Over 1200 students discuss solutions and skills to reach net-zero in School Eco-Week events

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Three secondary schools in the West have recently held Inspire Sustainability Eco-Weeks, with their students learning about the challenges that we face in order to reach net-zero by 2030, and the green skills and solutions needed in order to overcome them.

Bristol Brunel Academy, Digitech Studio School and Hans Price Academy have held events including career stands with prospective employers from the area, where students challenged them on their green credentials; sessions from the DETI Inspire team debating sustainable solutions from real engineers in the area; and interactive hook-a-duck stands encouraging students to identify their own green skills and apply them to the net-zero challenge.

The Eco Weeks form part of the Inspire Sustainability project, funded as part of the Green Futures project from the West of England Combined Authority. Through meeting all our real life role models working on sustainability solutions, it’s hoped young people will gain a greater awareness of the diverse green jobs available in the West.

In the DETI Inspire sessions, students debated targets for net-zero, including lowering waste by 65%, and Bristol City Council’s promise to reduce traffic by 40%, all by the year 2030. Then the students of various age groups, discussed the different solutions to the challenges faced when reaching for those targets. Such as insulating new homes and retrofitting older ones, city planning focussing on low-carbon transport, ways to hold their schools to account for their eco-choices, and the many green skills and careers that would come from the push for net-zero.

Across the week, the DETI Inspire team delivered a whole-school assembly, multiple live school online broadcasts tuned into by whole year groups, 15 fully facilitated sessions, and hosted an employer careers fair.

In total the team directly delivered to over 1200 young people, with future events and engagements also being planned. Many of the students reached have formed school eco-clubs, where they work together with the school to become more sustainable. Many of the students have taken inspiration from the sessions, and brought real solutions for sustainability to the school’s leadership. It’s really great to see that the students are turning to climate action and developing their green skills, and actively making a difference in their school.

To learn more about the sessions, the plans for future Eco-weeks, and to book the DETI Inspire team for future STEM and sustainability outreach, please contact the team at the engineeringourfuture@uwe.ac.uk inbox. You can also download the lesson plans and materials from the sessions at the link below: https://www.digitaltrailblazers.net/resources

Women in Engineering Mentoring & Outreach Programme – get involved now!

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‘Women Like Me’ is a peer mentoring and outreach project in the Bristol and Bath area aimed at boosting female representation at all levels in engineering. Senior women engineers are paired with junior women engineers and their mentoring journeys supported through various events. At the same time training and opportunities are provided for junior engineers to undertake engineering education outreach in local schools. 

The programme has run with great success since 2018, and for 2023 we’re excited to be adding a new element to our mentoring support package! 

In addition to our face-to-face networking and training events, this year we will be providing online mentoring support. Alexandra Knight, an award-winning engineer and presenter, who empowers women in STEM to be confident visible role models through her company STEMazing, will be heading up these online sessions, with particular emphasis on developing our Senior Engineers’ mentoring skills. 

Who can take part?

If you have 5 years (or more) experience working in engineering – you’re a Senior Woman Engineer! – please sign up to be a Mentor here.

Junior women engineers are those with less experience than this, and can include apprentices, trainees, undergraduate and postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers – with less than 5 years experience in engineering. Please sign up to be a Mentee here.

Date for the diary!

Please sign up in January, as we’ll collect all enrolments and pair you up mentor-to-mentee in early February before our kick off event on 23rd Feb…

Women Like Me – 23rd February, 4 – 6pm at UWE Bristol (Frenchay campus in Filton).

This event will introduce you to the Women Like Me programme, with some top tips and discussion about mentoring and outreach. And hopefully include getting to meet your new mentee/mentor for the first time (!) as well as the rest of this years cohort. 

Those are the core details, but if you’d like to find out more about the programme – including why we think women mentoring is important, more detailed plans for this year, expectations from mentor/mentees, past successes etc – please read below.

Why is this important?

Only 12% of engineers in the UK are women. In order to support female engineers, more girls need to connect with engineering as a career, with positive female role models, and more women need to be supported to make a difference in the workplace.

