Volunteering with Vertically Integrated Projects

Posted in: Skills Development, Volunteering and Approved Roles

As a University of Bath Gold Scholar, it is an expectation to commit 50 hours of your time each year to volunteering. This is one of the most fun and rewarding aspects of the programme. The range of opportunities are far and wide and just waiting to be explored. However, it can sometimes be difficult to navigate through what is available and consistently meet your targets. In this blog I hope to shed light on a particular opportunity I took part in and reveal to you my experience with vertically integrated projects (VIPs). The reason I have chosen to write about this is because before being introduced to the projects by the Gold Team, I had no knowledge of the programme. I believe this blog will introduce you to VIPS and help clarify what these projects are and what to expect from taking part.

What are Vertically Integrated Projects?

VIPs are collaborative research endeavours uniting students from diverse disciplines and interests. These projects offer a chance to cultivate technical knowledge while developing your ability to work in a team. When I began my first year of university, I wanted to know how to best make the most of my time. When I consulted the Gold Team, they were very useful and introduced me to so many opportunities that I did not know about. VIPs were one of them and immediately appealed to me. What I liked about VIPs was the coverage of skills and experience they offered. For example, it was a technical challenge that required problem solving but also, it was a team effort that required effective communication.

There is a university website dedicated to VIPs. This was useful as it showcases everything there is to know about the programme and exactly how you can get involved, the application form was quick and easy. Applications open around the beginning of both semester one and semester two.

My experience joining a VIP.

Final design created by the teamI joined Bath Biodevices – one of the VIPs at Bath - in semester two of my first year. When I first joined, I was apprehensive. I had assumed there were expectations of prior skills. However, after my first meeting I was completely at ease. Firstly, I was not the only new arrival to the project and the meeting accommodated this with brief introductions of everyone, making the induction a comfortable experience. Secondly, the leading members of the project team were very welcoming and had no expectation of prior skills or experience. This is something I was concerned about before joining in the project but quickly relieved of.

Much of the first weeks were spent doing my own research on the project and coming up tospeed on the progress of the project. The project lead had notified the rest of the team and suggested getting me more involved. After this, multiple divisions of the project approached me and asked if I would be interested in helping them, I felt encouraged and welcomed by everyone. As a mechanical engineering student, I was most interested in joining the design team an

d so I did. This meant that I would be attending more regular meetings that were exclusive to the design team and that would eventually be shared in our more general meetings.

Jamie's initial design contribution

Following the first design meeting, I began working on the project using skills that I had learnt on my course. For example, one of my initial tasks was to design a sensor housing for the device we were working on. I used CAD software I had recently learnt to use as part of my course. The initial input was far from perfect, but it was something the whole team could now work on and develop. From here on, I became more and more familiar with the project and more confident in my contributions. I felt I could use my initiative outside of meetings to make further progress on the project.

As the projects are predominantly led by students, there was always understanding at times where coursework and lectures were in the way of completing tasks or attending meetings. Of course, there is an expectation of regular time commitment but there were never any consequences for being unable to commit. Only when it is a regular occurrence does it become an issue.


The biodevices design teamThe experience is likely to be different depending on the project you work on but across all the

 projects everyone is happy to have new people involved, they do not have any expectations and appreciated any kind of additional volunteering. There was no need to worry about having no relevant skills or experience. I think working on VIPs is a wonderful experience for any student. Because of the regularity of VIP meetings, for a Gold Scholar, it offers a way of consistently adding up your VAR hours.

My time spent with Bath Biodevices taught me so much about how to collaborate with others and bring technical skills and apply them to real world problems. The project also provided me with a valuable opportunity to network with other students on my course, as well as being a great experience to add to my CV. The experience was fun and the team sometimes held socials to celebrate milestones we had reached making the whole project even more enjoyable.

This is a link to the VIP page, where you can find more information and get involved:

Posted in: Skills Development, Volunteering and Approved Roles


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