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Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology

Sutton Trust summer school 2022 challenge student winners

CEB hosted the first in-person Sutton Trust summer school from 23 to 26 August with an aim to engage young students with chemical engineering and biotechnology.  

The Sutton Trust is an educational charity that partners with Universities to offer programmes designed to support high-achieving students from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

The Summer Schools are completely free for young students to attend as the costs are covered by the University and the Sutton Trust. The selected students stay in a Cambridge College for a week, experience world-class teaching and engage with academics and current undergraduates in their subject of interest, and find out more about how to apply to study at Cambridge.  

The running theme of our summer school programme was chocolate and it was run in collaboration with Nestlé’s Confectionery Product Technology Centre in York. The sessions involved a mix of lectures and presentations given by academics alongside practical activities carried out in our teaching laboratory, makerspace and computer suite. The practical sessions were supported by current  chemical engineering undergraduates. The Year 12 students learnt about fluid dynamics, product design, process control, sustainability, and economics in chemical engineering and had the opportunity to apply the lecture material by designing and prototyping their own product.   

The summer school had great appeal among the student cohort: it was set up as a fun challenge with five teams designing their own chocolate bar using CAD. Their designs were 3D printed overnight and the 3D prints were subsequently used as formers over which plastic was vacuum formed to produce the chocolate moulds.   

The students were then invited to characterise a molten chocolate dispensing system in a series of experiments and had to share their results to learn from each other how the whole system functioned. Along the way, they learnt about the science of chocolate, and chocolate moulding techniques to be able to dispense the perfect amount of chocolate into the mould and let it set to achieve the intended specification and definition  

By the end of the week, and having completed the challenge set, many students were pleasantly surprised to find that chemical engineers work in a far greater variety of sectors than the petrochemicals industry 

Academic organisers at CEB Dr Kamran Yunus and Dr Zach Bond, Teaching Associate, commented on the impact of this outreach initiative 

The summer school gave us the opportunity to show that even apparently simple products depend on complicated and fascinating processing techniques developed and refined by chemical engineers and biotechnologists. Our intention was to show that studying chemical engineering and biotechnology at undergraduate level is enjoyable and equips undergraduates with the tools they need to analyse, design and optimise systems for producing any product, from sustainable electricity to their favourite chocolate bar.   

Jonathan Taylor, Engineering Expert, Nestlé Confectionery Product Technology Centre in York working with CEB to deliver the summer school said It was an honour to take part in the recent summer school event, partnering with Cambridge University Engineering Department and the Sutton Trust - it’s such a fantastic initiative. I was thrilled to be able to contribute to the programme over the course of the week as well as share my personal experience as an engineer working in the world of confectionery research and development. 

It was a fantastic week and I was really impressed with the students’ product designs and how quickly they got to grips with the processes involved regarding moulding and tempering chocolate. 

Hopefully, by the end of the week, we helped to encourage and inspire the next generation of engineers, presenting students with the perhaps unconsidered opportunities available in this discipline – including a career in chocolate! 

Overall, given the success of the first in-person Sutton Trusty Summer school, CEB will be asking Central Admissions to consider accepting a higher number of students interested in the discipline to take part next year.

Those interested in applying to do a Sutton Trust summer school in chemical engineering and biotechnology in 2023 check here for upcoming information.