New community STEM club launched in Easton

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STEM @ Baggator is a community STEM club for young people in Easton that takes place after school on Mondays (3-8.30pm) and welcomes all young people in the area to drop by and join in!

The club was co-developed with members of the local community, with support from the STEM Ambassador hub for the West of England and the DETI Inspire team at UWE Bristol, as part of a STEM in the community project funded by UWE, which aims to help STEM Ambassadors and UWE students collaborate to run STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) initiatives that are relevant to their local communities.

Lego Mindstorms being assembled at STEM @ Baggator

STEM @ Baggator had a hugely successful launch event last week, with over 30 local young people joining in for some robot building and racing! There was a wonderfully positive atmosphere throughout the evening with everyone keen to get involved and even help tidy up all the stray pieces of Lego that had found their way onto the floor, as Lego tends to do!

At the next session, the team will be trialling a brand new activity which will have young people re-designing their local areas digitally, using the popular game Minecraft and a specially designed scale model of Bristol city.

A swarm of robots at STEM @ Baggator!

STEM in the community is an ongoing project based at UWE Bristol and we’ll be sharing more news of the initiatives that are being co-developed with other communities in the West of England region. If you would like to know more about STEM @ Baggator or would like to collaborate on a new community STEM project, please contact the team at deti@uwe.ac.uk

DETI is a strategic programme of the West of England Combined Authority (WECA), delivered by the National Composites Centre, in partnership with the Centre for Modelling & SimulationDigital Catapult, the University of the West of England, the University of Bristol, and the University of Bath. DETI is funded by £5m from WECA, with co-investment from the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and industry.

School of Engineering building awarded “Excellent” BREEAM rating for sustainability

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This news piece was written by Pilar Garcia from the UWE Bristol Estates and Facilities team.

UWE Bristol’s new School of Engineering building on Frenchay campus has achieved an “Excellent” rating for its green credentials from the international scheme BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method).

BREEAM is the leading and most widely used environmental assessment method for buildings in the UK. Our rating demonstrates that the building is in the top 10% of UK new non-domestic buildings for sustainability best practice.

Our assessor Hydrock Consultants Ltd carried out a comprehensive assessment of:

  • Management
  • Health and Wellbeing
  • Energy
  • Transport
  • Water
  • Materials
  • Waste
  • Land Use and Ecology
  • Pollution
  • Innovation

Examples of the sustainability best practice employed in the building include having lots of natural ventilation, installing PV (solar) panels, connection to UWE Bristol’s district heating network, use of underfloor heating and use of materials with high thermal mass (the ability of a material to absorb and store heat energy).

Tod Burton, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Environment and Technology, said: “Engineering is about problem-solving and the climate emergency is arguably our greatest challenge of all.  It is important that the building used by our student engineers as they develop their problem-solving skills has now been recognised by BREEAM as “Excellent” for its sustainability performance – a great achievement and credit to everyone associated with the project”.

The project was also rated 100% for “Management”. This is a real testament to what can be achieved by #TeamUWE and the Engineering Building Project Team should be particularly proud.

The Project Team:

  • Tod Burton – Deputy Dean, FET
  • Lisa Brodie – Head of Department: Engineering Design & Mathematics
  • Marianne Reed – Senior Programme Manager
  • Chris English – Head of Technical Services, FET
  • Elena Marco – Head of Department: Architecture and the Built Environment
  • Stephen Denning – Estates Project Manager, Estates and Facilities
  • Doug MacLeod – ITS Strategic Business Partner
  • Richard Dewey and Paul McCluskey – BAM Contractors
  • Andrew Lintern and Darren Edson – Capita
  • Jim Crouch – MACE
  • Adam Spall and Hira Teirney  – AHR Architects
  • Stuart Hitchcock, Eunan Scanlon & Simon Nation – Hydrock Consultants

Alistair Brooke, Assistant Director of Estates said: “A fantastic achievement for UWE Bristol and the Project Team. Strong collaboration enabled sustainability to be embedded from the early stages of the project and ultimately led to the success of the scheme. The project is a further endorsement of UWE Bristol’s commitment to sustainability and innovation across its estate.”

Find out more and view more images of the building on the UWE Bristol website.

A digital future is coming. Let’s make it an inclusive one.

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Are you an engineer or someone who works in, or is interested in, digital engineering and technology sectors in the West of England, UK?   

What would make the sector more inclusive for you?

Come to our Listening Workshops this summer to share with us your hopes and the challenges you face.

These listening workshops are for individuals, underrepresented/ underserved people, so we can work with and for you, as part of the Digital Engineering Technology and Innovation (DETI) Skills and Workforce Development Programme led by the Engineering Design and Mathematics department at UWE Bristol, helping remove barriers and open up access to digital skills, jobs and technologies.

