STEM through storytelling

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Sign up to help show children that STEM is for everyone!

This year, the DETI Inspire team at UWE Bristol, in collaboration with the West of England STEM Ambassador hub, are launching a scientist storytelling programme in schools.

Why?

We want every child in the West of England to see themselves as scientists, and what better way than through immersing them in stories featuring women, people from BAME backgrounds and people with neurodiversity having science-y fun. All delivered by you, a real-life scientist, with your own unique story and passions to tell.

And it works – we’ve previously deployed the “Curious Stories for Curious Children” template, but in locations all over the city, from the Suspension Bridge to local Libraries – and it was a great success!

STEM Ambassadors attended an inspiring training session and then spread out to cover 11 events over October half-term 2019, where they engaged nearly 300 children and adults both during the story and in the following Q&A sessions. My colleagues and I were extremely impressed with all the STEM Ambassadors involved and the responses they invoked.

Now we’re going into schools where we hope to engage with more children, and make it possible for them to envision themselves as scientists.

Get involved

But we need ambassadors to get involved- if you’re an approved STEM Ambassadors you can view the offer and sign up here: https://www.stem.org.uk/platform/activity/6267bfd8-d695-42be-bb04-caa12542e11a

And if all this tickles your fancy, then why not register as a STEM Ambassador to get involved. Plus you’ll get to see what other school outreach the STEM Ambassador Hub can connect you to.

Short training is provided!

As before, we’ll provide the storytelling training – scheduled for 3rd Feb, 4pm on UWE’s Frenchay campus. It’ll be led by UWE Bristol’s Associate Professor Jane Carter, who specialises in promoting reading with young children. (This training session isn’t mandatory, but I attended it last time – it really was brilliant and so worth trying to get along to)

What books?

We have a library of books, specially selected to change perceptions of what science is and who scientists are. Once you’re signed up, we’ll match you with a great stereotype-challenging (and super fun) science-y book and fix a date for you to go into school. (And if you want to go into your local school – please do let us know)

You can check out the book list here and I hope to meet many of you on Feb 3rd!

A STEM Ambassador storytelling at We the Curious in October 2019

Elm Park Primary think up solutions to climate change

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UWE Bristol’s DETI Inspire team have taken their solutions focused climate change activity into schools for the first time last week (11th Jan 2022).

Year 5 and 6 classes at Elm Park Primary, took part in the curriculum-linked activities, which support children to learn about the grand challenges’ cities face in relation to urban travel, air pollution and the steps they can take collectively to make their school streets, and cities, safer, healthier and happier.

The interactive activities included a traffic survey, mapping of routes to school, graph making and solutions. Children were also shown how the Telraam traffic counting sensors can be used with a Raspberry Pi to assess urban travel.

Some of the children’s ideas can be seen below:

The workshop was based on the WeCount Schools resources, created as part of the EU citizen science project WeCount, and we’ve got more schools booked in for session delivery.

Schools in the West of England can book a FREE WeCount Schools workshop, delivered by trained outreach coordinators from UWE Bristol by completing this online booking form.

And if you’re keen for your school to have their own traffic counting sensors, WeCount still have 5 sensors left to give away to schools across the West of England. Contact engineeringourfuture@uwe.ac.uk to apply.

Two members of team DETI arrived at Elm Park bright and early to deliver the outreach sessions!

Bristol children re-engineer their neighbourhoods

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This autumn, the Digital Engineering Technology Innovation (DETI) Inspire team at UWE Bristol have been in schools challenging local children to ask questions about their communities and redesign the world that surrounds them – all using game technology.

How could I get to school quicker? Is there a greener mode of transport, like a cycle path? What about a tram in the city centre?

All these questions can be explored in DETI Inspire’s newly developed, to-scale, Bristol and Bath world built within the popular video game, Minecraft.

Young people can view their city inside the video game, including local iconic engineering locations, the Clifton Suspension Bridge, Roman Baths and SS Great Britain!

ss Great Britain on – The West in Minecraft

A digital education

Team Inspire are deploying “The West in Minecraft” in schools across the West of England as an educational resource that supports children to develop their own ideas and problem-solving skills, whilst engaging with engineering as a creative and diverse subject that can impact the world around them.

