Science through stories

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Last week, UWE’s storytelling extraordinaire -Jane Carter – trained up 31 local scientists to make their selected STEM stereotype-busting books come alive for children.

This training is the first step in a new scientist storytelling programme in schools – launched by the DETI Inspire team at UWE Bristol, in collaboration with the West of England STEM Ambassador hub.

The Inspire team want every child in the West of England to see themselves as scientists, and are using books to immerse children in stories featuring women, people from black, Asian and minority ethnicity backgrounds and people with neurodiversity having science-y fun. All delivered by wonderfully inspiring STEM Ambassadors with their own unique story and passions to tell.

The “Curious Stories for Curious Children” model has previously been deployed in science-related locations across the city – but now we want to reach an even wider spread of children in Bristol’s schools.

The outreach classroom in UWE’s new Engineering Building was opened up for the training – which wasn’t for the faint hearted, whether online or in-person. The participants dived into the book “Tadpole’s promise” which led them along a tale of two star-crossed lovers (a tadpole & a caterpillar) as they explored ideas about how to introduce a book and build intrigue. All before the rather brutal ending!

It was a hands-on workshop, with every STEM Ambassador leaving with a book from our library tucked under their arm and some sparkling ideas on how best to engage children with the content.

We can’t wait to hear how the kids find the storytelling sessions!

Head of Engineering shortlisted for diversity award

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As Head of Engineering, Lisa Brodie has spent the last few years redesigning the curriculum and imagining a space (realised in the new Engineering building) where engineering is accessible for everyone. So it should come as no surprise that she has been shortlisted for the Enginuity Diversity in Engineering Award.

Congratulations Lisa!

The award recognises organisations, individuals or a team that has delivered a specific scheme, project, or initiative, that significantly contributes to shifting the dial of equality, diversity, and inclusion within our sector.

This nomination isn’t the first time Lisa’s tireless efforts for diversity in engineering have been recognised. Watch the BBC Points West Video below to find out more about how the building is designed with neurodiverse students in mind, and read what Lisa has to say about the impact a more diverse workforce can have on engineering –

If we want to solve the challenges we face as a society, we need to attract different types of people into the engineering discipline. We need to embrace different ways of thinking and doing, and celebrate differences. Our mission is to change the perception of the roles that engineers fulfil and raise aspirations in underrepresented groups. 

If we carry on seeing the same intake entering the profession, we will continue to come up with the same old solutions. Engineers will need to think differently and be far more creative and innovative over the next decade, particularly with some of the challenges we face in areas such as the climate crisis. We aim to be the difference.

Professor Lisa Brodie, Head of the Department of Engineering Design and Mathematics at UWE Bristol

Inspiring the next generation of diverse engineers 

But it’s not just about empowering current UWE student engineers, Lisa is also looking to the future of engineering. In late 2019, Lisa fought for, and now leads, the Digital Engineering Technology and Innovation (DETI) Skills programme, which aims to to improve diversity in recruitment into STEM industries (particularly engineering) whilst also enhancing retention of skilled engineers in the industry. The Skills programme has a three pronged approach:

  • Inspiring children into STEM
  • Transforming courses and work experience to upskill apprentices
  • Innovating new short courses to reskill the workforce in digital technologies

The Inspire programme has had particular success, reaching over 7000 children in the South West so far, with 42% of all schools engaged with face-to-face, coming from from areas within the most deprived 20% of the country. Those children have been exposed to innovative engineering workshops that connect them with real-life, diverse engineering role models to widen participation and aspirations for STEM careers.

And lots of those workshops have taken place in the purpose-built classroom at UWE Bristol’s School of Engineering. All made possible by Lisa’s trailblazing ideas.

Engineering for Everyone!

Want to hear more about how Lisa has ensured the new building is designed with diversity in mind? Read on!

The brand-new purpose built engineering facility has been co-designed in conjunction with Lisa’s new engineering curriculum, to create a supportive environment for students from under-represented backgrounds. Keeping this focus in mind throughout both the curriculum and the design of the building’s physical structure make it a truly unique space.

As part of Lisa’s drive to embrace and celebrate neuro-diversity, the building is equipped with individual study spaces designed to support students with sensory issues, such as people with autism who can benefit from features including white noise bubble tubes and adjustable, muted lighting. The building is designed to teach in a very different way. 

Lisa has worked with colleagues to embed professional skills, and the professional engineer, at the heart of the curriculum.  The very first things taught to student engineers are creativity, innovation, empathy and design, with a focus on the role of the engineer in society. 

We are on a mission to change the demographic in engineering!

Professor Lisa Brodie, Head of the Department of Engineering Design and Mathematics at UWE Bristol


Volunteers wanted for a careers panel discussion with a twist!

