Thousands of children across the South West are busy thinking up inventions to answer the question posed by the Leaders Awards free competition:
“If you were an engineer, what would you do?”
The Leaders Award arranges live Q&A sessions with lots of different types of engineers, all to inspire children aged 3 – 19. Then the children decide what problem they want to address, design a solution and enter the competition with a drawing and description.
Thousands of children in the South West will enter the Leaders Award this year, and we need practising engineers to grade the myriad of inventive entries.
South West grading days are being held at UWE Frenchay Campus, in the Business School (3X109) on 5th and 6th of May. They are fun, inspiring days so please sign up to pop along for as little or as long as you like.
Once registered, further details about the day will be sent nearer the time.
In 2018, Women Like Me launched at UWE as a tiered mentoring project for women in engineering. Delivered by Dr Laura Fogg-Rogers and Dr Laura Hobbs, the project was a great success, engaging over 10,000 children with engineering outreach and significantly improving engineers’ confidence. Some findings of the first year’s project report are summarised here.
Only 12% of engineers in the UK are women. For democratic, utilitarian and equity reasons this is not enough. Both recruitment and retention are important – more girls need to connect with engineering as a creative, socially conscious, collaborative discipline, and more women need to be supported to make a difference in the workplace.
Funded in 2018-2019 by a Royal Academy of Engineering Ingenious grant, the ‘Curiosity Connections – Women Like Me’ project aimed to change this through tiered mentoring and role modelling. Previous research by Laura Fogg-Rogers indicates how important peer group and leadership support is for women, providing vicarious experience and changing social norms. This means that women need peer support to thrive in the workplace, and that girls need to see women succeeding in STEM careers in order to feel that engineering is for them.
This project therefore paired 21 mid-career (senior) women engineers with 21 junior women engineers (less than five years’ experience) in the Bristol and Bath area, in order to provide career and public engagement mentoring. The outreach activities resulted in over 10,240 children being engaged in public engagement with women engineers, through a variety of methods including school visits, public events and nationwide online presentations.
Junior engineers felt significantly more equipped to take part in public engagement
The junior engineers reported that they now feel significantly more equipped to take part in public engagement; 54% of junior engineers felt fairly well equipped before the project and this increased to 68% after the project, with 38% indicating they were very well equipped. Similarly, the mean score on the Engineering Outreach Self-Efficacy Scale significantly improved from 6.80 to 8.41 (out of 10). This indicates that the engineers are now much more confident to undertake education outreach, and are then more likely to continue public engagement following the project.
The report therefore concludes that mentoring is highly important to ensure a supportive workplace, which means that women are more likely to be retained in the engineering industry.
The full reportcan be downloaded from the UWE research repository and a paper in Journal of Science Communication, drawing on the results, is now available (open access).
Women Like Mewill relaunch in October 2019. To express an interest in taking part, please register your email address here.
The Great Science Share is a national event nurturing children’s natural curiosity by encouraging them to share their original science investigations with scientists, with the regional Bristol and Bath event taking place at UWE Bristol in June:
10 am – 2 pm
Filton Road, UWE Bristol
Scientists and engineers are invited to attend, to find out what local children aged 8 – 13 have come up with, and to inspire participants with their research, demos and cutting-edge technology.
There’s still time to sign up for two FREE events, hosted by UWE at the Bristol and Bath Science Park tomorrow (please note the change of venue; these events were originally scheduled to be held at UWE):
Wednesday 3rd April: Training 09:30-10:00 | Wikithon drop in 10:00-14:00
Come and join us to develop your digital skills and learn more about editing Wikipedia. Help to celebrate brilliant women engineers by creating and improving their pages on the world’s favourite online historical record.
Complete beginners and experienced editors, all are welcome to attend – we’ll provide training for anyone new to editing. If you already have some wiki editing experience, we can help you improve your skills and learn a few new tricks. If you’ve spotted an article that needs improving, bring along your queries and we’ll see what we can do to help. Suggestions for articles to improve and create will also be provided, along with research resources.
Women Like Me – Boosting mentoring for women in STEM in
the West of England
West of England is home to an impressive list of STEM industries, and all
are working to improve participation for women in STEM. As well as recruiting more
women into STEM, we also need to think about retaining our talented workforce.