The detailed lesson plans for KS2 and KS3, can be delivered online or in the classroom, with curriculum-linked worksheets and challenges which draw on several different subjects including: Design and Technology, Geography and Science.

And on 21st September, DETI Inspire delivered The West in Minecraft session face-to-face with two groups of Year 6 pupils at Watermore Primary School, Frampton Cotterell, Bristol. Joining them was Atkins senior GIS consultant, Lewis Mould, who helped engineer the Bristol and Bath world used in the sessions. And Lewis wasn’t the only special guest…

Photo courtesy of WECA

Mayor visit

Watermore Primary hosted the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) Climate Action Plan meeting on 21st September, and so before the meeting commenced, Mayor Dan Norris, took the opportunity to pop into the Minecraft session. He got a quick glance at some of the alterations the children were suggesting in the “Bristol and Bath world”.

Photo courtesy of WECA

More Minecraft coming soon

Expect to hear a lot more about the Inspire team taking The West in Minecraft into schools, and also bringing schools in to have a go at being digital engineers on site at UWE Bristol’s new School of Engineering!

Find out more about the West in Minecraft Resource (digitaltrailblazers.net) and if you’d like your child’s school to get involved, please encourage teachers to get in touch – engineeringourfuture@uwe.ac.uk

The West in Minecraft and subsequent worlds are developed with the support of Atkins Global.

Engineering Curiosity – a new resource for West of England Schools

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Engineering Curiosity is a new engineering themed resource developed for KS2&3 pupils by the DETI Inspire programme at UWE Bristol, in partnership with My Future My Choice.

The resource features a set of 52 ‘top-trump’ style cards, each themed on a real-life local engineer from the West of England region. Through the cards, children can explore the diversity of engineering, its people, skills and future career opportunities.

Each card will be available in both a physical and digital format, so schools can engage students working in the classroom and also those working remotely from home.

The digital cards will be hosted on the Curiosity Connections website – a network connecting people and organisations in the West of England with inspirational primary STEM education, managed by the DETI Inspire team at UWE Bristol and Graphic Science, the STEM Ambassador hub West of England.

The cards will also feature in a series of online events held during British Science Week this year (5th-14th March), where engineering ambassadors will pair up with local schools as part of the Engineering Curiosity Big Beam In!

During the Big Beam In, engineers will have the opportunity to ‘beam’ into a local school and participate in their lesson virtually, answering children’s questions about their role and skill set, and discussing how engineers can make a real difference to people’s lives and the world around us.

The Engineering Curiosity Big Beam In aims to connect children throughout the West of England with real-life engineering role models and foster a curiosity for all things engineering.

If you are an engineer and would like to volunteer for the Big Beam In, you can register to take part here. If you are a local business and would like to support the Big Beam In, you can sponsor a school to receive their own pack of Engineering Curiosity cards. Please contact deti@uwe.ac.uk for more details.


Digital Engineering Technology & Innovation (DETI) is a strategic programme of the West of England Combined Authority (WECA), delivered by the National Composites Centre, in partnership with the Centre for Modelling & SimulationDigital Catapult, the University of the West of England, the University of Bristol, and the University of Bath. Industry partners include Airbus, GKN Aerospace, Rolls-Royce, and CFMS, with in kind contributions from UWE, Digital Catapult and Siemens. DETI is funded by £5m from WECA, with co-investment from the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and industry.

UWE leads on inspiring future digital engineers

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The West of England is a hub for innovative Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) industries, but as with the rest of the UK, there is a huge skills and employment gap for future engineers. That’s why the new Digital Engineering Technology & Innovation (DETI) initiative – launched on 15th July – is investing in the future of digital engineering for our region.

UWE Bristol is partnering with DETI to develop regional skills and inspire the region’s next generation of engineers. DETI Inspire will champion science for children in the West of England with a particular focus on breaking stereotypes and challenging perceptions about STEM careers in order to appeal to under-represented groups in engineering.

The skills challenge

Lack of exposure Many children, and particularly those from low socio-economic backgrounds, will have very little exposure to science and may not know adults who work or have worked in STEM careers. This lack of so called “science capital” can have a significant impact on children’s aspirations regarding STEM careers. This is particularly important for young girls, as attitudes towards STEM are largely formed before age 11.

