28 January 2013

Professor Peter Hills’ pit stop visit to the Engineering Building at Wheatley

Brookes F1 Test Rig

Professor Peter Hills is an Oxford Brookes alumnus in every sense of the word. The past student and University lecturer returned to Oxford Brookes on the 23rd November to visit the Engineering building at the Wheatley Campus.

The visit also gave Peter the opportunity to learn about how his key interest and the driving force behind his career, Mechanical Engineering, has changed at Brookes since he studied and taught it here 55 years ago.

His relationship with Brookes began in 1952 when he was sent to The College of Technology, now Oxford Brookes University, on Cowley Road for a day course in Mechanical Engineering. The course formed part of Peter’s apprenticeship at Pressed Steel Co. Five years later Peter began a three year sandwich HND course in the same subject area, in one of the earliest buildings of what is now Gipsy Lane campus. He reflects how both courses gave him “excellent grounding” for his industrial and academic career.

After a short time while working at his family’s retail business he was spotted, purely by chance, by his previous Head of Department who encouraged him to apply for a lectureship at the college. Having accepted this position, Peter progressed over the years to become the Senior Lecturer in Engineering Design at Oxford Polytechnic. Amongst his students was the famous car designer, builder and driver Adrian Reynard, who Peter remembers well for his “sheer ambition and drive”.

Compared to what Peter describes as the single storey “wavy topped” building that he studied his HND course in, the nine million pound environmentally innovative engineering building at Wheatley Campus is leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessors. However, he believes that the most impressive feature was the facilities and sheer amount of space available to students, and how the building combined theory and practice in a “remarkable way”. It was the F1-specification four post-test rig particularly caught Peter’s eye.

After lecturing at Brookes, Peter Hills became head of Engineering Design at the Royal Military College of Science, where he ran the only MSc in Gun System Design in the Western world.

Considering all of these significant achievements it is inspiring to hear that Peter still regards teaching at Brookes and being President of the Institution of Engineering Designers as his greatest accomplishments.