Women Like Me is addressing this by pairing together women engineers to provide career and public engagement mentoring. Participating engineers deliver engineering engagement activities in local schools and at local public events, providing positive role models for young girls. Through this approach, the project impacts the workplace today and the future of the engineering profession.

What will it involve?

Introductions – We offer various networking and training opportunities to all participants, this year the first session will be held face-to-face on 23rd Feb.

Goal setting – On 9th March, there’ll be an online goal setting session for mentors and mentees. Alexandra Knight (from STEMazing) will lead mentoring pairs through focused discussions to get their mentoring relationships off to a great start.

Mentor only coaching – This year will be a great opportunity for mentors to develop themselves as well as their mentees, with Alex leading four subsequent online ‘mentoring circle’ meetings for mentoring coaching and peer support. These sessions will be spread throughout the year and will be private sessions for mentors-only.

Mentoring meet-ups – We expect mentors and mentees to meet at least twice during the year – although we’d encourage more, if that’s possible for both parties. These meetings or conversations can take whatever form best suits each pair – something to discuss in your initial meetings in Feb/March.

Mentees public engagement – Junior engineers will receive training in public engagement (Senior Engineers can also take part!) and we ask them to then undertake at least three engineering outreach activities with local schools and public events. Coordination of activity is provided and supported by UWE – we’ll send you opportunities over email and support you in these sessions.

Log your activities – we then ask mentors to log their mentoring meet-ups, and the mentees to log their public engagement – this helps us to track how the programme is going.

More Women Like Me Info

This project was first launched in 2018 and is based in the Science Communication Unit and School of Engineering at UWE Bristol. The project is organised by Dr Louisa Cockbill and Ana Bristow, and was initiated by Dr Laura Fogg Rogers and Dr Laura Hobbs. It is supported by the initiative for Digital Engineering Technology & Innovation (DETI).

You can read about the successes of the project in previous years and access the 2018-2019 project report. A paper in the Journal of Science Communication, Fogg-Rogers and Hobbs (2019) places Women Like Me in the context of recruitment and retention of women in engineering.

For any further information please email engineeringourfuture@uwe.ac.uk or follow us on Twitter for updates.

How do I sign up?

If you’ve not already done this on the links above, here they are again! To take part in the project this year, interested participants should complete the appropriate online survey:

Senior Engineers (over 5 years experience) please complete this survey

Junior Engineers (less than 5 years experience) please complete this survey

The project coordinators will then be in touch in February to introduce you to your mentor/mentee.

UWE and Aerospace Bristol host local schools for a free STEM day trip!

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The DETI Inspire team at UWE Bristol are collaborating with Air League, the UK’s leading aviation and aerospace charity, who are generously supporting the free delivery of Aerospace Engineering days out for 16 classes from schools in the South West. So far, 243 kids have experienced Bristol’s excellent aviation history at Aerospace Bristol, before streaming into UWE’s new School of Engineering building to explore the future of sustainable flight using a virtual gaming platform.

This new scheme is part of Air League’s continuing mission to inspire young people to pursue a career in aviation. They’ve been able to offer this amazing opportunity for local schools by partnering up with Aston Martin Bristol, who are funding the delivery of Air League’s Inspired Engineering initiative for 2022. This funding has enabled Air League to offer the free day out, as they are paying for transportation costs, entry into Aerospace Bristol and a bespoke workshop at UWE Bristol, all at no cost to the schools.

Throughout the day, different careers relating to the aerospace industry are discussed to give students a flavour of what a future career could look like. The goal is to inspire children from all different backgrounds to start thinking about careers in STEM, particularly engineering, and give them an idea of the future roles they can hold. The initiative also aims to emphasise the green skills that they will need in the sustainable workforce of the future.

Josh Warren from the DETI Inspire running an AirLeague funded Minecraft session on the future of flight in UWE Engineering’s dedicated outreach classroom

The DETI Inspire team used their regional links to recruit  primary schools to the programme, with Air League organising all transportation for classes, including the transfer between Aerospace Bristol and UWE Bristol’s Frenchay campus halfway through the day. Coach costs often prohibit schools from arranging trips out for their pupils, even to relatively local educational destinations, so this funding has been really appreciated by schools, particularly those from areas of socio-economic deprivation who have been a priority to secure sessions for.

