Student stories

Previous participants of The Birmingham Project share their experiences

Previous year's students tackled a range of challenges set by University of Birmingham academics, some of which were awarded prizes by our external partners. We asked them to share their experience of participating in The Birmingham Project

BSc Chemistry student

Theme: Designing the Future of Transport

Challenge: How can we make active travel work in the West Midlands?

Challenge Lead: Professor Ian Thomson 

External Partner: Transport for West Midlands (TfWM)

Project: "Tranplan" mobile phone app

How did your group tackle your challenge?

Early on in the process we quickly brain stormed how we could provide a solution. We also identified the different skill sets from our degree programmes, thus allowing us to assign specific roles and help spread the workload accordingly. We also did the inevitable shed load of reading around our topic to help us get a rough image.

What was the most memorable moment of taking part?

Getting the feedback for our presentations was a moment I can’t forget. Getting judged by 8 important people from Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) was a daunting experience during the presentation but we did better than we thought when they gave us their comments on how we tackled the problem. They told they’d take concepts we developed (from scratch) and possibly implement them in future projects.

What has been your focus over the summer, since completing the project?

Since the completing the Birmingham Project, I have been searching and applying to Year in Industry and summer programmes, just to get the most experience I can and to help me stand out of the crowd. Without mentioning the Birmingham Project, I would have found it difficult to answer interview questions but I have been able to talk about team work and being a key team player.

Do you have any advice for students who are thinking about enrolling on The Birmingham Project?

I would 100% recommend the Birmingham Project, it’ll help you find out what type of team player you are. You’ll improve your ability to work under pressure, as two weeks to research and to create a digital output is quite short. Hopefully you’ll see that you’ve changed at the end of it.

Also, you never know, you could be offered exclusive internship opportunities like my team were; I was able to complete a further two weeks of work experience at Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) at their Summer Lane offices. It really is a win-win situation.

MSci Mathematics student

Theme: Designing the Future of Transport

Challenge: How can we make active travel work in the West Midlands?

Challenge Lead: Professor Ian Thomson

External Partner: Transport for West Midlands

Project: "Tranplan" mobile phone app

How did your group tackle your challenge?

My group has a very focused approach to the challenge. We stated the milestones we needed to achieve very early on, and kept those goals in sight throughout the challenge. At the start of our day, we all planed what needed to get done and we did not leave until it was completed. We all had our strengths and we played to them.  

What was the most memorable moment of taking part?

There are a few that come to mind. We had some interesting debates, both on topic and off topic in our spare time but I think the most memorable moment had to be after the awards presentation. We did not win our challenge but whilst we were celebrating our experience together, we were approached by a colleague from Transport for West Midlands (TfWM). She congratulated us on our hard work and told us that if we ever wanted placements that she would be happy to get us involved with the organisation. We were all tired and washed out from the intensive two weeks and her praise made it all seem worth it. Our hard work had actually achieved something. 

What has been your focus over the summer, since completing the project?

Following the offer of a placement from TfWM, I was able to work with them on a student-specific project, along with one other person from my Birmingham Project team. We were tasked in surveying the public's views on the refurbishment of the University train station.

We learnt critical skills about data processing, presentation and questionnaire building in a corporate setting. During the two week placement we surveyed around 500 people, analysed qualitative data and were able to give a presentation to a few of the stakeholders involved in the University train station project. So although we did not continue with the work we started during the Birmingham Project, we were able to start on a new project that could continue into summers to come. 

Do you have any advice for students who are thinking about enrolling on The Birmingham Project?

DO IT! Enrol! It is so worth all the blood, sweat and tears! I made good friends across so many subjects. I learnt how to project manage, how to work as an equal part in a team, and how to design and brand a product I had no idea how to begin building. It is a project that will stretch your mind, improve so many skills and may even land you an internship.

My only advice would be to put everything you have into it. You can NEVER be over prepared for anything. Do not get disheartened by seeing other groups projects, yours may still win even if you think someone else’s project is better. 

BSc Economics student

2a Society App

Challenge:  How can we engage citizens in local decision making?

Challenge Lead: Dr Yao YaoDr Kamilya Suleymenova

External Partner: PwC

Project: 'Civitas' - app

How did your group tackle your challenge?

We had so many ideas initially related to how the features of our digital output could tackle the real-world issues of so many citizens not getting involved in local decision making. We surveyed members of the public to see which of these features people would find most useful and which platform (e.g. an app or website) they would prefer. Our presentation was designed with fun elements included in it such as a prototype app we could click through and a short advert. We thought that things we found fun to create would also be interesting for an audience to watch. 

What was the most memorable moment of taking part?

Undoubtedly, finding out that I had won CIMA's business challenge on the final day. My group members were so supportive towards me! 

What has been your focus over the summer, since completing the project?

Over the summer, I mostly took time to relax and spend time with my family. I also applied to some ad-hoc jobs at the university. The Birmingham Project really boosted my CV for these purposes.

Do you have any advice for students who are thinking about enrolling on The Birmingham Project?

Go ahead and enrol! Working in a team as part of The Birmingham Project can be quite different to working on group projects on your course as the project is opt in. This tends to mean your team is enthusiastic and workload is split evenly. Don’t be put off if you don’t think you have the skills to do it, I now see myself as much better at working within teams, more confident and as having better digital skills.

 

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