Duke flies in to see engineering students

PUBLISHED: 17:39 16 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:02 22 October 2010


Engineering students who have been putting their classroom theory into practice found themselves face-to-face with a royal observer.

Engineering students who have been putting their classroom theory into practice found themselves face-to-face with a royal observer.

The Duke of Edinburgh flew into the National Construction College at Bircham Newton in West Norfolk by helicopter and spent about an hour watching civil engineering students from Imperial College London building versions of engineering landmarks during a five-day project called Constructionarium.

The projects the Prince Philip looked at were replicas of the stunning Millau Viaduct in central France, the East Reef pier in Essex, the mushroom-shaped Naples underground station and a version of the Ravenspurn oil rig in the North Sea.

And the man who accompanied the Duke round the projects was Chris Wise, the chief engineer for the Millennium Bridge over the Thames. Mr Wise originally introduced the scheme and it has since been developed by the Construction College, Expedition Engineering and John Doyle Construction.

While Prince Philip had been involved in celebrations for the Queen's official birthday and his own earlier 85th birthday, he showed no sign of tiredness and impressed all the students with his high level of interest and probing questions.

The Duke, Senior Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng), had personally asked if he could see the projects in progress after reading about them in the Royal Academy of Engineering magazine, Ingenia.

Among the students working on the Millau project was Frances Bowler, 21, a former student of Norwich High School, who lives at Beccles when not studying in London.

She is being sponsored through university by Breheny Engineering and will be working for the company during the summer.

“It was nice that the Duke wanted to come here and see the projects himself and the questions he asked showed his interest in engineering. The practical work here has been a good experience for me personally,” said Frances.

Third year Oliver Broadbent, leader on the East Reef pier project, described the scheme as being at the cutting edge of student teaching.

“For the students I think this is the highlight of their four years at Imperial College”, he said.

The Duke's visit showed the importance of the project and how privileged they were to be doing it, he said.

Fellow student Gemma Reece said it is a real life experience. “It is so valuable to have this experience and some of these students had never been on site before,” she said.

Anthony Buckley-Thorp said that they were so on target with their project on the Ravenspurn oil rig replica that they were able to watch the England world cup match on Thursday afternoon.

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