UWE introduce teenagers to robots and programming

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Senior Research fellow from the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, Severin Lemaignan, took a team of students and plenty of robots to Bristol’s Teen Tech Fair earlier this month.

Teen Tech Festivals pop up across the UK to inspire the innovators of tomorrow -teenagers! On Thursday 10th October, local businesses turned up to Bristol’s Pavilion to help young people understand the opportunities in the science, technology and engineering industries.

Lemaignan was enthusiastic about how his robotic programming activity was received. “About 60 children came and visited us. They all went through a bit of robot exploration with the Thymios, trying to guess their different behaviours, and relate them to the sensors and actuators that the robots have; followed by a short introduction to programming with the Vectors: 
how can we get the robot to avoid a wall?”

Students, Ranvir Bhogal, Bethany Mackey and Jiangyin Sun, helped facilitate the short 15 minute activities.

“All of the instructors, activity leaders and ambassadors were tirelessly energetic with infectious enthusiasm. They used language to explain concepts to the pupils in an accessible way. Not all of mine are regular users of technical vocabulary but I felt that they understood all that they needed to and learnt loads! They have come away inspired and really excited about entering the TeenTech Awards. I also had a lovely day!”

Comment from a Teacher who attended.

You can find out more about Teen Tech below and read the report from the day here.

First UK study into driverless cars for older people draws to a close

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On Tuesday 21st May an autonomous vehicle was used by older people around the St Monica Trust’s Cote Lane retirement village, bringing a world-leading research project to a close.

The £5.5M project, “Flourish”, is delivered by a consortium of organisations including UWE Bristol and is the only Innovate UK funded project focused on older people. Launched in 2016, the project aims to develop a driverless vehicle integrating older people’s mobility needs with a secure and connected infrastructure.

The project works across three specialist areas at UWE Bristol, including the Bristol Robotics Laboratory. The demonstration explored how driverless vehicles, known as CAVs (connected and autonomous vehicles) could make a difference to older people’s everyday lives.

More information is available through UWE Bristol news.

Developing Responsible Robots for the Digital Economy

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Professor Alan Winfield will be starting a new five year EPSRC funded project with Professor Marina Jirotka (University of Oxford), staging mock human-robot accidents in order to deeply explore the problem of robot accident investigation and develop both technical (i.e. data logging and explainer systems) and process solutions (i.e. frameworks for how to responsibly conduct such investigations).

The team will explore three scenarios, likely to be: assisted living (care) robots; robot toys and Autonomous Vehicles – with human volunteers role playing as the subject of, witnesses to, and the investigators of the accident. Alan believes this will be the first research project in the world to fully and systematically study this important aspect of real world robotics.

Robotics Workshop for Businesses

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Engineers from the Robotics Innovation Facility (RIFBristol) recently delivered two workshops for businesses interested in exploring the potential benefits of robotics and automation. 

As part of the Facility’s new £1m ERDF-funded initiative, the SABRE Programme, a free two-day ‘Introduction to Robotics’ workshop was offered to small and medium-sized enterprises operating in the West of England.  The same introductory workshop was also delivered exclusively for clients of the Somerset Energy Innovation Centre by PhD students from the FARSCOPE Centre for Doctoral Training

Through these two activities, RIFBristol attracted businesses from a diverse range of sectors to its dedicated workspace in the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (from civil engineering and manufacturing, to the brewing and creative industries).

Work up to running 5 km with the Pepper Robot!

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In this guest post, Katie Winkle of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory tells us about an opportunity to get involved in her exciting research.

I’m going to be running an ambitious (and exciting!) research study over the summer period and am putting out a first call for participants. This will be my final big study as a PhD student and brings together all of my previous work to date – some of you may have taken part in my previous experiments e.g. doing wrist turns with Pepper or arm exercises with the NAO robot. I would really appreciate it if you would consider taking part and/or share with friends and family etc. who may be interested. 

We will be installing a Pepper robot (picture below from one of my previous studies) in the Wallscourt Gym here on campus and using it to guide people through the NHS designed ‘Couch to 5k’ programme (https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/get-running-with-couch-to-5k/) designed to help people work up to running 5 km. Over the course of the programme, we will be investigating the use of supervised machine learning to have a human fitness instructor train the robot on how to be an encouraging ‘coach’.

The programme is made up of 3x ~30 minute exercise sessions per week over 9 weeks – so participants should be available and able to visit campus over the summer period (approx.3rd June up until 18thAugustbut there is time built in for participants to take a week or two off for holidays etc. We will make the robot and exercise instructor available at set times each week and set-up an online booking system for participants to choose slots from. One reason for starting to recruit now is so that we can make sure these time slots work for as many people as possible. 

An initial information sheet is attached above, but essentially we are looking for participants who are:

– over 18, fluent in English, with no health conditions that might prevent engaging in the Couch to 5K programme

– generally available and able to attend 3x ~30 minute weekly exercise sessions at the Wallscourt Gym on Frenchay Campus from early June to mid-August

– interested in signing up for a long-term exercise programme to get running!

