IWD2019 – FARSCOPE blog on being a woman in STEM

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Laura Gemmell, a student on the joint UWE Bristol and University of Bristol doctoral programme FARSCOPE, has written a blog post all about being a woman in STEM, in celebration of International Women’s Day.

“Now we can all agree we need women, how do we get more women into industries where they are under-represented, like robotics?”

Read the post, “Superwomen – Putting the human in superhuman”, here!

Join UWE Bristol as a Senior Lecturer in Machine Vision

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UWE Bristol are advertising an exciting new post for a Senior Lecturer in Machine Vision, with the first three years to be split 50:50 between research and teaching.

Working in the Department of Engineering Design and Mathematics and linking into the Centre for Machine Vision (CMV) within the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, this post will ‘twin-track’ research in machine vision and teaching roles. You will be expected to devote your time, energy and enthusiasm equally between research and teaching. 

This is a permanent academic appointment as Senior Lecturer. For more information and to apply, please see the job listing.

Open Bionics named sixth most innovative company in Europe

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Open Bionics, a start-up that developed in Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL), has been named in a prestigious annual list of the world’s most innovative companies for 2019.

The list, published by American business magazine Fast Company, honours the companies making the most profound impact on both industry and culture. Half of the businesses on this year’s list of 50 innovative organisations are appearing for the first time. Open Bionics has been ranked sixth in the list’s Europe category.

Read more in the UWE Bristol news article.

Leaders Award prototype team ready to visit designer’s school

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Our team of engineers, including our Women Like Me engineer Katy, are busy building one of the winning designs from last year’s Leaders Award. Designed by Philippa Griffiths of Hugh Sexey CE Middle School in Somerset, the Red Line Braking System (RLBS) displays red lights to alert other drivers of the severity of the braking and levels of attention needed, with the aim of reducing fatalities on our roads. The team are due to visit Philippa’s school tomorrow, as Miriam Cristofoletti of the build team tells us here.

Today we had a very productive meeting, preparing our 2-hour session to Philippa’s school. We’ll have about 20-25 KS3 pupils and we will run a series of very interactive activities. We want to inspire them, and show them what the Engineering World looks like, through quizzes, games and a final practical session, building circuits and writing code! 

Philippa’s design is an incredible idea, and the Engineering principle behind it is actually quite straightforward: a pressure sensor and many LED strips lit up depending on the intensity of the force applied on it. We want her to fully experience her own design and with our practical session next Wednesday, she’ll be able to do so. We’ll also have a chat with her, and see whether we’re all on the same page for the project and what are her suggestions. It’s gonna be fun!

Come and join UWE as a Research Associate in Responsible Robotics

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UWE Bristol are currently advertising for the role of Research Associate in Responsible Robotics, based in the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL).

The BRL is seeking a research assistant with experience of experimental robotics, to work in new EPSRC funded project: Developing Responsible Robots for the Digital Economy. The overall aim of the project is to embed responsible innovation (RI) into technology developers’ practices and to create positive cases of RI in action. The project will focus on the domain of social robots, those that interact with people and make decisions about what to do on their own accord.

For more information and to apply, please see the UWE Bristol job listing.

First prototype complete in Leaders Award design build

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A team of engineers from UWE Bristol is bringing to life one of the winning designs from last year’s Leaders Awards. Designed by Philippa Griffiths of Hugh Sexey CE Middle School in Somerset, the Red Line Braking System (RLBS) displays red lights to alert other drivers of the severity of the braking and levels of attention needed, with the aim of reducing fatalities on our roads. Here Miriam Cristofoletti of the build team shares their latest prototype progress.

In this first prototype, we installed a pressure sensor inside what looks like a break pedal of a car (but instead is an old sewing machine’s pedal!), and we build and programmed a circuit to control a strip of LEDs. This is the basic principle behind the final design. We will then make it bigger and we’ll attach it to a frame to fit around the car’s back windshield. We’d also like to add a Bluetooth system in order not to have wires running from one side of the car to another. 

Robotics and automation support for West of England SMEs

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Businesses and entrepreneurs across the West of England will be able to trial, adopt and develop robotics and smart automation solutions, thanks to a new £1 million initiative from UWE Bristol.

The SABRE Programme, which is based in the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) and receiving up to £534,693 in funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), will support small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) from any sector to explore benefits of these technologies and identify the most appropriate robotic equipment for their organisation. Support will be available through attending free workshops, or by applying to receive free or subsidised technical support.


“We are very excited about the opportunities this new initiative presents”

Professor Chris Melhuish, Director of BRL

More in-depth support, such as facilitating collaborations with talented engineers and helping them to develop, prototype, test and validate concepts, will be available for SMEs researching and innovating new products or services. This can be accessed through SABRE’s Technical Development Projects (TDPs).

For more information, please see this UWE Bristol news article . Potential applicants can register an interest online at www.rifbristol.com/sabre, or contact the dedicated SABRE team on 0117 3283296 or at RIFBristol@brl.ac.uk.

Female engineers come together for outreach surgery at Curiosity Connections 2019

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Curiosity ConnectionsWomen Like Me is a Royal Academy of Engineering Ingenious funded project. Curiosity Connections is a Bristol-based network for primary Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) teachers and science communicators, while Women Like Me pairs senior engineers with junior engineers for mentoring, with the junior engineers undertaking outreach activities with children and young people.

The Curiosity Connections Conference 2019 took place at UWE Bristol on 2nd February – more to follow about that! As well as the three fantastic workshop rotations on offer, we also provided an outreach surgery for our female engineers to come along, try out some outreach activities, talk through any thoughts they have about outreach and catch up with each other.