Each trip begins with a visit to Aerospace Bristol to explore the history of air travel and aerospace design. The children get to explore the amazing exhibits, with a frequently reported favourite being a tour inside a Concorde aircraft!

This is then followed by a visit to UWE’s School of Engineering, where students explore the future of flight on the popular game, Minecraft. The kids enter the virtual Filton runway, built by DETI Inspire collaborator Atkins, where they are encouraged to let their imaginations run wild to think up ways in which air travel can become more sustainable.

The young people have used Minecraft to digitally engineer biofuel stations for planes, where the crops used are grown on site; as well as prototypes for solar powered planes and flying electric cars!

The programme has been extremely popular, with every session booked out by mid-October. While the children’s enthusiasm speaks for itself throughout the day, there’s also been fantastic feedback from teachers:

“We would like to say a huge thank you for this opportunity. It was a fantastic day and the children were really excited by all that they got to do!”


“Overall, a fantastic opportunity for the children and one they would not get often.”

We have received a lot of enquiries from schools who would love to participate in our aerospace days out, so we are hoping to continue this initiative into 2023 to reach more students in the South West and inspire them into careers in STEM.

DETI Inspire use the West in Minecraft and subsequent worlds developed with the support of Atkins, a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group, and Science Hunters through Building to Break Barriers (funded by a Royal Academy of Engineering Ingenious grant)

Our Green Skills Meet-up

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Last week DETI Inspire attended an Our Green Skills meet-up at the SS Great Britain. The event allowed us to interact with educators in the South-West and provide them with educational resources related to sustainable engineering.

Our Green Skills aims to promote the teaching and raising awareness of green skills in schools. These skills include those that’ll help kids thrive in a future workforce that is more focused on sustainability, such as those needed to reduce carbon emissions, improve energy efficiency, and prevent further biodiversity loss.

As well as the exchange of ideas and opportunities to promote green skills to schoolkids, we successfully recruited STEM ambassadors, who were aiming to get more involved in outreach. STEM ambassadors are crucial for engaging children with STEM topics, as they represent the diverse types of people found in their field and demonstrate the wide variety of roles that kids can picture themselves in.

We also promoted a Youth Climate Communications Toolkit: a short booklet that schoolkids can work through to help them develop a plan to communicate about climate change and how we can work together to prevent further harm to the environment in a format that interests them. This could be through social media, filmmaking, letter writing, and many other ways.

We hope to attend more similar events in future to connect with other educators who want to equip children with the tools they need to create a more sustainable future for themselves.

Engineers meet to inspire the next generation

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On Tuesday 13th September, Engineers across the West of England gathered at UWE Bristol to glean insights into how to ‘Inspire young people in Engineering’.

The 20 diverse engineers were led through the “how to” of engaging & inspiring children by the science communication experts from local Bristol planetarium company, Explorer Dome.

Explorer Dome have been travelling throughout the country for over 20 years, providing children with a science experience inside their awe-inspiring inflatable planetariums. They drew on this wealth of experience at the training session, to guide the engineers through the basics, with plenty of examples and opportunities for the engineers to ‘have a go’.

Attendees reported an overall increase in confidence in delivering engineering outreach to children and said the following:

“Great top tips! [I have a] better idea of how to interact and communicate science with children.”

Presenters know what they’re doing! Inspiring and I hope I can be a good communicator like them someday.”

Really helpful content and activities.”

With more diverse representation recognised as an important factor to increase the numbers and diversity of engineers joining the workforce, it was great to have so many female engineers present (13 out of 20 attendees), as well as engineers from range of ethnic backgrounds. Thanks to everyone who joined us and we wish you the best with your school outreach!

What’s next to inspire the next generation of engineers?

This training was funded as part of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s public engagement grant scheme – Ingenious – secured by UWE. This Ingenious funding will also be used to extend the impact of Explorer Dome’s ‘We Make Our Future’ show – a show all about engineering a sustainable future.

