Making children’s inventions a reality

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UWE Bristol partners with the Leaders Award, an annual children’s engineering competition, to help run the competitions’ masterclass, grading days and celebration events in the South West. Last year Engineering students made a prototype of one of the winning inventions – a car braking systems where the red braking lights vary in intensity according to the pressure applied to the brake. This year, a new team of engineers are making children’s ideas into reality…

Second year mechanical engineering student – Georgina Packham – is heading up the ‘EWB UWE’ team to try and make a ‘Rain Catcher’.

The Rain Catcher was designed by Year 1 student from Headley Park Primary School, Tristan Sta Ines – pictured here.

The design’s purpose is to catch the rain which then turns into clean water. This benefits those who are thirsty helping to keep them healthy.

“We chose the Rain Catcher as we are not aware of any existing products that function in all the same ways that this design does, and we were also instantly drawn to the bright colours of the design. Tristan’s design will not only have little to no negative impact on the environment, but could also benefit those who don’t have easy access to clean water.”

Georgina explained why EWB UWE chose Tristan’s design.

The rest of the team is comprised of first year Engineering, Design and Mathematics students, Chase McLaughlin, Simbarashe Sibanda and Sonny Ngo.

Good luck team EWB UWE!

There’s not just one way to succeed in engineering

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Lisa Brodie is head of the Engineering, Design and Mathematics (EDM)department at UWE Bristol, and so is responsible for all of the flourishing student programs and research centres. In honour of Tomorrow Engineer’s week – a week dedicated to inspire more young people to consider careers in engineering, Lisa tells Engineering our Future why she likes working in EDM and how she is developing the engineering curriculum to make it more inclusive.

Why would you recommend engineering to young people?

There is this perception that you have to have a certain kind of skill and be a certain type of person to be an engineer, but I don’t believe that’s the case. So don’t be put off, just have a go at it, because it’s such a rewarding profession to be in. For me engineering is about being able to make a difference in the world through solving problems, both local and global.

What do you most enjoy about your job?

In the role I’m in, I get the chance to really make a difference. We are changing the way we teach engineering, and because I’m the head of department I have the unique opportunity to drive these changes.

What changes are you making?

We are developing our curriculum so that it’s more inclusive, ensuring that anybody, from any background, can find a way into this career.

I think historically the education system precludes certain types of people from being successful, because it’s heavily examined and a lot of young people don’t find that an easy process to go through. We are trying to create a curriculum with a range of different methods to assess students, so that regardless of background and qualification, there’s the opportunity to succeed.

EDM has recently been re-awarded the Athena Swan Bronze Medal for gender equality. This recognises the diversity of the department, as well as the efforts ensuring gender inclusivity and enabling female progression.

It’s our mission as a department to really make a difference getting women into engineering

Given her success as a female engineer, we asked Lisa how EDM practices have helped her balance work with caring for her three children and elderly mother?

I first came to UWE as a research associate on a fractional contract, and I’ve only been able to work my way through the different roles because of the supportive, flexible culture that exists here for family life and people who have caring responsibilities.

The working practice within the university and EDM is very flexible

There’s no denying that engineering needs a change of image that is vital to encourage young people to fill the engineering skills and diversity shortfall in the UK. In a bid to overcome the overturn the narrow stereotype of engineering, the Royal Academy of Engineering have today launched their image library demonstrating the diversity of the profession – see if you can spot Lisa and other engineers in the department!

UWE has also signed the below pledge to make representative images of engineers and engineering more visible to the public.

UWE Engineering awarded Athena Swan Bronze

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UWE Bristol’s Engineering, Design and Mathematics (EDM) department has recently been awarded Athena SWAN Bronze for gender equality.

The Athena SWAN bronze award, handed out by Advance Higher Education, acknowledges organisations commitment and efforts to remove barriers for female progression and creating a gender inclusive environment. 
By awarding EDM the Athena Swan Bronze award, the assessors recognised the efforts of the department to bring equity, diversity and inclusion aims to the forefront of our engineering and mathematics teams.

Compared to the sector, EDM already has a diverse staff and student make-up, and is determined to put inclusion at the heart of our new state-of-the-art engineering building due to open in summer 2020, along with the newly refurbished Mathematics learning spaces.