The technology and engineering sectors have some of the biggest skills shortages in the UK, but also some of the greatest opportunities for future jobs. We want to proactively include as many people as possible in the future of digital.

We will be hosting several listening workshops throughout June and July, for different groups of individuals currently underrepresented or underserved in engineering. Each workshop will provide opportunities for you to share your voice, participate in discussions and network with like-minded people.

Register your interest here.


A big thanks to This is Engineering for the use of their image. For more diverse engineering images, visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/thisisengineering/


DETI is a strategic programme of the West of England Combined Authority (WECA), delivered by the National Composites Centre, in partnership with the Centre for Modelling & SimulationDigital Catapult, the University of the West of England, the University of Bristol, and the University of Bath. DETI is funded by £5m from WECA, with co-investment from the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and industry.

What have we learned from a year of online careers engagement?

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The DETI Inspire team at UWE Bristol will be hosting an online knowledge sharing session for local engineering employers and employees, to share their experiences of hosting virtual work experience events throughout 2020/21.

The past year has certainly been a challenging one and we have all had to adapt to new ways of working and learning online. We would like to bring together people from local engineering businesses and education institutions to share experiences and learnings from the past year with regards to providing online engineering career engagement activities and work experience events, so we can all deliver impactful, inclusive and accessible engagements in the future, be that in an online or blended environment.

Delivering engineering careers engagement and work experience in a virtual environment – knowledge sharing session

Tuesday 15th June, 1-2.30pm, via Zoom

Register your free place here


DETI is a strategic programme of the West of England Combined Authority (WECA), delivered by the National Composites Centre, in partnership with the Centre for Modelling & SimulationDigital Catapult, the University of the West of England, the University of Bristol, and the University of Bath. DETI is funded by £5m from WECA, with co-investment from the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and industry.

A month of live chats with I’m an Engineer

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We teamed up with I’m an Engineer to connect local school students with engineers in live text based chats that took place throughout the month of March.

During this month-long ‘Metre Zone’ (all the engineering zones are named after different units of measurement!), several local engineers from the West of England region joined chat sessions with secondary school students, answering questions on a variety of topics, ranging from why they chose engineering as a career, possible new technologies for carbon neutral cars, the impacts of Covid_19 on working life, working internationally and much more.

Metre Zone live chat with local engineer Magdalena from GKN Aerospace

The Metre Zone forms part of a series of online engagement events designed to show students the positive impact of engineering. Our next event in June 2021, the Candela Zone, will see another month of live chats with local schools and engineers, this time with the theme of sustainability, exploring how engineering can help contribute solutions to climate change.

These conversations and discussions will then continue into the Autumn term as we host a Youth Engagement with Engineering and Sustainability Summit (YEESS) in October 2021, ahead of the UN Climate Conference COP26. This 4 day festival-style event will provide opportunities for local sixth form and college students to have their say about the climate and ecological emergency and share this with local policy makers from the region.

If you are an engineer studying or working in the West of England and would like to get involved with the June or October events, or if you are a school and would like to connect your students with local engineers, please contact our team for more information.

This series of events have been funded by the Digital Engineering Technology & Innovation initiative (DETI), as part of the Inspire programme led by the Engineering, Design and Mathematics Department at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol).

DETI is a strategic programme of the West of England Combined Authority (WECA), delivered by the National Composites Centre, in partnership with the Centre for Modelling & SimulationDigital Catapult, the University of the West of England, the University of Bristol, and the University of Bath. DETI is funded by £5m from WECA, with co-investment from the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and industry.

Dr Appolinaire Etoundi presents at ASE talk

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UWE Senior Lecturer and Researcher in Mechatronics, Dr Appolinaire Etoundi, recently delivered a fantastic talk for the Association for Science Education, engaging local teachers and STEM educators with the story of his engineering pathway and his research into bio-inspired prosthetic joints for amputees.

Engineers above all else are problem-solvers, and there are a lot of problems these days that we have to face.

In his talk, Appolinaire spoke about his route into engineering and how his passion started at an early age with a love for Kinder Surprise chocolate eggs and the small self-assembly toys found inside. A great reminder that children’s scientific curiosity should be nurtured form an early age!

Appolinaire also shared his career pathway, starting with his study of mechanical engineering and leading to his research combining mechanical engineering and robotics at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory. He spoke about a chance meeting with Rio Paralympic Triathlon gold medal winner Andy Lewis, and how this inspired him to change his research focus to robotic rehabilitation devices such as prosthetic joints and limbs.

Currently in the UK there are 5-6000 major limb amputations every year.

This area of Appolinaire’s research is heavily inspired by systems found in nature and these bio-inspired robotics have the potential to greatly improve the efficiency of current rehabilitation/prosthetic devices and improve the lives of people around the world.

