After launching a new round in November 2020, the project has recently inducted a new cohort. Thirty women in engineering have been matched into 15 mentoring pairs, connecting senior engineers with junior engineers. The junior engineers are being linked to outreach opportunities, which despite current restrictions are available to undertake through remote provision and online platforms.
Participating engineers in this cohort come to the project from a range of engineering fields, including aerospace, civil engineering, renewable energy, robotics and more. Outreach opportunities such as The Big Beam In are available to participate in, with more to come.
With women making up only 12% of engineers in the UK, more girls need to connect with engineering as a career, with positive female role models, and more women need to be supported to make a difference in the workplace. Find out more about the importance of diversity in engineering here.
Women Like Me addresses this by pairing mid-career women engineers with junior women engineers to provide career and public engagement mentoring. Junior engineers delivering engineering engagement activities in local schools and at local public events, provide positive role models for young girls. Through this approach, the project will lead to impact both in the workplace today, and for the future of the engineering profession.
The Department of Engineering Design & Mathematics (EDM) at UWE Bristol have signed up to the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Ten Steps.
As only 24% of the core-STEM workforce in the UK, women are the largest pool of under-represented talent in the country’s STEM-based industries. To tackle this, WISE developed the Ten Steps framework to help businesses achieve greater balance in their workforces.
As an action-driven, evidence-based approach, which was developed in consultation with industry partners, the Ten Steps supports organisations to improve recruitment, retention and progression of women; something that is also at the core of UWE’s Women Like Me tiered mentoring and outreach programme for women in engineering. Women Like Me launches for 2020-2021 with an online event on 12th November, including an introduction to the Ten Steps, women’s mentoring and outreach for under-represented groups.
What are the Ten Steps?
Signatories to the Ten Steps first complete a diagnostic tool, which highlights current strengths and areas that can be used to further improve workforce balance. This links to core principles, the ‘Ten Steps’:
Understand the starting point
Creative job design
Transparent progression opportunities
Equitable sponsorship of female talent
Promote retention and development of women
Treat this a business improvement
Share learning and good practice
EDM is already doing great work in all these areas, including achieving an Athena Swan Bronze Award. This success will be built on further as the department becomes one of the latest WISE Ten Steps signatories, and will particularly focus on making even more improvements in areas such as flexible working and changing mindsets.
The Ten Steps framework operates through the lens of a cultural backdrop driving the low representation of women in STEM industries in the UK, particularly in comparison to equivalent sectors in other parts of the world. Again, in close alignment with the principles of Women Like Me, the approach aims to increase the number of visible female role models in senior STEM positions, in turn making STEM-based career choices more appealing to girls, as they can see people ‘like them’ working and succeeding in these fields. WISE works with signatories to share practice and experiences, and enable them to learn from each other to improve balance and support for women across the sector. These insights will also be useful in improving representation for other groups, ultimately driving the workforce to become more diverse and accessible to all.
Building to Break Barriers is a new outreach project that aims to engage children from under-represented groups with engineering, using the computer game Minecraft, which allows players to build almost limitless creations.
The project will co-produce ten new engineering outreach sessions with engineers, children, and young people, and deliver them around the UK. To increase representation, the children involved will be from under-represented groups, and so will some of the engineers. Engineers will receive outreach training and support throughout the project. Activity will take place online during COVID-19 restrictions.
Building to Break Barriers is a Science Hunters project. Science Hunters uses Minecraft to engage children with Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) for three key reasons:
Minecraft has various features which represent items and processes in the real world. This makes it ideal for communicating about, and building understanding of, a range of scientific concepts.
The game can be used in different modes on a range of hardware, including Creative mode, which allows unlimited building and therefore has high flexibility.
Children and schools
UK children and schools are invited to participate in co-designing outreach sessions with the project team and engineers. This may look different for each school and child, and could include: contributing an idea for a session topic, voting on a selection of session topics, suggesting hands-on resources, or designing part of a Minecraft challenge. They will also be able, circumstances permitting, to trial or take part in the developed sessions.
Ideally, this project would take place in schools. During COVID-19 restrictions, these elements can be conducted remotely with children who are either attending school (supported by teaching staff) or learning from home (with family support). The specific approach for each school will be discussed individually with staff.
Engineers will also have the opportunity to co-design and deliver outreach sessions. This may be directly with schools and children as above, with Minecraft Clubs for specific groups, at public events, or with the project team (activities dependent on COVID-19 restrictions). Engineers will be able to choose their type and level of involvement to suit them.
Engineers will also receive 1:1 outreach training and have the opportunity to participate in group discussions, which will be conducted remotely to improve access and inclusion (e.g. for those with caring responsibilities).
Children, their teachers and parents/carers, and engineers will all be asked to provide evaluative information and will be able to contribute to the project’s ongoing direction and development.
Who can take part?
This project aims to reach children who may face barriers to accessing educational opportunities and have characteristics that mean they are under-represented in Engineering.
