Alumnus continues to utilise design engineering skills gained at Loughborough in his retirement

On the left is a child’s pushchair with a wooden piece attached to hold an iPad. On the right is an image of a seat attached to a canal boat.

Two of Chris's designs: an iPad holder on a pushchair and a canal boat seat lift

Chris Gibson graduated from Loughborough with a DLC qualification in General Engineering in 1966. He gained many skills during his time at Loughborough that supported his career in engineering-related roles.

Now into his retirement, Chris is supporting people in his community by utilising his design and engineering skills as part of Remap, an organisation that custom-makes equipment to help disabled people to live more independently.

Here, he tells us more about his voluntary work and shares insights into his time as a Loughborough student.

In the 1960s, the University looked a bit different to its current day structure. The University was known as Loughborough College of Advanced Technology, and the buildings and housing were far more dispersed than they are today.

Chris’s experiences when he first arrived at Loughborough reflect this:

“I was boarded in digs in Hathern while the campus accommodation was being built. The course involved lectures, mostly in the Schofield building, and alternate weeks in the college workshops, which for the first year were the old buildings on Greenclose Lane. I then lived in Faraday Hall, and everything occurred on campus.”

Chris studied at Loughborough between 1960 and 1966, completing a DLC qualification in General Engineering with a focus on mechanical engineering.

After he left, Chris got his first role, combining skills gained at Loughborough with his personal background in farming:

“My first job was at the International Harvester tractor plant in Doncaster, working in the design and development department on product testing. Coming from a farming and engineering background helped me to settle in quickly.

“After four years I moved to David Brown Tractors near Huddersfield, doing similar tractor testing of stress, pressure, load and noise. In 1970 I took time out to join an overland expedition to the Himalayas with 11 other young people including my wife. We celebrated our first wedding anniversary within sight of Mt. Everest.

“David Brown Tractors were taken over by J I Case Tractors (of USA) early in my employment and eventually closed the factory and offered jobs in International Harvester whom they had just acquired, so I moved back to the building I had left 17 years before in Doncaster.”

Having enjoyed more than two decades within those farming-related roles, it was when Chris was 50 years old that he was made redundant and needed to look for something new.

The design work that followed also led to Chris’s involvement in Remap:

“After a year searching for a job, I was invited to set up a partnership with my former boss to make short rise lifts for disabled people for access to caravans and 2-3 steps. I redesigned this in order to meet the CE safety requirements. After 10 years the product design was sold to a larger company who since have passed it to another who still make it.

“After that I did a few part time jobs, one in a firm that distributed plasma metal cutting equipment. As part of the lift business I had exhibited at various shows and had become aware of a charity named Remap where retired engineers and craftsmen design, manufacture and supply one-off free aids (that are not commercially available) or modify existing equipment for disabled people.

“This work is done in my home workshop using lathe, miller, welder and other power and hand tools. The grounding at the college workshops has stood me in good stead, and whilst not up to toolroom standard, the 120 or so jobs I have done so far have helped many people over the last 18 years. The clients have been very appreciative.”

With over 100 completed projects, Chris has designed a range of items:

“Typical jobs I have done have ranged from simple brackets to attach items to wheelchairs such as cupholders, phone, tablet and laptop holders to more complicated assemblies such as seat lifts to provide access into a motorhome and a canal boat and recently an electrically operated fold up ramp.

“Working with all ages from infants to centenarians means we meet many needs. This work helps to keep my brain and hands active and gives me much satisfaction solving individual problems, though my spending many hours in a cold workshop is not always welcome especially for my wife!

“For those with the facilities and time I can recommend this as work or a hobby whether you are retired or employed. Remap is always looking for people with engineering and craft experience as well as those who have administrative, publicity, fundraising and therapy backgrounds.”

Find out more via Remap.

Thank you to Chris for sharing his story.