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

How to make engineering for everyone

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The Engineering workforce in the UK is made up of only 12% Women and 7% of people from BAME backgrounds – so no wonder the sector is experiencing an employee shortfall! Engineering Industries are missing out on over half of the population, as well as, the vast range of experiences and perspectives that a diverse employee base brings to the table.

Digital Engineering Technology and Innovation (DETI)’s Innovate team at UWE Bristol wants to address the shortfall of engineers by finding how to best enable these underrepresented groups to enter and progress in the world of Engineering.

We asked Women, those with Neurodiversity, and people from Black, Asian, Brown and dual-heritage backgrounds, in the West of England – to tell us what they needed – check out the summary doc below to find out more.

UWE works alongside children in Easton to monitor local air quality

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Photographer Anya Agulova 

Academics and students from a number of UWE Bristol departments are collaborating with the local community in Easton to investigate, on a granular real-time level, air quality and traffic’s impact on the local high-street.

St. Mark’s Road in Easton is a high-street bucking the trend, with new shops popping up in an amazing and unusual Covid recovery. The local community’s clear commitment to investing in their high-street isn’t limited to popping into local shops – residents are beginning to be interested in how traffic affects the street they’re proud of.

In the last few years air quality sensors that measure pollutants as small as 2.5 microns have begun to pop up all over the world, and St. Mark’s Road has been part of this. Although you wouldn’t notice on walking down the street.

“The sensors need to be waterproofed, so we put them into the drainpipes – nice and easy and out of the way,” said Stuart Phelps from Baggator (a community organisation offering a range of innovative programmes for young people in the local area) who has been the driver behind much of the project.

Easton Data Garden is growing

It’s not very glamorous, but these hidden sensors are providing real-world information that are inspiring local residents. Particularly the weekly children’s science and technology club – the ‘Easton Data Garden’ – which UWE Bristol have been heavily involved in.

“The data gathered from the sensors on St. Mark’s Road gets the kids thinking about what that means in the real world,” explained Stuart. “Seeing this information in real-time is changing their view of science.”

And the children are about to take part in workshops, alongside academics from UWE Bristol and the University of Bath, to build new sensors for installation in more pieces of drainpipe on St Mark’s Road.

New sensors from the University of Bath and the European Space Agency, will give a detailed real-time readout of nitrogen dioxide (a significant greenhouse gas), carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, ammonia and ozone. These will be installed alongside traffic monitors – supplied by UWE Bristol’s Digital Engineering Technology Innovation (DETI) Inspire project, which links to the EU citizen science project WeCount.

“Working with Baggator and the Easton Data Garden is a fantastic example of local residents leading on citizen science in their own area,” said DETI Inspire lead, Dr Laura Fogg-Rogers.

“The young people and their mentors came up with this exciting idea to use digital engineering to link local air quality monitors with traffic counting sensors, providing a real-time picture of how traffic impacts air quality on a granular scale.

“We are really excited to see how this develops and are looking forward to supporting their science learning and community development!”

That’s a lot of great data to look at and residents, and particularly the children in Easton Data Garden, want to see the results and identify any problems on their high-street. Again, UWE is stepping up to the ‘mark’, with several teams of students working on projects to help highlight St. Mark’s unique data set.

UWE students get visuals on the data

This includes a UWE Computer Science and Creative Technology student team undertaking the creation of a bespoke St. Mark’s Road website – where local news sits alongside local air quality data.

But Stuart’s not stopping there. He has a vision for this website to be viewed from a St. Mark’s shop window, with real-time data coming in from sensors mounted directly above the shop. And again, a student digital design team under UWE Bristol’s Dr Mic Palmer’s direction, are developing a bespoke display screen for residents.

Future of St. Mark’s Road

In the next few weeks, children from the Easton Data Garden club will bring their families along to workshops to build the sensors. Installation will happen soon after, all ready to start feeding delicious data into the website UWE students will deliver at the end of January. And viewed at the local corner shop!