Appolinaire’s passion for his research and how it can be of real benefit to people is truly inspiring. You can watch the full talk here:

A Mathematical Model of a Zombie Apocalypse

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Suppose there was a Zombie outbreak? How confident would you be to predict what would happen?

Well lucky for us, Emily Walsh Senior Lecturer in Mathematics at UWE, has created a new BoxEd school outreach activity, a mathematical model of a zombie apocalypse.

This engaging activity allows students to work through the maths behind infectious disease modelling, using a combination of mini lectures, tasks and guided solutions.

The BoxEd forms part of a new series of online outreach activities made available to schools during the pandemic and features an extension activity and short film created by Foundation BSc Maths student Michael.

Watch Michael’s film here: https://xerte.uwe.ac.uk/play.php?template_id=2878#page4

Michael’s video has been a huge success with over 300 views so far. To celebrate his hard work he was nominated to receive a signed copy of Fermat’s Last Theorem by science writer and co-founder of the Undergraduates Ambassador Scheme (UAS), Simon Singh.

The UAS encourage undergraduates to go into schools as part of their degree, in order to learn valuable skills, act as role models, build links between universities and schools, and contribute to widening participation.

As Michael points out in his video, whilst this activity has a little fun with zombie fiction, the mathematical model explored mimics those used in real life. Such models provide a valuable tool in understanding the mechanisms and patterns of disease transmission, including that of COVID_19.

Hopefully by engaging with this activity and Michael’s video, more young people will see the real world applications of what they are learning in school and the impact they could have as the future generation of mathematicians.

Mathematicians have and always will influence society in huge ways, as the next generation of mathematicians you will too, it’s never too early to start thinking about how you can change the world.

Michael, Foundation BSc Mathematics, UWE Bristol

Creating a buzz with Primary Engineer

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The DETI Inspire programme recently teamed up with Primary Engineer to provide online teacher CPD sessions for 10 primary schools in the West of England region.

These one-day online sessions supported teachers to deliver a whole class, curriculum mapped engineering project, in this instance, building an electric car.

Primary Engineer supplied all participants with the materials required to run the session, so they were able to follow along in real time and build their own cars with support from their session leader.

Teachers from Ashton Gate Primary, Horfield CEVC Primary, Little Stoke Primary, St Werburghs Primary, Parson Street Primary, Broomhill Junior, St Barnabas Primary, Wellesley Primary, Nova Primary, and Barton Hill Academy ​all attended the sessions online.

Feedback from the participants was really positive, and we were very pleased to note that the new online delivery method worked well.

Excellent training. Explanation was very thorough and the trainer was incredibly patient and supportive. The resources available and next steps are incredible and allows the school to actively participate in STEM with confidence.

Primary Engineer Electric Car CPD Participant

The DETI Inspire programme will now provide links to industry, giving schools the opportunity to be partnered with a professional engineer from a local company, to support sessions back in school with pupils in the classroom.

Connections with diverse engineers are incredibly important for young children, helping to build their science capital and challenge common stereotypes. This is why the DETI Inspire programme launched their Diversity Demonstrator – a network of diverse engineering role models to champion engineering public engagement in the West of England.

We’re really looking forward to being able to meet our local teachers in person again and support sessions like this together, but it’s great to see activities like this working in a virtual environment too. A silver lining to this lockdown is that online events can sometimes allow more people to access the training and support they need, when they need it.

If you are a school looking for support with your STEM activities, or an engineer who would like to connect with local schools, please contact the DETI Inspire team for information about our current and future outreach opportunities.


DETI is a strategic programme of the West of England Combined Authority (WECA), delivered by the National Composites Centre, in partnership with the Centre for Modelling & SimulationDigital Catapult, the University of the West of England, the University of Bristol, and the University of Bath. DETI is funded by £5m from WECA, with co-investment from the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and industry.

UWE student engineers bring children’s designs to life!

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“If you were an Engineer, what would you do?”

This is the question asked to over 49,000 children throughout the UK each year as part of the Primary Engineer Leaders Award.

The Leaders Award is an annual competition which encourages pupils from primary and secondary schools across the UK to look at the world around them and find engineered solutions to common problems. Each year the children’s designs are graded by engineering professionals and the winners for each region are announced and celebrated at regional events.

The Engineering Design and Mathematics Department (EDM) at UWE Bristol have supported the awards and hosted celebration events for schools in the South West for the past four years, but this year the celebrations had to move online.

To make sure everyone could still view and enjoy the children’s designs, Primary Engineer created online virtual galleries for each region.

You can view the gallery for the South West entries of 2020 here.

EDM further support the Awards each year, by bringing the children’s designs to life. UWE student engineers are tasked to build prototypes of the winning designs, which are then showcased at the following year’s celebration event. This year a team of student engineers have been busy bringing an electric blanket design to life!

