CATE group

University of Nottingham’s "OPAD” group scoops prestigious national award

Thursday, 03 August 2023

A cross-faculty group made up of students and staff at the University of Nottingham has received Advance HE’s Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence (CATE).

Members of OPAD collaborate to create assistive and rehabilitation devices for community and healthcare partners where commercial solutions do not exist. Students with complementary skills work in multidisciplinary teams – supported by research, technical, academic, and administrative staff, as well as clients and representatives – to ensure projects meet regulatory requirements and follow efficient design-development processes that address the needs of end-users.

At the start of each academic year, requests by community and healthcare partners are announced and project teams are formed, ensuring a mix of disciplines, skills, and experience. Weekly sessions are held that include training and team building, followed by breakout sessions for each group to progress their projects.

Currently, the team is working on several projects, including ear defenders for premature babies with vulnerability to noise-induced stress; bespoke instrument controllers for disabled teen musicians; and adaptive design of chemistry lab equipment that increases accessibility for disabled students.

Ruth Goodridge, Professor of Additive Manufacturing in the Faculty of Engineering and OPAD lead, said: “Multidisciplinary collaborations in research environments are common in higher education, but they’re rare in teaching and learning activities – and even rarer when the two are combined."

CATE group
Ensuring students have skills that are attractive to employers is key and so is practical experience, particularly in STEM subjects.
Ruth Goodridge, Professor of Additive Manufacturing in the Faculty of Engineering and OPAD lead

Ruth continued: “This is what we wanted to achieve with OPAD, for students from different backgrounds to have the chance to work together to apply the knowledge and technical skills gained from their courses to real life problems. We’re proud to be an environment where students and staff can learn from each other, and where teaching and research activities are deeply linked. For that to be recognised with this award is a real honour and welcome reward for all the staff and students who have volunteered their time to take part in this initiative."

Although its base is in Engineering, OPAD is open to all students and staff at the university, with current members including representatives from Engineering, Medicine and Health Sciences, Computer Science, the Business School, Physics, and Chemistry. Since its creation in 2016, the group has grown from 17 students and three staff, all of whom were based in engineering, to 93 students and 27 staff in 2023.

Professor Sarah Speight - STAFFROOM
This is fantastic recognition for OPAD, which brings together individuals from across faculties in its commitment to develop assistive and rehabilitation solutions for healthcare.
Professor Sarah Speight, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education and Student Experience at the University of Nottingham

Sarah continued: "It seeks diversity of experience and expertise and, by so doing, supports not only our community partners, but also the learning of our students. It provides them with important, real-life settings in which to apply their skills and make a real difference. My congratulations to the team!”

CATE recognises and celebrates collaborative work that has had a demonstrable impact on teaching and learning, with each award recognising a team that has enabled a change in practice for colleagues and/or students at an institutional or discipline level.

Congratulations to all of the new National Teaching Fellows and CATE teams on this prestigious accolade which recognises and rewards their commitment to teaching and learning and the impact it has on student success.
Alison Johns, Chief Executive, Advance HE

Alison continued: “It is with great pride that we run these awards for the UK higher education sector designed to celebrate these passionate people who make such a difference to students’ education and to the practice of their colleagues. We look forward to working with the new NTFs and CATE winners and sharing their excellent practice with colleagues around the sector.”

The award ceremony for this year’s winners is due to take place at The Library of Birmingham on 28 September.

OPAD is currently looking for sponsors to allow them to support more community partner requests and allow more students to benefit from this extra-curriculum, voluntary initiative. To find out more, please click here.

Story credits

More information is available from Ruth Goodridge, in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Nottingham at or; Danielle Hall, Media Relations Manager for the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Nottingham, at

About the Faculty of Engineering

Made up of six departments – Architecture and Built Environment, Chemical and Environmental Engineering, Civil Engineering, Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Mechanical, Materials and Manufacturing Engineering and Foundation Engineering and Physical Sciences – the university’s Faculty of Engineering is home to more than 5,600 students and 800 staff.

The faculty, which has educated engineers and architects for more than 140 years, was the first in the country to be accredited with an Athena SWAN Gold Award for excellence in advancing gender equality across higher education and research and is home to multiple state-of-the-art facilities, including the recently opened £40m Power Electronics and Machines Centre (PEMC).

With research at its heart, 21 research groups are undertaking pioneering projects for a sustainable future across several themes – including net zero transport, sustainable energies and the built environment, advanced manufacturing, and healthcare technologies – and has delivered a positive impact in more than 20 countries. Within those countries, the faculty’s research has supported 500 companies and three governments – that have changed their strategies as a result of its research – and has also directly created jobs for around 3,000 people across the world.

Danielle Hall - Media Relations Manager - Faculty of Engineering
Phone: 0115 846 7156

Notes to editors:

About the University of Nottingham

Ranked 32 in Europe and 16th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings: Europe 2024, the University of Nottingham is a founding member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience, and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement.

Nottingham was crowned Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024 – the third time it has been given the honour since 2018 – and by the Daily Mail University Guide 2024.

The university is among the best universities in the UK for the strength of our research, positioned seventh for research power in the UK according to REF 2021. The birthplace of discoveries such as MRI and ibuprofen, our innovations transform lives and tackle global problems such as sustainable food supplies, ending modern slavery, developing greener transport, and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

The university is a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally - and our graduates are the second most targeted by the UK's top employers, according to The Graduate Market in 2022 report by High Fliers Research.

We lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, in partnership with Nottingham Trent University, a pioneering collaboration between the city’s two world-class institutions to improve levels of prosperity, opportunity, sustainability, health and wellbeing for residents in the city and region we are proud to call home.

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