Student ideas take off at new Spitfire gallery

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Students from a range of Staffordshire University degree courses put their creative heads together to devise new educational resources for the Spitfire Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent.

This year the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery (PMAG) in Hanley is opening a new gallery to celebrate the iconic Spitfire created by the designer Reginald J. Mitchell who was born and educated in North Staffordshire. The gallery will be an education hub that celebrates design, engineering and technology and re-interprets the story of the Spitfire and its place in history.

PMAG challenged Staffordshire University students to explore ways to engage the next generation of designers and engineers by using the iconic aircraft as inspiration. Students were tasked to think about synthesizing community, learning, heritage and technology to provide a creative solution to engage visitors with activities and artefacts.

The competition brought students together from Aeronautical Engineering, Computer Science, Engineering Design, Film, Fine Art, Games Design, Graphics, Industrial Design, and Mechanical Engineering as part of the Creative Connections Project funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Over two days, five teams worked together virtually using Microsoft Teams, alongside tutorials from Visiting Professor of Innovation Andrew Lawrence, Jean Milton from PMAG, Bev Reardon from the Spitfire Project, and Associate Dean and RAE Project Lead Professor Jess Power.

The winners came up with the “Spitfire Gallery Pilot’s Logbook” based on a WW2 logbook from the Battle of Britain. The concept includes activities about women in engineering and the life of Reginald Mitchell with the team designing accessible versions for people with visual impairments.

BSc (Hons) Engineering Design student Ash Johnson from the winning team said: “My neighbour Roy was an RAF engineer and a friend of the family when I was growing up. He didn’t get chance to work with the Spitfire but he was a huge admirer of the plane – he even made Spitfire weather vane which I now have in my back garden!

“His enthusiasm sparked my interest in aircraft and I have often visited RAF Cosford. I knew if there was a way to thank Roy for all the knowledge that he passed on to me, then this project was it. It feels amazing to have been chosen as the winners!”

The winning team also included BEng (Hons) Mechanical Engineering student Matthew Lunt, BA (Hons) Fine Art student Laura Williams and Lucy Archer. Prizes of £300, £200 and £100 were awarded to the best three concepts.

Visiting Professor Andrew Lawrence is Executive Creative Director at global brand consultancy Elmwood. He said: “Having a subject matter like the Spitfire, with so much history and heritage, provided rich pickings for the teams during their ideas generation. It was great to see the teams working together and creating idea platforms that could evolve over time keeping the exhibits fresh and engaging.”

Museum and Gallery Manager Jean Milton added: “It is a privilege to work with Staffordshire University and their students across a range of disciplines, I look forward to taking some of their ideas forward.  I have been impressed by the enthusiasm and passion shown for the challenge and look forward to delivering more exciting programmes in the future. The outcomes from this project will not only benefit the students, but the museum and all its visitors. This has been a really exciting and inspirational challenge to be a part of.”

Amy Platts

Media Communications Officer

t: 01782 292702

m: 07799 341911


Staffordshire University is the Connected University; connected to the needs of students, academic partners, business and society. Our main city campus in Stoke-on-Trent features excellent learning and teaching facilities and good transport links. We have specialist Centres of Excellence in Healthcare Education at Stafford and Shrewsbury.  

We were recognised with a Gold award in the 2019 Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) for delivering consistently outstanding teaching, learning and outcomes for students.  

We have been shortlisted for University of the Year at the THE Awards 2020 and were named ‘Midlands University of the Year’ at the Midlands Business Awards 2020. 
Staffordshire University has signed up to the Civic University Agreement, pledging to play a leading role in improving the regional economy and enhancing quality of life in local communities. We were recognised in the top 15 for social inclusion in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021. We aim to be a leading university for digital technologies building on our proud computing heritage and in 2019 launched Staffordshire University London’s Digital Institute which is committed to preparing students for careers in new and emerging tech industries. 

We are a Top 250 Young University (Times Higher Education Young University Rankings 2020) and are connected globally, with more than 11,000 people studying Staffordshire University degrees overseas.