The show was was originally developed in 2021 as a collaboration between Explorer Dome and UWE Engineering’s outreach team, with initial funding from the Digital Engineering Technology and Innovation (DETI) initiative. Now Ingenious funds are enabling the team to take ‘We Make our Future’ into schools in areas of socioeconomic deprivation in the West of England.

The team is also extending some of the content of the show – adding in videos from local engineers, to showcase the breadth of people in engineering and inspire the diverse and socially conscious engineers of tomorrow. 

Some of the engineers seen at training this month, may well become those inspirational role models showcased inside the planetarium in the coming months!

Additional Information

UWE Engineering

You can find out more about UWE Engineering and the activities of the Outreach team on the UWE Engineering our Future website.

Explorer Dome

Explorer Dome is an internationally known, vibrant, popular science outreach organisation.
They travel across the UK presenting live science shows for schools, festivals and special events. Hands-on demonstrations and stunning visuals combined with knowledgeable, enthusiastic and professional presenters: Explorer Dome is presenter-led, lively, interactive and fun!

Royal Academy of Engineering – Ingenious: public engagement awards

Ingenious is an awards scheme for projects that engage the public with engineers and engineering while providing engineers with skills and opportunities in public engagement.

They prioritise projects that reach diverse and underrepresented audiences including communities in the most deprived neighbourhoods in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and that engage with engineers and people of different genders, ages and ethnic backgrounds.

DETI

DETI is funded by the West of England Combined Authority; it is transforming engineering for the digital era and inspiring the next generation of engineers. It is helping identify the technologies that will drive innovation in developing sustainable products, systems, businesses, infrastructure and transport that underpin a net zero environment. It is creating a new, diverse engineering community and systems to investigate, develop & demonstrate the advanced digital technologies and skills needed for the sustainable products of the future.

Digital Engineering Technology & Innovation (DETI) is a strategic programme of the West of England Combined Authority (WECA), delivered by the National Composites Centre (NCC) in partnership with the Centre for Modelling & Simulation (CFMS), Digital Catapult, the University of the West of England (UWE), the University of Bristol, and the University of Bath. WECA funding of £5m is match funded by the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and industry.

DETI Inspire Share Outreach Methods at the Interact Conference

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DETI Inspire team members Josh and Stephanie headed to Cardiff last week to share their methods of outreach to schools with other science communicators in a variety of different STEM fields.

Interact, held annually, is an engagement symposium for the physical sciences organised by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). With the stunning backdrop of Cardiff City Hall, this year’s event allowed the exchange of ideas and learning from a variety of organisations, such as Science Made Simple, the Institute of Physics, and the Royal Astronomical Society.

DETI Inspire ran two workshops throughout the day showcasing ‘The West in Minecraft’, an engineering outreach session typically provided for school groups. The session allows children to access a digital landmark from Bristol or Bath and make changes and improvements to it via the tools provided in the popular game Minecraft to solve a problem, with a focus on sustainability.

Stephanie is stood in front of a table covered with kids engineering and science books, small robots, and leaflets. She is raising her fist, copying the statue behind her which is doing the same.
Stephanie at the DETI Inspire market stall

Participants in the workshops at Interact were encouraged to imagine they were their 10-year-old selves to create an immersive experience that allowed them to understand exactly how the kids benefit from these sessions. Both sessions were well-attended, and conversations with staff and students from different organisations and universities suggested a current interest surrounding the incorporation of computer games into science outreach for schools.

Outreach discussions weren’t limited to just Minecraft though, as Stephanie and Josh arrived at the conference equipped with other engineering games, tools, and books that DETI Inspire use for outreach. Setting up robot battles was quickly found to be the most effective way of getting attendees to stop at their market stall, to then participate in conversations surrounding science communication methods and, in particular, advertise the work that DETI Inspire do.

Our amazing interns

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UWE students impressed with teamwork and communication during their internship.

We had two UWE student engineers join the Inspire team as interns for eight weeks this June/July. And from independently designing a new school workshop, to running around science festivals entertaining children, they’ve helped us enormously during our busy period. So this is my chance to rave about how amazing it has been to have these two gems in our team!

