class institutions and enterprises.