Lack of diversity Another major concern for the engineering workforce is the lack of diversity – with only 12% of women engineers and 7% from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background.

Changing perceptions Research indicates that presenting engineering as a creative, collaborative profession, working towards socially conscious communal goals will have wider-spread appeal. Therefore DETI is particularly keen to contribute to the West of England’s sustainability and net zero goals.

DETI Inspire

UWE Bristol is establishing an Engineering Engagement Hub to coordinate engineering engagement for schools and families in the West of England, and will work together with DETI industry partners and school engagement providers to:

  • map past engagement activities in the region in order to build a network amongst partners and stakeholders and strategically plan future engagement to multiply/expand impact
  • develop curriculum linked engagement activities to tour schools and run out of the Prototype and Play centre for public engagement at UWE Bristol’s Engineering Building. These engagement activities will include:
    • a touring activity kit that challenges children to use digital engineering tools to tackle sustainability challenges
    • public open events for families and schools
    • 6-week STEM club challenges
    • run teacher CPD events to support and upskill
  • shape a “Diversity Demonstrator” – a network of diverse engineering role models to champion engineering public engagement. Including development of engagement training for this group of student and industry engineers

Building on UWE’s wealth of experience in public engagement

As a core provider of public engagement in the region and champion of equality, diversity and inclusion, UWE Bristol’s Engineering, Design and Mathematics (EDM) department is perfectly positioned to lead DETI Inspire.

EDM engages in local public facing technology fairs and national engineering competitions as well as spearheading various public engagement opportunities initiatives. For instance, members of the Bristol Bioenergy centre developed a microbial fuel cell activity that they use to teach children about electricity.

In addition to this EDM supports primary (Curiosity Connections) and secondary (Future Quest) engagement providers, as well as mentoring programmes such as, Women Like Me and BAME Girls into Engineering, to increase diversity in engineering

DETI Inspire will build and expand from all these existing UWE Bristol programmes. To find out more about DETI go to the official website – deti.uk

DETI is a strategic programme of the West of England Combined Authority (WECA), delivered by the National Composites Centre, in partnership with the Centre for Modelling & SimulationDigital Catapult, the University of the West of England, the University of Bristol, and the University of Bath. DETI is funded by £5m from WECA, with co-investment from the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and industry.

Launch of West of England Digital Engineering Technology initiative

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UWE Bristol is proud to announce the official launch of the region’s new Digital Engineering Technology & Innovation (DETI) initiative!

DETI is a research, innovation and skills initiative created to develop and accelerate digital engineering across multiple industry sectors, to ultimately benefit future generations of engineers and engineering products, and to help tackle global challenges.

UWE’s Engineering, Design and Mathematics department will play a central role in DETI, leading the Skills development branch of the centre. EDM will work with other DETI partners to:

  • Inspire the next generation of diverse engineers
  • Transform the further and higher education landscape
  • Innovate lifelong learning of specialised digital engineering skills

Dr Lisa Brodie, Head of UWE Bristol’s Department of Engineering Design and Mathematics (EDM), who led UWE’s bid, said: “This is a vitally important investment for our region and we are pleased to be leading on the skills and workforce development element of the centre’s work. It comes at a perfect time as we prepare to open our new engineering building where we will have state-of-the-art digital engineering facilities and an increased focus on digital engineering to train our graduates for emerging roles in the sector.”

For more details about this exciting new venture, please read the official press release launch of DETI and visit the new DETI website.

DETI is a strategic programme of the West of England Combined Authority (WECA), delivered by the National Composites Centre, in partnership with the Centre for Modelling & SimulationDigital Catapult, the University of the West of England, the University of Bristol, and the University of Bath. DETI is funded by £5m from WECA, with co-investment from the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and industry.

DETI – Digital Engineering Technology & Innovation

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Transforming engineering for the future

The global engineering landscape is shifting. Shorter product development times, faster routes to market and the need for through-life product sustainability for some of the most complex products the world has ever seen provides us with an exciting opportunity. To maintain engineering leadership, UK businesses need to develop new ways of working that enable agility, flexibility and competitive advantage, that will support future generations socially, economically and sustainably.