Run by Dr Laura Hobbs, research fellow in science communication at UWE Bristol and coordinator of Women Like Me, and Dr Debbie Lewis, technical team leader for molecular biology at UWE and experienced outreach leader, the session saw our engineers trying to cut A5 pieces of paper so that they could step through them (a fantastic resource provided by the Year of Engineering) and build towers out of spaghetti and marshmallows. We were also joined by our WISE Women Like Me partner Sarah Behenna, who was recently involved with the development of the new WISE resource My Skills My Life.

Credit: David Marshall (University of Bristol/Virtual Natural History Museum)

Such was the concentration and enthusiasm for the tasks – and encouraging and supportive atmosphere – that we decided to extend our scheduled 50 minute session to more than two hours, only stopping for lunch. Our endeavours with technical paper-cutting also caught the attention of exhibitors at the conference expo; the Virtual Natural History Museum stand soon became adorned with a perfectly-executed paper ring!

UWE student engineers promote Leaders Award at Curiosity Connections 2019

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Our Curiosity Connections Conference, bringing together teachers and science communicators to discuss and progress the future of primary STEM, took place today and the packed expo featured two of the student engineers building a prototype of one of the winning designs from last year’s Leaders Award competition.

UWE Bristol student engineers Miriam Cristofoletti (Bristol Robotics Laboratory) and Georgina Packham (Mechanical Engineering) attended the conference to report on the work they are doing for the Leaders Award, and raise awareness of the competition with more than 50 conference attendees.

Along with Olesya Klyuchenkova and our Women Like Me engineer
Katy O’Hara Nash, Miriam and Georgina are building a prototype of a graded braking light designed by Philippa Griffiths, a Year 7 student at Hugh Sexey CE Middle School in Somerset. Philippa designed the RLBS (Red Line Braking System) to display red lights to alert other drivers of the severity of the braking and levels of attention needed, with the aim of reducing fatalities on our roads. The team will be visiting Philippa’s school later this month.

The Leaders Award is supported by UWE Bristol and asks children “If you were an engineer, what would you do?”. This free competition asks students to find a problem, invent a solution, draw it, explain and send it in. Pupils are encouraged to both interview engineers and watch the online interviews. If you’d like to take part in the Leaders Award as an engineer or school, please get in touch with the team.

“You can do better than giving me these dreary designs”

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Prof. Praminda Caleb-Solly, Professor of Assistive Robotics and Intelligent Health Technologies at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, UWE Bristol and Head of Electronics and Computer Systems at Designability, shares with us her poem about integrating arts with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (so that STEM becomes STEAM) in this guest post.

One of my recent projects was an Innovate UK Long Term Care Revolution funded project called Connecting Assistive Solutions to Aspirations. The aim was to develop personalised packages of innovative products and services to help people maintain enjoyable, independent lives in later life.

The work included a review of currently available assistive technology and understanding older people’s aspirations. The findings and insights from the research helped to surface some startling issues relating to a mismatch between people’s aspirations and the type and aesthetics of the technology available. We also explored the changes and cuts in health and social care services and the impact these are having on people’s lives.

The problems are so complex that the breakthroughs needed require us to re-imagine and restructure how we think about the design of technology and its use.

When I received an invitation from the Knowle West Media Centre in Bristol to present at one of their community events, it was accompanied by the KWMC manifesto which included a call for action: Move from STEM to STEAM:

restore the arts as a core part of the National Curriculum by expanding the priority STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) to include both the Arts and a focus on high-tech crafting and making”

Knowle West Media Centre

I thought this was brilliant – exactly what we need – it inspired me to write something creative for their event, drawing on the findings and experiences of our research participants. On hearing Lisa Brodie promote STEAM at our EDM away day, I thought I would share the poem as I am strongly in support of her initiative.

[A Plea for more Artistry in the Design of Assistive Technology]
                                                                         by Praminda Caleb-Solly

3 shades of grey and if you are lucky aluminium with a touch of teal
It’s definitely not going to go with my snazzy hat, one with the velvety feel
What I see, assistive technology, bland icy steel
Economical and effective, should not mean lack of appeal

Light up my life – fill it with style, understand my contextual vibes
It will need more than integrals and executable files
More than inverse kinematics and the coefficient of heat
Find out what makes me squeal, feel my heart beat

Delight me, make me joyful
I know you are trying to make it easier, it’s not that I’m not grateful
But using this frightful grey mobility aid
Is making me feel downgraded and frayed

You can do better than giving me these dreary designs
You need to start with understanding what fits in my life
Not trying to force fit a solution that you feel will be right
Think about form, make it fun, make it bright

Fill my life with hope and desire,
Not the dread of reaching the end of my fire

3 shades of grey and if you are lucky aluminium with a touch of teal
It’s definitely not going to go with my Indonesian batik
Don’t think that you can get away with a covering of frills
I am not after a cheap set of tacky thrills

A revolution won’t happen just by thinking or wishing it,
What’s needed is a rainbow of skills to commit to it
A multifaceted team reflecting the wonders of life
Artists and craftspeople, sculptors and people people, to get it right

The challenges are immense – easy to clean and cost effective to buy
and we don’t want to go wiping out the butterfly
Sustainable manufacturing and ergonomics
Assembly times and economics

All the more reason to incorporate
Art history, sociology and fashion skills to colour coordinate
Bring in an equitable purchase plan
It’s not just about making money for the man

Light up my life – fill it with style, understand my contextual vibes
It will need more than integrals and executable files

3 shades of grey, aluminium and some teal, it might be straightforward
for just in time manufacturing and clinching the deal
But it’s causing my world to have an excitement outage
With your focus on STEM, my world’s experiencing an artistry shortage

Respond with sensitivity to my style,
Make it scream, make me smile
Fill my life with hope and desire,
Not the dread of reaching the end of my fire