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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
Congratulations to all our graduates from 2018! We have had a fantastic week of graduation ceremonies for the Department of Engineering Design and Mathematics. These special events at Bristol Cathedral help us to celebrate the ingenuity, dedication, and hard work of our engineers and mathematicians. It’s also a chance for our staff to get together and celebrate the engineers of the future!
The TEAN (Teacher Education Advancement Network) Commendation Award for Effective Practice in Teacher Education was presented at an awards event held in Birmingham in May. Senior Research Fellow Laura Fogg-Rogers and Senior Lecturer Juliet Edmonds collected the award on behalf of UWE. The project team also brings together Dr Fay Lewis from the Department of Education and Childhood and Wendy Fowles-Sweet from the Department of Engineering Design and Mathematics.
The Children as Engineers project developed an undergraduate degree module called ‘Engineering and Society’, which pairs engineering students with teachers to bring hands-on science programmes into primary schools. It aims to address science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills gaps in primary schools – for teachers and children.
The project sits against a backdrop of an urgent need for enough trained engineers to meet the country’s future needs. Estimates suggest the UK will need 100,000 new engineers in the next 20-30 years to solve problems affecting society, grow the economy, and design products for manufacture. In particular, more girls and women are encouraged to take up engineering as a career.
Pilot research indicates that student teachers specialising in science at primary school improved their subject knowledge and confidence to teach STEM in the future. Meanwhile, the engineering students taking the ‘Engineering and Society’ module benefit by developing their communication and presentation skills and creating a broad-based understanding of the relevance of their subject.
Pupils benefit from hands-on sessions delivered by the students, where they engage in activities such as building mini-vacuum cleaners, testing floating platforms and exploring flight. Children aged between eight and 11 learn about the skills, challenges and excitement of engineering.
Laura said: “We were delighted that our team’s hard work over several years has been recognised at a national level by teacher educators. We plan to continue expanding this project to bring real benefits to teachers, engineers, and pupils, to inspire creative STEM teaching and practice for the future.”
The project is believed to be the first in the country to pair university students in these two disciplines to enhance the learning of both groups as well as delivering real benefits to school teachers and pupils.
This blog was originally published on the Science Communication Unit blog.