By the end of this decade, to deliver a low carbon global economy, everything we make will need to be completely re-imagined and re-engineered. Digital technologies will transform the way engineers operate to meet new product demands.  Industry requires new skills and digital test beds, from exploring the best tools to use, the technologies to invest in, to exploiting value from vast quantities of data generated through the product lifecycle. There are few test-grounds to explore and test technologies and processes without disrupting current production line pressure. This is where Digital Engineering Technology & Innovation (DETI)  comes in.

Accelerating digital engineering capabilities and skills

DETI  is starting as a two-year, research and development (R&D) initiative in the West of England. It will bring together advanced engineering companies, digital technology pioneers and universities to push the boundaries of digital engineering for the future, to help UK businesses maintain engineering leadership. DETI will help companies identify and develop the tools, technologies and processes they need to rapidly accelerate digital engineering capabilities and identify the skills needed to embed digital.

Running in parallel is the 5G-Encode Project, led by Zeetta Networks, which will see the NCC host the UK’s strategic 5G test bed and demonstration facility for industrial technologies which underpins DETI and the digitalisation of design and manufacturing.

DETI Partnership

The West of England is home to the UK’s largest advanced engineering and aerospace cluster and a vibrant digital community. As such, the region delivers the expertise, living labs and a technology test bed that companies need to progress.

DETI is a strategic programme of the West of England Combined Authority (WECA), delivered by the National Composites Centre, in partnership with the Centre for Modelling & Simulation, Digital Catapult, the University of the West of England, the University of Bristol, and the University of Bath. Industry partners include Airbus, GKN Aerospace, Rolls-Royce, and CFMS, with in kind contributions from UWE, Digital Catapult and Siemens. DETI is funded by £5m from WECA, with co-investment from the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and industry.

Industry Challenges, Enabling Capabilities and Skills

The DETI Programme will coordinate and deliver on key ‘Industry Challenges’, enabling companies of all sizes to collaborate on ‘proof of concept’ projects that address the barriers to digital transformation. It will deliver ‘Enabling Capabilities’ that establish digital domain expertise and core reusable technology (processes, models, tools and infrastructure).

Encouraging diversity and inclusivity, DETI will initiate a comprehensive ‘Skills’ and workforce development programme to ensure the current and future workforce is digital-ready, inspiring future generations.

To express your interest in joining the DETI programme, visit www.deti.uk or contact the team at deti@nccuk.com

Engineers hit local schools during British Science Week

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It seems a long time since schools were last open, but at the start of March British Science week went ahead, and UWE staff and students were called up to inspire the next generation of engineers! Read on to find out more.

Chatting about engineering at Hambrook Primary

On Wednesday 11th March, three UWE engineering students were invited into Hambrook Primary to be interviewed by the kids about engineering, what future roles they hoped to have and how all of this linked to their STEM subjects at school.

“They did a great job of talking things through with the children.”

a Hambrook School teacher reported

Getting hands on at the Manor C of E Primary in Coalpit Heath

For the second time that week, students got to be role models in a school, this time bringing a hands on activity for the children to have a go at.

The ‘super sucker’ activity got the kids making vacuum cleaners. This was one of the activities developed for the Engineering in Society module, which engineering and education students took into schools in November.

Teachers report that the children loved the activity and the students were equally enthusiastic about the visit.

“They had different perspectives about engineering field and it’s pathways. It was such a good experience!”

said engineering student Harshi Asurappulige

Aspiration day at Filton Avenue Primary School

Venkat Bakthavatchaalam, lecturer in mechanical engineering, (who only recently joined UWE in January!) attended the career’s fair portion of the day on Friday 13th March. He went armed with thymio robots to grab the attention of the Year 5s tasked with finding out what their Super North Star is, aka – what they want to be when they are older.

“The children were very surprised with the Thymio robots and were curious about sensors and how they worked. Personally, it was a good experience for me to see the children interacting with the robots. Awe was all over their expressions.”

said Venkat

If anyone academics or students are keen on getting involved in school outreach, please get in contact – louisa.cockbill@uwe.ac.uk

Sign up to be amazed by kid’s inventions

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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.

The successes of Women Like Me 2018-2019

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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 report can 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 Me will relaunch in October 2019. To express an interest in taking part, please register your email address here.