“Supporting students from diverse backgrounds is critical to our teaching teams. We are very proud of our exciting engagement efforts, such as the Leaders Award for schools, BAME Girls into Engineering inspiring people from ethnic minorities, Women Like Me for industry mentoring support, and our amazing student teams such as the Women in Science and Engineering Society.”

“Achieving Bronze Athena SWAN status is hugely important to us as recognition for all these efforts as we work towards the future of engineering and mathematics.”

Senior Research Fellow Laura Fogg-Rogers

The award is valid until April 2023.

UWE Formula SAE success

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Formula SAE is Europe’s most established educational engineering competition. The competition aims to develop enterprising and innovative young engineers and encourage more young people to take up a career in engineering. The format of the event is such that it provides an ideal opportunity for the students to test, demonstrate and improve their capabilities to deliver a complex and integrated product in the demanding environment of a motorsport competition.

UWE is in its sixth year of entering the competition, and for 2019 took on the dual challenge of the home competition at Silverstone as well as Formula student Netherland at the TT track in Assen.

Through four days of inclement weather, the team produced a strong display in Assen. Completing all seven elements of the competition for the first time. Resulting in a sixth place overall finish out of 28 combustion teams on the Thursday.

The main event for the team is always the home event at Silverstone, where they entered with confidence their engineering was good and well tested in the Netherlands. The team surpassed their previous efforts achieving their best ever statics and dynamics points haul. The final outcome, an overall seventh place out of 81 teams and fourth best of the UK teams.

“Working towards a world where we can all do what we are passionate about”

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As we were delighted to announce last week, our Women Like Me participant Jessica Poole Mather of Rolls Royce won the WISE One to Watch Award on 15th November. In this guest post, Jess tells us more about how she got to where she is and her experiences so far as a woman in engineering.

As a small child, I don’t think I would ever have thought I would be given an award for my stubbornness, for doing jigsaw puzzles, and existing so completely in my own fantasy world that I would talk to beetles and birds over other children. Looking back, I wonder now if I had been a boy, maybe I would have been called “adventurous”, or “independent”, or even “scientific”.

I’m now 23, and I’m an engineer at Rolls-Royce, stubborn as ever, now around changing perceptions of women in science, and working towards my dream world where we’re not destroying our planet with its own resources, and where people’s careers are pursued not because of how they’re labelled but because of what they want to do.

I was lucky enough to attend the WISE Awards this year, winning the One To Watch award alongside Alexandra Lawson, an engineer at Shell. We were both overexcited and stunned, and it only added to the confusion that I don’t think either of us spends much time wearing high heels – walking up the stairs to the stage was perhaps more challenging than it should have been.

Growing up, throughout university, and since I’ve started work I’ve had the most incredible support network and role models, particularly my mum. I admit I was a little nervous going to start work at a large corporation as an engineer, when my degree had been in chemistry and I knew I would be one of the only women on the team. I won’t say I haven’t had any negative experiences, but those have been easily outweighed by some extremely positive ones, including a series of phenomenal line managers who always seemed to back me to do anything, and two brilliant mentors who I could go to for support.

In turn, I’m trying my best to do my bit to help other women into STEM. I’ve taken on multiple mentoring schemes, spoken at outreach events and careers fairs to children of a range of ages and to university students. Unfortunately, I occasionally catch my own unconscious bias where I’ve ended up talking about STEM to girls at these events more than boys!

The WISE campaign is an incredible scheme, made up of a group of people I’m extremely proud to be a part of, all working towards the same goal: diversity and inclusion in the workplace, whether that’s gender, race or physical or neurological disabilities, and working towards a world where we can all do what we are passionate about.

Women Like Me engineer Jessica Poole Mather wins WISE One to Watch Award

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We were delighted to hear that our Women Like Me engineer Jessica Poole Mather was announced as winner of the ‘One to Watch’ Award at the WISE Awards on 15th November.

Jessica, who is undertaking outreach activities with us as part of Women Like Me, is an Engineering Graduate Trainee at Rolls-Royce PLC. She was chosen for the award alongside Alexandra Lawson, Operations Supervisor at Shell.

The award, sponsored by Intel, looked “to identify young women aged 25 and under on the date of the Awards, 15 November 2018, who are working to change the image of girls and women working in STEM. This Award is designed to identify and share stories of girls and young women who are passionate about STEM and good at what they do – not just when studying or at work but throughout day-to-day lives too.”