The project has a particular focus on supporting:
Women and girls
People with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities
People from lower socioeconomic status backgrounds (e.g. eligible for Pupil Premium, or from areas with low progression to Higher Education)
Looked After Children/Care leavers
Under-represented groups can also include people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnicities, with disabilities or long-term illnesses, in rural areas or limited access to services, who were/would be the first generation in the their family to go to university, who are carers/young carers, and with English as an Additional Language (NB this list is not exhaustive).
Representation is really important in enabling young people to feel that engineering is ‘for them’, so engineers who fall (or would have fallen, as children) into these groups are particularly encouraged to join the project.
Engineers can be from any engineering field, based in the UK. Whilst we recognise the value of undergraduate students, we are not able to offer places to them for this project. UWE provides public engagement training for undergraduate engineering students through the Engineering and Society module.
Schools who are interested in being involved should contact Laura and Sophie on ExtendingSTEM@uwe.ac.uk. Unless already involved with Science Hunters, parents/carers of children should ask their child’s school to contact us.
Engineers who are interested in being involved can complete an expression of interest here, and will be contacted when outreach can begin. Engineers in the West of England can also become part of the new initiative for Digital Engineering Technology and Innovation (DETI) Diversity Demonstrator database of diverse engineering role models; sign up to the mailing list here.
The project ends in January 2022. For more information or if you have any questions, please contact Laura and Sophie at ExtendingSTEM@uwe.ac.uk
With all the fantastically fascinating research going on in Engineering, Design and Mathematics, PhD student successes are a regular occurrence. We want to celebrate with our students as they pass their vivas, so please get in contact with email@example.com to celebrate the PhDs in your group.
And here’s one from the Aerospace cluster – congratulations Doctor Jana-Sabrina Stucke!
Jana passed her PhD viva in July. Her doctoral research was focused on understanding the behaviour and control of vortices on a delta wing aircraft as a function of shape. She describes her project:
“For my PhD I investigated the effect of thickness and maximum thickness location on the vortex development of a 65° swept back delta wing configuration with sharp leading-edges. Here, I focused on the stability and performance at low speeds, encountered during take-off, landing and loitering, as they are most critical for future military Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles.
“I could show numerically and experimentally that upper surface shape of a wing with sharp leading-edges has a significant impact on the recovered leading-edge suction and thus performance and stability, a feature normally associated with round leading edged delta wings.”
The work will help aircraft and drone designers to produce more efficient vehicles with higher aerodynamic performance.
But it wasn’t easy – Jana explains that there were countless tough stages during the PhD where she wanted give up!
And now she’s looking to the future…
“Ideally, I would like to return to mainland Europe and work in robotics and AI as this is where my real passion lies. For now, I will stay in the UK though and maybe if the stars align you will see me on campus again as MSc student in Data Science.”
Connect students with science, their teachers and their classmates in this online STEM engagement activity. Taking part is an enjoyable and easy way to get involved in STEM engagement. You’ll develop your communication skills and gain a fresh perspective on your work, all while showing students that science roles can be for them.
Fill in a profile page, answer questions, and use the text-based chat system with school students. Everything happens online; you take part from your desk or smartphone. There’s no need to prepare activities or leave your lab, office or house.
“The format was so much fun to be involved in. The mix of science and career questions, along with those of a rather more off-beat nature, kept it dynamic and enjoyable.” – David, genetics researcher
A fear of failure can put people off iterative trial-and-error disciplines, such as engineering. In the past year, a team of locals have sought to better understand this fear in children, by undertaking research (with evaluation designed by UWE Bristol academics) within Bristol primary schools.
Bristol performer – Kid Carpet – led the “Epic Fail” project, with local engineers and representatives from Bristol young person mental health social movement – Off the Record, run workshops at Victoria Park, May Park and Begbrook primary schools.
Each school residency lasted two weeks and included workshops for Year Five classes in Bridge Building, Fantastic Inventions, Wellbeing, Un-uselessness and Song Writing. As well as some creative ways to capture children’s thoughts about failure.
Bridge building workshops were led by engineer Rachel Kirkwood – a member of UWE Bristol’s Women Like Me engineer mentoring programme. Rachel is featured in the video below, produced to celebrate the Epic Fail project in lieu of the live performances cancelled because of COVID-19.
And be encouraged by one child’s song to “Not give up” in the following short video.
The West of England is a hub for innovative Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) industries, but as with the rest of the UK, there is a huge skills and employment gap for future engineers. That’s why the new Digital Engineering Technology & Innovation (DETI) initiative – launched on 15th July – is investing in the future of digital engineering for our region.
UWE Bristol is partnering with DETI to develop regional skills and inspire the region’s next generation of engineers. DETI Inspire will champion science for children in the West of England with a particular focus on breaking stereotypes and challenging perceptions about STEM careers in order to appeal to under-represented groups in engineering.
The skills challenge
Lack of exposure Many children, and particularly those from low socio-economic backgrounds, will have very little exposure to science and may not know adults who work or have worked in STEM careers. This lack of so called “science capital” can have a significant impact on children’s aspirations regarding STEM careers. This is particularly important for young girls, as attitudes towards STEM are largely formed before age 11.