All the while, local Easton children will be working alongside academics, asking questions about the effectiveness of real-world interventions, like, how do rumble strips impact on traffic speed and then air pollution? This will be the first time citizens have combined these technologies to directly test the impact of interventions on their streets – a necessary step to improve high streets.

For Stuart, almost the most important impact of this project, is the interactions made possible between the academics and children in Easton.

“The kids here wouldn’t normally have exposure to University and the people who work there, this project means they are getting to have those interactions” explained Stuart. “And the children are interested because it’s relevant to them, and because the academics are genuinely listening to what they have to say.”

Work alongside UWE academics is also a key part of another strand of Stuart’s work – supporting the local Muslim community to celebrate the end of Eid with a huge light display (called the Grand Iftar). Children in Easton Data Garden are again collaborating with UWE Bristol academics to design light patterns to be displayed on/in the Jamia Masjid Mosque dome.

We’ll be updating on the results coming out of Easton Data Garden in the next few months and later on in 2022 you can expect to see some amazing images from the Grand Iftar celebration.

See more about Easton Data Garden (& UWE Bristol’s involvement!) in the video below:


Official opening for School of Engineering building

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UWE Bristol’s state-of-the-art School of Engineering building was officially opened at an event on Thursday 18 November.

Completed in 2020, the striking multi-million pound facility on Frenchay campus has transformed engineering teaching and learning at UWE Bristol and has already been named Project of the Year at the British Construction Industry Awards where judges praised its intelligent and sustainable design.

To formally declare the landmark building open, a special event was attended by students, staff, alumni and industry partners, along with guest speaker Dawn Bonfield MBE, former president of the Women’s Engineering Society, and celebrated sculptor Alice Channer who was commissioned to create an engineering-inspired public artwork in the atrium.

Staff, students and guests at the opening event

Designed with diverse student engineers in mind

Planning and design work on the new building was carried out in tandem with a renewal of the university’s engineering curriculum, drawn up in collaboration with industry to ensure engineering graduates are equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed.

Moving to our wonderful new building with its complementary practise-based curriculum has signalled a real cultural shift. Our students are now known as professional student engineers, rather than engineering students. They are studying during traditional working hours, learning in spaces that closely resemble actual engineering workplaces, and use the same specialist equipment as professional engineers. We are placing an enhanced focus on problem solving, trialling and testing, because it is beneficial for students to try and fail as it builds resilience, creativity and innovation.

Professor Lisa Brodie, Head of the Department of Engineering Design and Mathematics at UWE Bristol

In addition to a new building and curriculum, UWE Bristol is redoubling efforts to increase diversity within its engineering intake. This includes enrolling more students with neurodiversity, and providing them with enhanced levels of personal mentoring and support from enrolment to employment, and doubling the number of female engineering students.

If we want to solve the challenges we face as a society, we need to attract different types of people into the engineering discipline. We need to embrace different ways of thinking and doing, and celebrate differences. Our mission is to change the perception of the roles that engineers fulfil and raise aspirations in underrepresented groups. 

If we carry on seeing the same intake entering the profession, we will continue to come up with the same old solutions. Engineers will need to think differently and be far more creative and innovative over the next decade, particularly with some of the challenges we face in areas such as the climate crisis. We aim to be the difference.

Professor Lisa Brodie, Head of the Department of Engineering Design and Mathematics at UWE Bristol

Professor Lisa Brodie was recently interviewed by BBC Points West and ITV West Country News, sharing her thoughts about the need for a more inclusive and diverse engineering workforce. You can read more in this BBC article or catch up with these short clips:

BBC Points West: https://youtu.be/pZNAwXSveIE

ITV West Country News: https://youtu.be/IF3gQ_LnKYQ

Graduate Laura Dixon, Professor Lisa Brodie and Student Engineer Thomas Dixon with BBC film crew

Inspiring the next generation

The university also aims to help attract a broader range of engineers by sparking interest among younger age groups, with school children as young as five invited to visit the building’s Prototype and Play Lab to participate in inspiring engineering outreach activities.

The school of engineering outreach team have developed a series of free engineering workshops for West of England schools and community groups, all designed to engage young people with engineering careers and solutions for sustainability.