The solar electric heated blanket was designed by Mary, a local Year 5 pupil who aimed to provide warmth for the homeless. The team of UWE Masters students tasked with building a functional prototype of the blanket include student electronic engineers Oliver Németh, Eimantas Medziunas and Kieran Easdale, and student mechanical engineer Ahmed Nor (aka The Prototeam!).

The original design by Mary, Yr5

The challenge was to produce a blanket that would meet the needs of the end user – one that was suitable for outdoor use, durable, portable, low cost, easy to maintain, hygienic and able to provide heat for an appropriate length of time.

An interesting challenge with the technology currently available, and one that the Prototeam worked hard to solve together, using electronic simulations, schematic diagrams and 3D models. From this a prototype was built for testing and analysis, the results of which revealed the design was a success!

The prototype used for testing and analysis

Projects such as this have huge potential to inspire the next generation of innovators into a future in engineering. Encouraging children to tackle real-world problems that affect their everyday life helps widen the appeal of engineering to children from a variety of backgrounds, and will hopefully lead to a more diverse workforce in the future.

If you are a current student, alumni or professional and would like to know more about the Leaders Award or other engineering outreach opportunities currently available, please get in touch with the team at engineeringourfuture@uwe.ac.uk

If you are a school or young person interested in taking part in the Leaders Award this year, you can find more info and register for free here.

Providing space for social communication in a STEM engagement project

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Neurodiversity Week celebrates our unique strengths and differences, while recognising that the many talents of people with ADHD, autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia and other neurodiverse ways of thinking and learning are often not suited to traditional, formal learning environments.

Science Hunters is a Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) outreach and research programme that uses Minecraft to engage children from under-represented groups with STEM. Projects have covered a wide range of topics such as the Amazon rainforest, understanding diabetes, earth science and volcanoes and space, with the Building to Break Barriers project currently running at UWE Bristol engaging children with many aspects of engineering.

Minecraft is the second-best selling video game of all time and extremely popular with children. Players place and break blocks with a wide range of appearances and properties, to build a huge range of constructions. It can be played either as a single-player game or in a shared virtual world with multiple users playing together, and was chosen for Science Hunters because of its popularity (children want to play it!), particular appeal to children who learn differently, and suitability for explaining science.

A key target group for Science Hunters is children with Special Educational Needs (SEN), particularly through a dedicated Minecraft Club that has been running since 2015. It soon became clear that taking part in the club, alongside children with similar needs in an accepting environment, and playing a game which was a shared special interest, had more benefits for participants than STEM learning alone.

When face-to-face sessions are possible, as they were until the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Minecraft Club uses a dedicated server, so that children can play together in a safe social online space. Most of the children who attend have ADHD, autism and/or dyslexia. Spaces are limited to no more than 16 at a time, with simple guidelines to keep the club fun; children are not under pressure to conform to ‘neurotypical’ behaviour norms as may be expected in non-specific settings.

STEM topics are briefly introduced, and then participants are free to build in Minecraft in relation to that topic; while adults are there to guide and support, children are encouraged to follow their own interests and ideas to create their own unique designs. For four years, data were collected from participating children and their parents/carers, who attended with them, through surveys and interviews.

During this time, 101 children aged 5-17 years attended; responses were gathered from 29 children and 37 caregivers. Results indicated that children both enjoyed and learnt something from attending, and while their feedback understandably often focused on Minecraft, they also indicated that they had benefitted socially and emotionally from being in the shared space with other children with similar interests. This was supported by insights from parents and carers, who described benefits outside the club, such as improved confidence and wellbeing, improved social skills, and reduced need for formal learning support.

Interest in playing Minecraft is what motivates children to attend, and the game provides a range of opportunities for children to potentially develop social and educational skills. This is supported by the process of designing and completing builds, independently or collaboratively, and communicating with others within the shared virtual world. Playing in the same physical space enhances this, as communication can move between the virtual and real worlds and allow in-person peer support and the ‘safe space’ provided in our Minecraft Club supports children with SEN to interact naturally and spontaneously. While it was set up as part of STEM outreach, the social communication impacts of our Minecraft Club – such as making friends, fitting in, and feeling valued without judgement regardless of completing tasks or conforming to expected social behaviours – are at least as important.

Minecraft Club is currently running virtually as part of Building to Break Barriers. We’ve looked at earthquake-proof buildings, protecting against flooding, tunnels, drones and more, and are exploring the effects of the change to meeting online.

More information about Minecraft Club, and its impacts reported here, is available in Hobbs et al. (2020) Shared special interest play in a specific extra-curricular group setting: A Minecraft Club for children with Special Educational Needs, Educational and Child Psychology, 37(4), 81-95.