“Innovative Learning”

Innovative Learning Week (or Trebuchets and Engineering-Art)

Starting in 2012, the University of Edinburgh introduced a new week into the academic year called “Innovative Learning Week” or ILW.  During ILW staff and students are encouraged to develop and take part in activities that are educational but wouldn’t fit within a traditional, prescriptive curriculum.   The week is very refreshing as it is not constrained by rules and expectations about assessment, syllabus requirements and so on but allows for a wide range of imaginative and creative approaches to education that would not normally be possible. I have developed been involved with a range of ILW activities that have all been highly worthwhile and enjoyable to staff and students alike.  A summary of all these is given this paper .

TrebuchetTrebuchet Building

In 2012, with Luke Bisby and Tim Stratford, I  ran a trebuchet building competition in ILW.  Trebuchets were a form of mediaeval siege eqiupment for throwing rocks at enemy castles.  We went for slightly smaller versions than the originals, but still subtantial (about 2m by 3m) and threw beach balls of water around rather than rocks.  It took about 3 days to build each trebuchet and then a day to text them all on the University playing fields.  Everyone learnt a lot about practical building skills, artillery and teamwork.  We also had a lot of fun.  Full details are given here and the prize winning trebuchet is on display in the main stairwell in the School of Engineering at Edinburgh.


Engineers and artists are traditionally educated completely separately with little if any chance for interaction.  This is a pity as much of the best engineering and applications of art occurs when the two disciplines interact, for example, the Angel of the North or many modern electronics.  ILW was an opportunity to experiment with combing engineering and art students with the aim of producing pieces of engineering-inpsired art.  This proved very successful with both group of students (and associated staff) learning a lot about each other’s disciplines.  A range on interesting pieces of art were also produced.    Full details of the experience are given in this article.


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