Workshops are available to book now, details can be found in the brochure available for download below.

Local primary school students exploring engineering marvel SS Great Britain during The West in Minecraft engineering workshop

A digital future is coming. Let’s make it an inclusive one.

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Are you an engineer or someone who works in, or is interested in, digital engineering and technology sectors in the West of England, UK?   

What would make the sector more inclusive for you?

Come to our Listening Workshops this summer to share with us your hopes and the challenges you face.

These listening workshops are for individuals, underrepresented/ underserved people, so we can work with and for you, as part of the Digital Engineering Technology and Innovation (DETI) Skills and Workforce Development Programme led by the Engineering Design and Mathematics department at UWE Bristol, helping remove barriers and open up access to digital skills, jobs and technologies.

The technology and engineering sectors have some of the biggest skills shortages in the UK, but also some of the greatest opportunities for future jobs. We want to proactively include as many people as possible in the future of digital.

We will be hosting several listening workshops throughout June and July, for different groups of individuals currently underrepresented or underserved in engineering. Each workshop will provide opportunities for you to share your voice, participate in discussions and network with like-minded people.

Register your interest here.


A big thanks to This is Engineering for the use of their image. For more diverse engineering images, visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/thisisengineering/


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.

Providing space for social communication in a STEM engagement project

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Neurodiversity Week celebrates our unique strengths and differences, while recognising that the many talents of people with ADHD, autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia and other neurodiverse ways of thinking and learning are often not suited to traditional, formal learning environments.

Science Hunters is a Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) outreach and research programme that uses Minecraft to engage children from under-represented groups with STEM. Projects have covered a wide range of topics such as the Amazon rainforest, understanding diabetes, earth science and volcanoes and space, with the Building to Break Barriers project currently running at UWE Bristol engaging children with many aspects of engineering.

Minecraft is the second-best selling video game of all time and extremely popular with children. Players place and break blocks with a wide range of appearances and properties, to build a huge range of constructions. It can be played either as a single-player game or in a shared virtual world with multiple users playing together, and was chosen for Science Hunters because of its popularity (children want to play it!), particular appeal to children who learn differently, and suitability for explaining science.

A key target group for Science Hunters is children with Special Educational Needs (SEN), particularly through a dedicated Minecraft Club that has been running since 2015. It soon became clear that taking part in the club, alongside children with similar needs in an accepting environment, and playing a game which was a shared special interest, had more benefits for participants than STEM learning alone.

When face-to-face sessions are possible, as they were until the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Minecraft Club uses a dedicated server, so that children can play together in a safe social online space. Most of the children who attend have ADHD, autism and/or dyslexia. Spaces are limited to no more than 16 at a time, with simple guidelines to keep the club fun; children are not under pressure to conform to ‘neurotypical’ behaviour norms as may be expected in non-specific settings.

STEM topics are briefly introduced, and then participants are free to build in Minecraft in relation to that topic; while adults are there to guide and support, children are encouraged to follow their own interests and ideas to create their own unique designs. For four years, data were collected from participating children and their parents/carers, who attended with them, through surveys and interviews.

During this time, 101 children aged 5-17 years attended; responses were gathered from 29 children and 37 caregivers. Results indicated that children both enjoyed and learnt something from attending, and while their feedback understandably often focused on Minecraft, they also indicated that they had benefitted socially and emotionally from being in the shared space with other children with similar interests. This was supported by insights from parents and carers, who described benefits outside the club, such as improved confidence and wellbeing, improved social skills, and reduced need for formal learning support.

Interest in playing Minecraft is what motivates children to attend, and the game provides a range of opportunities for children to potentially develop social and educational skills. This is supported by the process of designing and completing builds, independently or collaboratively, and communicating with others within the shared virtual world. Playing in the same physical space enhances this, as communication can move between the virtual and real worlds and allow in-person peer support and the ‘safe space’ provided in our Minecraft Club supports children with SEN to interact naturally and spontaneously. While it was set up as part of STEM outreach, the social communication impacts of our Minecraft Club – such as making friends, fitting in, and feeling valued without judgement regardless of completing tasks or conforming to expected social behaviours – are at least as important.