Mentoring Schemes can help to do just that, with research showing that
mentoring from other experienced women is a key factor in creating a welcoming
Children from Years 4 to 8 from across the region are invited to share their own science investigations at the Great Science Share for Schools.
The aim of the Great Science Share is to nurture kids’ natural curiosity by providing an opportunity for them to pose a scientific question, plan a way to investigate their question, and then share their investigation with new audiences. This promotes child-centred learning as well as giving children a chance to communicate their projects in a non-competitive, inclusive environment.
You can read more about the Great Science Share, access the inspiration wall and find out how you can support your class’ project on the annual campaign website. So have a read and sign up your class to take part in the Bristol and Bath event on Tuesday 18th June 10-2 pm, hosted by UWE Bristol (Frenchay Campus, BS34 8QZ).
Scientists and engineers from STEM research and industry will also be attending the free event – there to be inspired by your children’s fantastic questions and ideas, as well as to display cutting-edge technology from their industries.
Entry: Each ticket admits up to eight children with two adults. Each class can apply for a ticket, so schools can bring different groups from multiple classes. Home educators are also welcome with group displays.
UWE Bristol is hosting the Bristol and Bath Great Science Share in association with Curiosity Connections Bristol, Bath Spa University, and the Association for Science Education West.
Practical Action have a new STEM Challenge for children aged 8-14 years.The Solar Challenge is a free resource that covers the circuits National Curriculumrequirements. All the materials you need are provided, including a PPT, teacher’s guide, pupil notes and a poster. Check it out here: https://practicalaction.org/solar-challenge.
The challenge is based on Practical Action’s work in southern Zimbabwe, so doubles up as a great way to raise pupils awareness of global issues.Pupils build circuits using solar cells, then make decisions on the use of electrical appliances for a community in Zimbabwe who have a limited supply of electricity.It’s perfect for STEM clubs, transition and enrichment days, as well as supporting pupils’ learning about Sustainable Development Goals.The Solar Challenge is also linked to the Off-Grid Design Competition, which challenges pupils to develop a solar powered solution to address one of a number of problems.
The STEM challenges that Practical Action run can be used to gain a CREST Award.
Learn more about the CREST Award and the challenges Practical Action offer, here:
Despite all the snow falling in Bristol on the day before the conference, we were much relieved that roads were cleared in time for delegates to arrive on Saturday morning.
Looking at the feedback forms this morning we’re happy to find that everyone found the day a valuable collaborative opportunity as well as being informative, motivational and fun to boot.
In her introductory keynote, Louise Stubberfield who leads the Explorify project as Programme Manager of Primary Science Education at the Wellcome Trust, highlighted data gathered by the Trust showing how little science makes its way into the primary school classroom. One statistic that stood out, was how the UK have longer school hours than other countries, yet spend less time on science.
Louise applauded the teachers present for taking the time to do science education training, while also noting that this was on their own unpaid time. She also highlighted statistics that indicate training such as this significantly pushes science contact time up in their schools.
The keynote painted the uphill battle that science has to climb in primary schools. But Louise finished on a positive note by engaging everyone in a couple of Explorify activities, clearly demonstrating the ease by which these online resources can be deployed in the primary classroom.
The day then went into full swing with workshops and expo entertainment galore.
One workshop inspired delegates in easy ways to incorporate science content into English and Maths lessons, while another built confidence in presenting science in the classroom, and still a third looked into how ideas around science capital can be built into lessons.
The day finished with a little magic from Matthew Tosh, who showed us how a science “wow” can be very simple. And he also gave us a sneaky preview from a new demonstration he’s whipping together for a new show premiering at St. George’s Bristol on Sunday 17th Feb.
We wish to say a massive thank you to all of the speakers who took part in making the day so relevant, and of course thank you for delegates for taking part!
Stay tuned in to the blog in the next couple of weeks to see more photos from the event and to hear more about what some of our science communicator attendees are up to…
Curiosity Connections – Women Like Me is a Royal Academy of EngineeringIngenious 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.
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!
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.
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.