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The STEM Ambassador hub for the West of England have partnered with the Institution of Engineering and Technology to host a series of online events in March 2022, and are looking for volunteer guests to take part.

What’s My Line?

The events are designed to enthuse Further Education (FE) tutors with the diversity of STEM activity happening in the region and showcase the career opportunities available for their students in modern STEM workplaces.

Guests will provide clues about their jobs, then answer yes or no questions as participants try to guess what it is they do. Then you can inspire them with the juicy details!

There are 6 events in total with each one linked to an industry of interest to the region. As a Guest you’ll take part in the event most closely aligned to what you do.

Line Up

  • Tuesday 15th March: Advanced Manufacturing
  • Thursday 17th March: Construction
  • Tuesday 22nd March: Life Sciences
  • Thursday 24th March: Healthcare
  • Tuesday 29th March: Computing & Digital
  • Thursday 31st March: Cyber Security

Each event will run on Zoom from 4pm – 5:30pm.

Get Involved!

If you are interested in becoming a Guest then please contact ambassadors@graphicscience.co.uk with a brief description of who you work for and what work you do, and indicate which event(s) you think you would be a good fit for. The organisers will then follow up with you to confirm participation.

More details

Your clues will be provided beforehand to intrigue participants, then on the night you will have some time to go into more details: What is the impact of your work? Who does it help? How cool is it? How important is it? How much satisfaction do you get from it? Why should young people care about it? What’s the future of it?

The STEM Ambassador are also keen to know how your work intersects with sustainability – how your work contributes to reducing carbon emissions and helping societies work towards becoming carbon net zero.

You can just talk, but audio-visual additions are welcome too. And you can take part from wherever you think is most appropriate, as long as you have a reliable connection to the internet.

Be inspired by children’s innovations

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On Wednesday 6th April – pop along to the Prototype and Play lab in UWE’s School of Engineering for an hour (or as long as you want) to take a look at some of the intriguing inventions school children have been coming up with.

Children all over the country are currently furiously scribbling designs – all intended to solve some of the world’s most pressing issues. They are entering those ideas into the Leaders Award – and thousands of those entries will turn up at UWE Bristol (the Leaders Awards partner in the South West) for grading by our lovely local engineers.

Grading isn’t an onerous process – quite the opposite – you’ll simply be flicking through some drawings and putting the most interesting/credible ideas through to be shortlisted. Whilst being plied with tea and coffee plus biscuits (and maybe cake?!) of course.

Every year grading participants really enjoy the experience and leave feeling inspired and intrigued by ideas such as, solar powered blankets or a variable light braking system on cars.

When: Wednesday 6th April – drop in sessions – come along whenever suits you

Location: 4Z002 (the Prototype & Play lab) in UWE Bristol’s School of Engineering (Frenchay Campus)

Contact: louisa.cockbill@uwe.ac.uk for more information and sign up here – we like to know how many people to expect (for biscuit buying purposes)

You can see the Leaders Award process below – all starting with the challenge “If you were an engineer, what would you do?” Step 6 – grading is where you would be helping out.

STEM through storytelling

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Sign up to help show children that STEM is for everyone!

This year, the DETI Inspire team at UWE Bristol, in collaboration with the West of England STEM Ambassador hub, are launching a scientist storytelling programme in schools.

Why?

We want every child in the West of England to see themselves as scientists, and what better way than through immersing them in stories featuring women, people from black, Asian and minority ethnicity backgrounds and people with neurodiversity having science-y fun. All delivered by you, a real-life scientist, with your own unique story and passions to tell.

And it works – we’ve previously deployed the “Curious Stories for Curious Children” template, but in locations all over the city, from the Suspension Bridge to local Libraries – and it was a great success!

STEM Ambassadors attended an inspiring training session and then spread out to cover 11 events over October half-term 2019, where they engaged nearly 300 children and adults both during the story and in the following Q&A sessions. My colleagues and I were extremely impressed with all the STEM Ambassadors involved and the responses they invoked.

Now we’re going into schools where we hope to engage with more children, and make it possible for them to envision themselves as scientists.

Get involved

But we need ambassadors to get involved- if you’re an approved STEM Ambassadors you can view the offer and sign up here: https://www.stem.org.uk/platform/activity/6267bfd8-d695-42be-bb04-caa12542e11a

And if all this tickles your fancy, then why not register as a STEM Ambassador to get involved. Plus you’ll get to see what other school outreach the STEM Ambassador Hub can connect you to.

Short training is provided!

As before, we’ll provide the storytelling training – scheduled for 3rd Feb, 4pm on UWE’s Frenchay campus. It’ll be led by UWE Bristol’s Associate Professor Jane Carter, who specialises in promoting reading with young children. (This training session isn’t mandatory, but I attended it last time – it really was brilliant and so worth trying to get along to)

What books?

