Students at Hull’s Ron Dearing University Technical College (UTC) have been given a high-tech first glimpse of exactly how their state-of-the-art school will look once expansion work is complete.
The employer-led school in Kingston Square has been oversubscribed every year since it opened its doors in 2017. Following significant funding from the Department for Education (DfE), it is increasing student places from 600 to 800 to meet growing demand.
Phase one of the expansion, completed in August, involved remodelling areas of the existing school building to create two new science laboratories, a new science classroom and additional independent study space for sixth formers.
Phase two includes the renovation and repurposing of the former Central Fire Station next door to the school into a satellite site.
Contractor Sewell Construction organised a mixed and augmented reality (AR) tour of the former fire station for the Ron Dearing UTC Student Design and Build Team, who used the latest holographic technology to bring the architect’s plans to life based on a 3D model of the site.
They used headsets, hollow lens equipment, tablets and mobile phones to visualise exactly how each area of the building will look, scanning QR codes to pinpoint various parts of the project.
The space was brought to life during the tour, enabling students to digitally feel part of the finished environment.
Mark Boothby, Joint Managing Director of Sewell Construction, which is embedding AR technology across the business, said: “Until this technology became more available, the only way to view the finished outcome was on a fixed screen or wait until it is constructed.
“Now, you can take it to site to compare it to the real-life environment, rather than having to rely on 2D information, and this approach will be used even more widely in the years ahead.
“It’s important for us to show the students where the industry and technology is heading and vitally important they are aware of it. Some of them may want to work in the construction industry and this is showing them the future.”
The ground floor of the former fire station will house a “smart” exhibition centre which will be used by students and the UTC’s employer partners to showcase low carbon technologies and lead the green revolution across the region. It will also double up as a creative exhibition space to host artists in residence, art exhibitions, arts markets and community arts projects.
The first and second floors will be home to STEAM Studios, which will provide the UTC’s fast-growing Creative specialism with three first class art and design studios, a ceramics room, printmaking facilities and two high-tech digital labs. Floor one will also house a brand new Sixth Form Centre.
The project is being carried out with a strong emphasis on sustainable construction practises, making use of green technologies to bring the former fire station back to life and ensure it is transformed into a vibrant, low carbon building.
Year 12 student Molly Warburton, 16, used both mixed and augmented reality (AR) technology during the tour and saw the former fire station brought to life as a working learning environment.
She said: “I could see a creative studio through the lens and I was really impressed by the level of detail. It’s a really exciting time for Ron Dearing UTC and it’s brilliant to see how the fire station will look when it’s finished. The tour was really interesting and a great opportunity for students.”
Fellow Year 12 student Lleyton Sharpe, 16, who hopes to secure an engineering apprenticeship in the future, said: “The tour was really good because it’s teaching us additional skills using new technology and helping us understand more about sustainability. You don’t often see this side of a building project.
“The expansion will be great for students in the future and I think more people will want to come and learn at Ron Dearing UTC.”
Work to expand Ron Dearing UTC began earlier this year after Hull City Council gave the go-ahead for the plans. Hull Esteem Consortium LEP Ltd is acting as project managers on the expansion scheme, Space Architects drew up the plans and BuildingPoint UK and Ireland provided the technology for the student tour.
Lynn Garland-Collins, Director of Creativity at Ron Dearing UTC, said: “The tour showcased the importance of learning digital skills to open up further opportunities in the future and support students into exciting careers in the creative, construction, digital and renewables industries.
“Our creative pathway is in high demand and we’re delighted we’ll be able to accommodate so many more Year 12 students in such wonderful, purpose-built, creative facilities.
“The additional space and specialist facilities also means we can increase the number of creative qualifications we can offer, including A-levels in Graphics and Product Design in addition to the Photography, Fine Art and iMedia courses we already run.”
Ron Dearing UTC caters for students aged from 14 to 19 and offers a unique model of employer-led education with a specialist focus on digital technology, creative digital and digital engineering.
The expansion will enable an additional 200 students to study Level 3 qualifications in engineering, creative and digital and provide local industry with additional highly skilled and qualified potential employees every year.