If you are interested in taking part please drop me an email and/or go ahead and complete this poll to give an idea of what day/times you might be available to work out! https://forms.gle/PG7zjHA1DVBqUmEx9

Emerging tech researchers: Are you losing funding opportunities by not engaging in interdisciplinary research?

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The development of technology is accelerating in many fields and affecting multiple aspects of our day-to-day lives. Meanwhile, both AI and universities are black boxes, but they don’t need to be. A series of four workshops aimed at mutual learning, networking and grant writing aimed at researchers interested in emerging technologies are to be held at UWE Bristol.

Please contact Aleksandra (aleksandra.michalec@uwe.ac.uk) or Mehdi (mehdi.sobhani@uwe.ac.uk) for more information.

Celebrating Da Vinci and his pioneering inventions

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Dr Appolinaire Etoundi, Senior Lecturer in Mechatronics from Bristol Robotics Laboratory, will be exhibiting bioinspired devices from Chisel Works Robotics and Rose Industries at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery on 4th May, 10am—4pm. This forms part of the exhibition celebrating Leonardo Da Vinci and his pioneering inventions.

Two of Appolinaire’s students, who are CEOs of the registered companies, are also attending, to promote the research they are undertaking at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory.

Sara Parker, award-winning Radio producer and reporter came to UWE on Thursday 21st March to interview Appolinaire for a BBC Radio 4 series about the remarkable multi-disciplinary vision of Leonardo with each episode focusing on different disciplines through interviews with contemporary experts in fields such as flight, engineering, anatomy – and of course robotics.

The programme will be aired at 1:45 pm on 2nd May.

Sarah Guppy show and women in STEM panel discussion recorded for schools

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Back in November, Show of Strength‘s production about Sarah Guppy – engineer, inventor, campaigner, designer, reformer, writer, environmentalist and business woman – opened to great reviews.

These included comments such as:

“You won’t look at Isambard Kingdom Brunel or the Clifton Suspension Bridge in quite the same way ever again after seeing this piece.”

and:

“An inspiring and witty homage to someone who deserves a far more central place in Bristol’s – and Britain’s – commercial and industrial history.”

and crucially:

“Please find a way of getting this into every school in Bristol.”

Which is what Show of Strength, in collaboration with UWE Bristol, Future Quest, Clifton Suspension Bridge and the SS Great Britain, did yesterday.

Girls from Bristol Brunel Academy and Bristol Metropolitan Academy, coordinated by Future Quest’s Gemma Adams, attended an exclusive showing of Sarah Guppy: The Bridge, The Bed, The Truth in UWE’s filming studio at the university’s Bower Ashton campus. The performance was filmed, thanks to UWE’s Abigail Davies, and followed by a panel discussion on women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) which was also recorded so that both elements of yesterday’s production can be shown in schools.

The panel discussion was chaired by UWE’s Dr Madge Dresser, an expert in social and cultural British history, who recently put Sarah Guppy forward for inclusion in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. On the panel were civil engineeer Trish Johnson (the first female Bridgemaster of Clifton Suspension Bridge), mechanical engineer Nicola Grahamslaw (Conservation Engineer for the SS Great Britain), mechanical engineer Rachel Gollin (who has extensive experience of engineering various sectors across the world), Dr Laura Fogg Rogers (Senior Research Fellow at UWE; Women Like Me), Dr Laura Hobbs (Research Fellow at UWE; Women Like Me) and Miriam Cristofoletti (Robotics student at UWE’s Bristol Robotics Laboratory.

“It’s still not great for women in STEM but at least we’re allowed to be engineers and scientists now!”

Dr Laura Fogg Rogers, UWE Bristol

Discussion ranged from why girls don’t choose STEM subjects to the best thing about an engineer and back again, via conversation about what engineers can expect to earn, how to get into engineering and more.

Feedback was positive – Future Quest described hearing from a panel of women in STEM and their thoughts and advice about their careers as

“both inspiring and thought provoking”

And it is hoped that the film will inspire many more school students in future.

Header image shows left to right: Trish Johnson (Clifton Suspension Bridge), Nicola Grahamslaw (SS Great Britain), Rachel Gollin, Kim Hicks as Sarah Guppy, Dr Laura Fogg Rogers (UWE Bristol), Dr Laura Hobbs (UWE Bristol), Miriam Cristofoletti (UWE Bristol), Sheila Hannon (Producer, Show of Strength), Dr Madge Dresser (UWE Bristol) and Gemma Adams (UWE Bristol/Future Quest).

Universities Minister tours enterprise zone and robotics lab on visit to UWE Bristol

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On 22nd March , Chris Skidmore MP, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, toured Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) and the University Enterprise Zone (UEZ) as part of a visit to UWE Bristol.

He received a guided tour of the UEZ  and a tour of the Assisted Robotics Laboratory, Nuclear Decommissioning Suite and Driverless Car Workshop and Simulator.

Read more on the UWE Bristol news page.