We have a library of books, specially selected to change perceptions of what science is and who scientists are. Once you’re signed up, we’ll match you with a great stereotype-challenging (and super fun) science-y book and fix a date for you to go into school. (And if you want to go into your local school – please do let us know)

You can check out the book list here and I hope to meet many of you on Feb 3rd!

A STEM Ambassador storytelling at We the Curious in October 2019

Elm Park Primary think up solutions to climate change

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UWE Bristol’s DETI Inspire team have taken their solutions focused climate change activity into schools for the first time last week (11th Jan 2022).

Year 5 and 6 classes at Elm Park Primary, took part in the curriculum-linked activities, which support children to learn about the grand challenges’ cities face in relation to urban travel, air pollution and the steps they can take collectively to make their school streets, and cities, safer, healthier and happier.

The interactive activities included a traffic survey, mapping of routes to school, graph making and solutions. Children were also shown how the Telraam traffic counting sensors can be used with a Raspberry Pi to assess urban travel.

Some of the children’s ideas can be seen below:

The workshop was based on the WeCount Schools resources, created as part of the EU citizen science project WeCount, and we’ve got more schools booked in for session delivery.

Schools in the West of England can book a FREE WeCount Schools workshop, delivered by trained outreach coordinators from UWE Bristol by completing this online booking form.

And if you’re keen for your school to have their own traffic counting sensors, WeCount still have 5 sensors left to give away to schools across the West of England. Contact engineeringourfuture@uwe.ac.uk to apply.

Two members of team DETI arrived at Elm Park bright and early to deliver the outreach sessions!

How to make engineering for everyone

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The Engineering workforce in the UK is made up of only 12% Women and 7% of people from black, Asian and minority ethnicity backgrounds – so no wonder the sector is experiencing an employee shortfall! Engineering Industries are missing out on over half of the population, as well as, the vast range of experiences and perspectives that a diverse employee base brings to the table.

Digital Engineering Technology and Innovation (DETI)’s Innovate team at UWE Bristol wants to address the shortfall of engineers by finding how to best enable these underrepresented groups to enter and progress in the world of Engineering.

We asked Women, those with Neurodiversity, and people from Black, Asian, Brown and dual-heritage backgrounds, in the West of England – to tell us what they needed – check out the summary doc below to find out more.

DETI Innovate delivers on Big Data CPD course

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There’s a huge digital engineering skills shortfall and employment gap in the UK’s engineering workforce. To help address that shortfall, UWE Bristol launched the new Big Data course in November 2021.

UWE Bristol runs the Digital Engineering Technology and Innovation (DETI) Innovate programme in the West of England – identifying what skills need boosting and then designing appropriate training courses – all to enable the digital transition of local industry supported by DETI’s main programme.

Big Data

With the high adoption rate of sensors and connected devices in manufacturing industries, there has been a huge increase in data points available. If analysed, this Big Data has potential to reveal new information and patterns that can enable the improvement of process efficiency.

Technicians identified Big data analysis as a core emerging area they lacked knowledge and analytic skills in, so UWE Bristol designed a course to upskill DETI partners employees.

Upskilling

The Big Data CPD course covered the fundamentals of Big Data concepts and the key tools and systems for practically applying the analytics. Topics covered included:

  • Introduction to Big Data
  • SQL vs NoSQL databases
  • Data Quality
  • Knowledge Retrieval

On 24th November 2021, Professor Kamran Munir & Dr Ahsan Ikram from UWE Bristol’s Department of Computer Science, delivered the course online to 15 participants from UWE, the University of Bath, the National Composites Centre and other local industries.

Growing the CPD offer

DETI Innovate recognises the need for continuing to offer this course to reach more of the Engineering workforce, therefore UWE Bristol are working to develop the content into a virtual pre-recorded offering. This will enable flexible self-study and the opportunity to revisit material. We’ll keep our readers informed of when this becomes available.

In addition to Big Data upskilling, UWE Bristol is assisting the NCC to deliver another DETI Innovate course on 5G Encode (AI and VR) – expected to be delivered in February.

If you have any questions about the Big Data or 5G Encode courses, our DETI Innovate colleague Dr. Halimah Abdullahi can be contacted on halimah.abdullahi@uwe.ac.uk.

UWE works alongside children in Easton to monitor local air quality

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Photographer Anya Agulova 

Academics and students from a number of UWE Bristol departments are collaborating with the local community in Easton to investigate, on a granular real-time level, air quality and traffic’s impact on the local high-street.