Introductions

My student interns were: Wing Leung (Natalie), a 1st year Robotics student engineer, and Luca Caruso, a 2nd year Aerospace student.

They both hit the ground running on their first day, which coincided with the first time we’d ever held a large school event in the new Engineering building. The event and then crazy schedule of school Minecraft workshops went really well, but it wasn’t until later that week that I realised what superstar students we had landed.

What a team

I spent about half an hour introducing the scope and concepts of a workshop I wanted them to design during the following weeks, then sat back (furiously emailing) and watched them began a pattern of steady and committed teamwork that continued throughout the internship. In Luca’s words, the two had “good synergy”.

I was continually impressed by their incredible independence and ability to drive the project forward using self-imposed deadlines, to finally deliver the workshop as a two part STEM Club to enthusiastic reception at the Old Library.

Superstars!

Great Ambassadors for UWE

Over the weeks at the: Cheltenham Science Festival, Great Science Share, Leaders Award Celebration and UWE family fun day, Luca and Natalie spoke to and inspired hundreds, possibly even thousands of local children in Engineering. They were key members of the team, which has had children looking in wonder around UWE’s Engineering building, asking about becoming students here like Luca and Natalie.

The West of England Mayor, Dan Norris, was keen to see what the robots could do when he visited UWE for an awards ceremony (his dog Angel was more interested in getting a good photo!). Natalie and Luca used their tried and tested engagement skills to woo the Mayor.

Natalie and Luca explaining their activity to the Mayor

We had about 600 people streaming into UWE’s new Engineering Building for the Family Fun day, with Luca and Natalie fielding a constant stream of visitors at their LEGO Mindstorm robot activity. Spot them in the photo below.

Spot Luca and Natalie heading up the robot zone

Highlights

Speaking to both interns before they left, it was great to hear their perspectives on the experience.

Luca raved about running the Inspire stall at Cheltenham Science Festival and getting the opportunity to speak to so many different people. After 8 weeks of experience learning how to best explain things to children of different ages, Luca said that at a school visit in his final week, “I finally got asked the question I’d been waiting for the whole internship! A child asked how a plane flies.” I feel certain he did a good job of answering it.

As for Natalie, the experience of designing, developing and then delivering the LEGO Mindstorm workshop with children at a STEM club, was the most satisfying aspect. She also developed great communication skills over the internship and wasn’t afraid to put all of that into practice, impressing the team when she volunteered to step up and fully lead a Minecraft workshop on her last day in school.

Final Goodbyes

What’s left to say, other than – Natalie with your boundless enthusiasm and commitment to a project, and Luca with your natural flair for leadership and super organisational skills – you’re already missed!

Good luck both of you!

Team Inspire 2022 at the Leaders Award Celebration Event 24th June 2022 (left to right – Louisa Cockbill, Natalie, Luca, Georgina Hayes & Josh Warren)

Lego Robots deployed in the community

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Guest blog by Wing (Natalie) Leung, 1st year Robotics student at UWE Bristol. Natalie describes delivering the Lego Mindstorm session that Luca Caruso (another intern) and herself designed and developed during the course of their internship.

This was the first time the Lego Mindstorms session was run – thank you so much to the old library community STEM club for inviting us to deliver these sessions!

Children from different age ranges were fascinated by our cool robots and had the opportunity to get hands on, building their robot from scratch and programming it to complete the task.

In the 1st session, the engineer design process was introduced to the kids through the fun design and building activity. They were challenged to solve the real-life application of buying from a warehouse – their task was to design a warehouse robot that helps the workers deliver the boxes to the right place.

Children built their cars using the instructions and then got creative in designing a carrying mechanism to transport an item safely from a designated start point to the endpoint – the challenge. They needed to think like an engineer. And carefully consider the number of pieces they used as sustainability and cost are also important.

In the 2nd session, children got to learn some simple programming. A program was provided, but they needed to figure out how to make it quicker to win the little competition. We introduced them to simple coding blocks like movements and if-statement, then they were able to understand the code and change some parameters to increase the speed without crashing.

These sessions were a perfect introduction to robotics and taster of engineering. The kids learnt simple robotic concepts like path planning and sensors, all whilst having fun playing with the robots.