WISE reported that the judges could not come to a conclusion on “one to watch” as there were clearly “two to watch” that stood out as ultimate winners, and agreed that combining this dynamic duo with their unique individual strengths and passion would be a winning team for WISE and taking STEM initiatives to the next level as true ambassadors.

Congratulations to Jess from the Women Like Me team!

Children as Engineers highly commended at STEM Inspiration Awards

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A UWE team have been at the House of Lords in London today, after they were shortlisted for an Inspirational STEM Engagement Project Award in the 2018 STEM Inspiration Awards.

Laura Fogg-Rogers ran Children as Engineers, a collaboration between the UWE Bristol Department of Education and Childhood and Department of Engineering, Design and Mathematics, with Juliet Edmonds and Dr Fay Lewis.

The team attended the awards ceremony and were highly commended for the project, which paired student engineers and pre-service teachers to undertake engineering design challenges in primary schools; a well deserved recognition of their hard work and dedication.

High altitude balloons, 3D printed rockets and a national award

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After the fantastic announcement last week that the UWEBARS team of Jordan Cormack, Tom Hodson, Stephen Hartless, Oliver Haward, and Jack Lewis (shown above, l-r) are the 2017-2018 winners of the National Rocketry Championship, we’re delighted to share this guest post from Jordan about their achievements, the challenges they faced and what the future may hold. 

During the final year of the MEng Aerospace Engineering course at UWE there is a group project module, which provides teams of students with the opportunity to apply their knowledge on a more substantial engineering problem.

Our project aim was to explore the feasibility of developing a ‘rockoon’ launch solution for small satellites, using commercially available components at a university level. A rockoon (derived from rocket and balloon) is a rocket which uses a high altitude balloon to reach the upper atmosphere prior to launch. The rationale for this approach is to bypass the region of the atmosphere where a rocket experiences the greatest aerodynamic forces, offering a more efficient deployment solution for small satellites into space. Many recent studies on rockoons at a university level have been limited to purely theoretical studies, with practical demonstrations only being performed by large private companies.

The demonstrator rocket which was developed during the project was designed in compliance with the UKSEDS National Rocketry Championship requirements. This yearly competition challenges student teams to design, build and launch rockets with a primary goal of reaching the highest possible altitude, with a limited rocket motor selection. Although a balloon assisted launch is not allowed under the competition rules, designing our rocket to enter the competition allowed us to test our avionics and on-board systems before a balloon launch, and ensure UWE had an annual presence in the competition.

Commercial off-the-shelf parts were chosen for the fuselage and nose cone of the rocket. The base of the rocket, consisting of the fins and motor mount as a single part, was 3D printed and ensured that the fins and motor mount were aligned correctly, whilst also improving aerodynamic performance. A prediction of the rocket performance was performed using Microsoft Excel and OpenRocket, with the drag coefficient validated using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) (using computers to simulate realistic flows).

Alongside the rocket development, a balloon flight prediction tool was developed to calculate the ascent of the balloon to the target altitude (around 32 km or 105,000 ft) using the computer program MATLAB. Weather data were also used in the prediction tool to estimate the path of the balloon due to the wind.

The payload for the rocket was based around an Arduino Nano (a microcontroller board – a very small computer), connected to a suite of sensors to measure pressure, acceleration, orientation and GPS location throughout the flight. This was logged on-board to a microSD card as well as transmitted live to a ground station using a 433MHz Radio Frequency (RF) link.

During parts of an ascent to over 100,000 ft, temperatures can fall below -50 °C, well below the operating limits for the electrical components we were using. Low temperature testing was conducted with these components at UWE to identify suitable materials to house the on-board systems and protect them from the cold temperatures during the flight.

In the UK, high altitude balloon flights require approval from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), requiring operators to declare their launch date, location, size of balloon and payload. The CAA do not currently have an approval process in place for launching a rocket from a high altitude balloon.

In the second half of the year, we realised that although a high altitude balloon launch was feasible for a university team, the time and budget we had for the project would not allow for this on top of the complete development of the rocket and flight systems from scratch. This meant our focus was shifted from a rockoon launch to the UKSEDS launch, which would validate our rocket design and on-board systems for other teams to take forward, with the potential for a high altitude balloon launch in a future project.

