Think Up Case Study: The Big Rig

Image showing a three-storey scaffolding frame, called the Big Rig, on which forty people are smiling for a photograph.

We created the Big Rig back in 2010 as a pop-up construction training venue to host an event called Low-Carb, in which participants built a low-carbon shower from waste construction material. Since then the Big Rig has proven itself as a versatile and robust training environment for delivering transformative learning and training.

Think Up works with training providers to establish Big Rig facilities on their premises, and then designs and facilitates training events to that take place in those facilities. The key to the success of Big Rig events is careful orchestration of the activities to allow just the right levels of challenge, excitement and jeopardy so that participants have a highly engaging and memorable experience.

The first Big Rig was hosted by the National Construction College in Newham. The success of that first commission rapidly led to two more Big Rig commissions from CITB: the Winter Water Warmer,  in which school children built a biomass boiler within the confines of the Big Rig to heat water for a low-carbon shower; and the Retrofit Rig, in which the Big Rig was used as an exhibition stand to demonstrate low-carbon construction processes and techniques.

The first permanently hosted Big Rig was established at the College of Northwest London. The Construction and Technology faculty at the college uses the Big Rig to host a week-long low-carbon construction challenge in the run-up to their annual industry day.

Following the success of the Nuclear Island Constructionarium project, we were asked by Cogent to think about how we could design an event that would attract mechanical and electrical engineers into the nuclear new-build sector. Our proposal was to create a new kind of Big Rig challenge, in which students would be given a week to plan and build a mock-up of a nuclear reactor under the simulated conditions of a nuclear-licensed site.

The first nuclear-themed Big Rig opened in Bridgwater in 2012, close to the construction site for Hinkley Point C. Shortly after, we were commissioned by Sellafield to create a Big Rig in Cumbria to attract undergraduate engineers into the nuclear reprocessing sector. That Big Rig opened in 2013 at Lakes College West Cumbria and is now being used as part of Sellafield’s recruitment process.

Think Up is now working with industrial partners to create a Big Rig industrial project board to help grow the scale of Big Rig operations in the UK. Members of the board include ECITB, Cogent, EDF, Sellafield, Atkins, Imperial College, University of Leeds, Bridgwater College and Lakes College Cumbria.