St. Mark’s Road in Easton is a high-street bucking the trend, with new shops popping up in an amazing and unusual Covid recovery. The local community’s clear commitment to investing in their high-street isn’t limited to popping into local shops – residents are beginning to be interested in how traffic affects the street they’re proud of.

In the last few years air quality sensors that measure pollutants as small as 2.5 microns have begun to pop up all over the world, and St. Mark’s Road has been part of this. Although you wouldn’t notice on walking down the street.

“The sensors need to be waterproofed, so we put them into the drainpipes – nice and easy and out of the way,” said Stuart Phelps from Baggator (a community organisation offering a range of innovative programmes for young people in the local area) who has been the driver behind much of the project.

Easton Data Garden is growing

It’s not very glamorous, but these hidden sensors are providing real-world information that are inspiring local residents. Particularly the weekly children’s science and technology club – the ‘Easton Data Garden’ – which UWE Bristol have been heavily involved in.

“The data gathered from the sensors on St. Mark’s Road gets the kids thinking about what that means in the real world,” explained Stuart. “Seeing this information in real-time is changing their view of science.”

And the children are about to take part in workshops, alongside academics from UWE Bristol and the University of Bath, to build new sensors for installation in more pieces of drainpipe on St Mark’s Road.

New sensors from the University of Bath and the European Space Agency, will give a detailed real-time readout of nitrogen dioxide (a significant greenhouse gas), carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, ammonia and ozone. These will be installed alongside traffic monitors – supplied by UWE Bristol’s Digital Engineering Technology Innovation (DETI) Inspire project, which links to the EU citizen science project WeCount.

“Working with Baggator and the Easton Data Garden is a fantastic example of local residents leading on citizen science in their own area,” said DETI Inspire lead, Dr Laura Fogg-Rogers.

“The young people and their mentors came up with this exciting idea to use digital engineering to link local air quality monitors with traffic counting sensors, providing a real-time picture of how traffic impacts air quality on a granular scale.

“We are really excited to see how this develops and are looking forward to supporting their science learning and community development!”

That’s a lot of great data to look at and residents, and particularly the children in Easton Data Garden, want to see the results and identify any problems on their high-street. Again, UWE is stepping up to the ‘mark’, with several teams of students working on projects to help highlight St. Mark’s unique data set.

UWE students get visuals on the data

This includes a UWE Computer Science and Creative Technology student team undertaking the creation of a bespoke St. Mark’s Road website – where local news sits alongside local air quality data.

But Stuart’s not stopping there. He has a vision for this website to be viewed from a St. Mark’s shop window, with real-time data coming in from sensors mounted directly above the shop. And again, a student digital design team under UWE Bristol’s Dr Mic Palmer’s direction, are developing a bespoke display screen for residents.

Future of St. Mark’s Road

In the next few weeks, children from the Easton Data Garden club will bring their families along to workshops to build the sensors. Installation will happen soon after, all ready to start feeding delicious data into the website UWE students will deliver at the end of January. And viewed at the local corner shop!

All the while, local Easton children will be working alongside academics, asking questions about the effectiveness of real-world interventions, like, how do rumble strips impact on traffic speed and then air pollution? This will be the first time citizens have combined these technologies to directly test the impact of interventions on their streets – a necessary step to improve high streets.

For Stuart, almost the most important impact of this project, is the interactions made possible between the academics and children in Easton.

“The kids here wouldn’t normally have exposure to University and the people who work there, this project means they are getting to have those interactions” explained Stuart. “And the children are interested because it’s relevant to them, and because the academics are genuinely listening to what they have to say.”

Work alongside UWE academics is also a key part of another strand of Stuart’s work – supporting the local Muslim community to celebrate the end of Eid with a huge light display (called the Grand Iftar). Children in Easton Data Garden are again collaborating with UWE Bristol academics to design light patterns to be displayed on/in the Jamia Masjid Mosque dome.

We’ll be updating on the results coming out of Easton Data Garden in the next few months and later on in 2022 you can expect to see some amazing images from the Grand Iftar celebration.

See more about Easton Data Garden (& UWE Bristol’s involvement!) in the video below:


University Scrapheap Challenge – Lego-style

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Last week, many of our student engineers here at UWE Bristol, got involved in fun, team-working challenges. And foundation students weren’t going to be left out – they took on their own Lego-based scrapheap challenge on Friday 26th November.

Programme leader for the Foundation Year, James Whiting, masterminded the challenge. Borrowing an assortment of Lego from the Engineering outreach team to form the scrapheap from which the students selected components to build a balloon-powered Lego car.

See photos below of the foundation students engaging with the team building activity, but also, having lots of fun.

Let the races begin!

Driving/Flying simulations

As part of the catch up and engagement week, Automotive Engineering With Foundation Year students, took part in simulation games in the Digital Engineering Lab. See photos below.

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