We carried out an initial rocket launch test which showed a successful launch of the rocket and of the parachute recovery system. The altitude was calculated using two different pressure sensors to be just over 560 m. The launch also demonstrated that the live RF communication system worked well, achieving a transmission success rate of over 98% during the rocket ascent. Although this test was successful in many ways, we continued development of the rocket design and systems for a second launch. This launch also allowed us to compare the predicted flight performance with the actual flight.



A new fin assembly was 3D printed with removable fins, and a custom nose cone was also produced to allow for the integration of a greater number of sensors such as GPS. The second rocket was manufactured and later launched on the 23rd of June at FOG Rocketry in South Wales. This second flight also featured a UKSEDS supplied altimeter as a validation for the competition. The second launch was a success, but the nose of the rocket separated from the fuselage when the parachute was deployed. The payload was recovered however and all recorded data was intact.

The highest altitude recorded by the UKSEDS supplied altimeter during this launch was 539 m, showing that our on-board altitude measurements of 539.06 m for the pressure sensor and 538.95 m using the GPS were accurate. Alongside the university report and VIVA, a build & design report and launch report were produced and submitted to the UKSEDS as part of the competition requirement.


(Please be aware the video below may be loud!).


On 17th October the UKSEDS announced us as winners of the National Rocketry Championship for 2017-18, highlighting our 3D printed fin assembly and on-board verification of altitude using a barometer and GPS.

As well as our success with the UKSEDS competition, we were chosen to display our project as part of the 2018 UWE Faculty of Environment and Technology Degree show where many industry representatives took interest in the project and we were awarded the Best Group Project Prize for the 2017-18 academic year.

Overall the project allowed us to work as a team to develop a complete rocket system with additional knowledge and testing carried out in preparation for future flights including a potential balloon assisted launch. Following our project, two groups have already started work on further developments for the new academic year.

For more information, please contact Jordan:

UWE team wins National Rocketry Championship 2017-18!

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A team of students from UWE Bristol have been announced as the winners the 2017-2018 UKSEDS National Rocketry Championship.

The National Rocketry Championship is a competition for student groups from around the UK to compete and show off their rocketry skills, as well as providing those who have had little or no experience in the field of rocketry with a hands-on experience with designing, building and launching a rocket.

The UWE BARS (Balloon Assisted Rocket System) team of Jordan Cormack, Stephen Hartless, Oliver Haward, Tom Hodson and Jack Lewis, supervised by Dr Chris Toomer from the Department of Engineering, Design and Mathematics, wanted to explore the concept of a balloon assisted rocket using a high-altitude balloon to allow a rocket to launch above the troposphere.

As part of their Aerospace Engineering Masters project they designed, and successfully launched, a rocket comprising a 3D printed fin can with removable fins and custom boattail and 3D printed nose cone which housed their avionics.

Congratulations to Jordan, Stephen, Oliver, Tom and Jack!

Award-winning student placement at Centre for Machine Vision

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A guest blog by Professor Lyndon Smith from UWE Bristol’s Centre for Machine Vision.

In late June 2018, Josh Beckett (a student at Kings of Wessex Academy in Cheddar), spent a week in the Centre for Machine Vision (CMV) in the Bristol Robotics Laboratory at UWE. He was assisting with our advanced 3D vision methods for plant analysis. The quality of Josh’s work experience can be judged by the comments of the CMV PhD researchers and academics he worked with while in the lab – two of these are copied below:

“I think Josh was really hard working – I actually don’t know if he was having lunch, so I was asking quite frequently if he has eaten! Other than that, he was really fast to pick up what he needs to do (and for what purpose) and was able to do this repeatedly for extended periods of time. I was also impressed with his data management skills – every plant sample that he imaged had a separate folder with a proper name and sub-folders for front and back of the leaf as well as folder for different plant species – much better than most of the first year students that I teach. I am sure Josh deserves to get this award and if he doesn’t, I would like the winners to come to the CMV and extend their internships as we always need good workers.”

“Josh showed that he works well both independently and as part of a team. He has very good communication skills and is clear in discussing his ideas. He has shown that he is very committed and dedicated. Overall, he will be an excellent addition to any work environment as he adapts and integrates very quickly.”

To summarize, Josh had an excellent work placement in CMV – to the extent that he won the Work Experience Prize and was awarded it at the prize giving evening that was held at the Kings of Wessex Academy in September 2018.