Parent’s feedback was that they had never seen their kids being that focused on something.

The DETI Inspire team hopes to deploy more Lego Mindstorm sessions in the next academic year….watch this space to find out more!

UWE’s Engineering Family Fun Day a Great Success!

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Families from around Bristol recently came to UWE’s brand new School of Engineering building to enjoy a range of free science and engineering-based activities.

The families that came to the event explored different aspects of engineering such as coding and robotics through LEGO Mindstorm and Pepper (our humanoid robot), digitally engineering solutions to citywide problems through Minecraft, designing the best wind turbine blade in our craft activity, and other stations featuring, eco-houses, crafting and a free planetarium show from Explorer Dome.

The visitors to UWE’s new Engineering building were wowed by the space available to student engineers and also by an exhibition of children’s inventions. The inventions were submitted to the Leaders Award competition – a nationwide scheme that encourages children to solve problems using engineering thinking.

The event was a perfect opportunity to inspire younger children to think like engineers whilst having fun along the way, as well as introducing them to technology that they may not have been able to interact with otherwise. One 13 year old visitor exclaimed how much she loved the fun day saying one day she “would like to come here herself (UWE) and learn more” whilst another couldn’t wait to get home and try to make their own robots.

We would like to thank all the staff of UWE, helpers, and students that made this event happen for making it an amazing day!

Shining a light on green job pathways for the next generation

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Today marks the launch of a new year-long programme that aims to inspire and motivate young people in the West of England to pursue green career pathways. Known as Inspire Sustainability, it is one of three West of England Combined Authority (WECA)-funded initiatives as part of the Green Futures Fund, that, if successful, could be replicated and scaled to meet the region’s Climate Emergency Plan and Net Zero ambition.

This announcement builds on recent WECA support of other green skills initiatives in local schools, with West of England Mayor Dan Norris awarding the first green jobs grant for three schools to develop a special environmental careers programme -read more here.

Inspire Sustainability: in a nutshell

Developed in collaboration with UWE-Bristol’s Science Communication Unit, Cabot Learning Federation, Avon Schools Eco Network and STEM Ambassadors West of England, the programme was developed as part of the initiative for Digital Engineering Technology and Innovation (DETI) Inspire programme. Inspire Sustainability will expand the region’s existing hub of sustainability skills education and training to highlight the region’s leading green skills and expertise in the labour market. Working in partnership, the consortium will deliver three areas of work to three pilot schools; Hans Price Academy in North Somerset, Bristol Brunel Academy in Bristol, and Digitech in South Gloucestershire.  The project includes:

  1. All-school engagement: tailored lessons, talks and careers events with diverse role models, culminating in a whole-school Sustainability Summit.
  2. Eco Council engagement: Eco Action Plan co-development to support the schools achieve Eco School status
  3. Teacher engagement: training so that teachers have the confidence to engage young people on these topics and support them to imagine a future where they can see themselves playing an active role in shaping development.

Once piloted, the outcomes will be shared widely to primary and secondary schools as well as to educational professionals and academics through the consortium’s networks.

West of England Mayor Dan Norris with Year 10 pupils from Orchard School at the Youth Engineering for Environmental Sustainability Summit in October 2021

Building on what works

The Inspire Sustainability approach builds on tried and tested methods explored in DETI Inspire, which has engaged over 7,000 children and young people in the West of England on engineering for sustainability.

Consortium member UWE-Bristol’s Science Communication Unit has a track record of working with and training diverse stakeholders to reach sustainability goals. In 2021, the Unit launched its Climate Action Hub to highlight the existing work of students and academics in this space, as well as to offer support and training to further amplify climate action. Currently it is delivering climate communications training to young people and supporting them to act on things that matter to them. The Youth Climate Communications toolkit will be used to develop the teacher engagement portion of Inspire Sustainability.

Meanwhile, the STEM Ambassador programme will be key to recruiting diverse green role models while Avon Schools Eco Network will use their expertise to support the schools to develop their action plans.

If you are interested to know more about any of this work, please contact project manager Sophie Laggan.


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