Lack of diversity Another major concern for the engineering workforce is the lack of diversity – with only 12% of women engineers and 7% from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background.
Changing perceptions Research indicates that presenting engineering as a creative, collaborative profession, working towards socially conscious communal goals will have wider-spread appeal. Therefore DETI is particularly keen to contribute to the West of England’s sustainability and net zero goals.
UWE Bristol is establishing an EngineeringEngagement Hub to coordinate engineering engagement for schools and families in the West of England, and will work together with DETI industry partners and school engagement providers to:
map past engagement activities in the region in order to build a network amongst partners and stakeholders and strategically plan future engagement to multiply/expand impact
develop curriculum linked engagement activities to tour schools and run out of the Prototype and Play centre for public engagement at UWE Bristol’s Engineering Building. These engagement activities will include:
a touring activity kit that challenges children to use digital engineering tools to tackle sustainability challenges
public open events for families and schools
6-week STEM club challenges
run teacher CPD events to support and upskill
shape a “Diversity Demonstrator” – a network of diverse engineering role models to champion engineering public engagement. Including development of engagement training for this group of student and industry engineers
Building on UWE’s wealth of experience in public engagement
As a core provider of public engagement in the region and champion of equality, diversity and inclusion, UWE Bristol’s Engineering, Design and Mathematics (EDM) department is perfectly positioned to lead DETI Inspire.
EDM engages in local public facing technology fairs and national engineering competitions as well as spearheading various public engagement opportunities initiatives. For instance, members of the Bristol Bioenergy centre developed a microbial fuel cell activity that they use to teach children about electricity.
DETI is a research, innovation and skills initiative created to develop and accelerate digital engineering across multiple industry sectors, to ultimately benefit future generations of engineers and engineering products, and to help tackle global challenges.
UWE’s Engineering, Design and Mathematics department will play a central role in DETI, leading the Skills development branch of the centre. EDM will work with other DETI partners to:
Inspire the next generation of diverse engineers
Transform the further and higher education landscape
Innovate lifelong learning of specialised digital engineering skills
Dr Lisa Brodie, Head of UWE Bristol’s Department of Engineering Design and Mathematics (EDM), who led UWE’s bid, said: “This is a vitally important investment for our region and we are pleased to be leading on the skills and workforce development element of the centre’s work. It comes at a perfect time as we prepare to open our new engineering building where we will have state-of-the-art digital engineering facilities and an increased focus on digital engineering to train our graduates for emerging roles in the sector.”
The global engineering landscape is shifting. Shorter product development times, faster routes to market and the need for through-life product sustainability for some of the most complex products the world has ever seen provides us with an exciting opportunity. To maintain engineering leadership, UK businesses need to develop new ways of working that enable agility, flexibility and competitive advantage, that will support future generations socially, economically and sustainably.
By the end of this decade, to deliver a low carbon global economy, everything we make will need to be completely re-imagined and re-engineered. Digital technologies will transform the way engineers operate to meet new product demands. Industry requires new skills and digital test beds, from exploring the best tools to use, the technologies to invest in, to exploiting value from vast quantities of data generated through the product lifecycle. There are few test-grounds to explore and test technologies and processes without disrupting current production line pressure. This is where Digital Engineering Technology & Innovation (DETI) comes in.
Accelerating digital engineering capabilities and skills
DETI is starting as a two-year, research and development (R&D) initiative in the West of England. It will bring together advanced engineering companies, digital technology pioneers and universities to push the boundaries of digital engineering for the future, to help UK businesses maintain engineering leadership. DETI will help companies identify and develop the tools, technologies and processes they need to rapidly accelerate digital engineering capabilities and identify the skills needed to embed digital.
The West of England is home to the UK’s largest advanced engineering and aerospace cluster and a vibrant digital community. As such, the region delivers the expertise, living labs and a technology test bed that companies need to progress.
Industry Challenges, Enabling Capabilities and Skills
The DETI Programmewill coordinate and deliver on key ‘Industry Challenges’, enabling companies of all sizes to collaborate on ‘proof of concept’ projects that address the barriers to digital transformation. It will deliver ‘Enabling Capabilities’ that establish digital domain expertise and core reusable technology (processes, models, tools and infrastructure).
Encouraging diversity and inclusivity, DETI will initiate a comprehensive ‘Skills’ and workforce development programme to ensure the current and future workforce is digital-ready, inspiring future generations.
Here we’re sharing a video of Mechanical Engineering student Thomas Brown, who speaks about his alternative route into engineering, emphasising the practical applicability of engineering creative solutions to everyday challenges. Speaking of challenges, Thomas struggled with maths, but has found ways to work through that and now looks with anticipation towards the worldwide potential open to him and his multidisciplinary skillset.
Are you a UWE engineering student, alumni or staff and have a story you’d like to share? Please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get your own home-video featured and shared to inspire the next generation of engineers!