Minecraft Club is currently running virtually as part of Building to Break Barriers. We’ve looked at earthquake-proof buildings, protecting against flooding, tunnels, drones and more, and are exploring the effects of the change to meeting online.

More information about Minecraft Club, and its impacts reported here, is available in Hobbs et al. (2020) Shared special interest play in a specific extra-curricular group setting: A Minecraft Club for children with Special Educational Needs, Educational and Child Psychology, 37(4), 81-95.

Making or Baking – there are many routes into STEM!

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Over 200 Year 9 and 10 pupils from across the country tuned in to an online webinar this week, to hear engineers in the West of England talk about their routes into STEM careers. 

The live Q and A panel was organised by DETI Inspire in collaboration with the EDT Routes into STEM programme.

The session had fantastic engagement, with pupils sending in over 100 questions to the panel of four amazing engineers from the West of England.  

Questions and discussions led by the students covered a huge number of topics, including job interviews, working abroad, the transition from school to the workplace, gap years, influences, chosen subjects, and being a woman in STEM.  All mixed in with the real stories and experiences of local engineers, from roast potatoes and chocolate, to the enjoyment of rooting through people’s bins!

Olivia Sweeney talked about her experiences studying Chemical Engineering, and her opportunities working abroad in Sweden, Romania and Pakistan.  She also surprised us all by saying that her favourite part of her job as a sustainable waste consultant was looking through people’s bins!  

Olivia collects first hand data to understand what people put in their bins, when they do so, and why so that she can work to make it easier for people to recycle, reduce waste and make the process more circular.

When asked about her route into a role as a Naval Architect, Laura Star got the pupil’s tastebuds tingling by talking about her experience as a food engineer working with lots of chocolate!  An unexpected route into naval architecture, where she helps plan how different parts fit together like a jigsaw to form enormous ships and sea-vessels.  

Laura also gave the pupils some strong advice about being a woman in STEM, and her experiences of working in a largely male-dominated environment.  

Rich Moorcraft spoke about his journey to becoming a technical design engineer and manager at a packaging company, through an aerospace engineering apprenticeship.  The pupils were really interested to hear about the choices he made when leaving school at 16, and his advice for pushing through into STEM without taking the traditional academic and higher education route.

When talking about the favourite parts of her job as a mechanical design engineer, Temi Odanye showed the pupils some great shots of her and hundreds of her colleagues that she helped to grow!  It was her first batch of crops at a company that works to make farming more sustainable and efficient, helping to tackle some of the world’s most important challenges. 

DETI Inspire also talked to the pupils all about some of the projects that we have been working on, including the Engineering Curiosity card games, lesson plans and resources being developed for DETI Inspire’s Big Beam In during Science Week from the 5th of March. 

It was clear that the pupils really engaged with and responded to the advice given, and our thanks go to the engineers that kindly gave their time to inspire the engineers of the future!

The session is available to view below at the following link:

https://zoom.us/rec/share/xHYLzOP177paGlPchCwmQzJuZRjNxPt6zL4x2qf3ZVQcZ5ytkusFq9_CG6aPoMID.UxRgLPpC0ALuHZaS?startTime=1613570432000

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 & 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.

The Big Beam In for British Science Week

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DETI Inspire at UWE Bristol are running a series of engineering engagement events with local schools during British Science Week this year (5th-14th March) called The Big Beam In for British Science Week and they invite anyone currently studying or working in engineering to take part.

The Big Beam In aims to connect children throughout the South West with real-life engineers and showcase the diversity of engineering, its people, skills and future career opportunities.

The sessions will take place virtually and full lesson plans and guidance are provided to all teachers and engineers taking part. These lessons are themed around DETI Inspire’s latest school resource Engineering Curiosity – a set of top-trump style cards which have been created with engineers across the region.

You can find a sample of the digital card set here.

If you are an engineer and would like to take part in some online outreach and engagement activities with schools in your local area, register your interest using this online form today!


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 Graduate Engineer featured in Prospects case study

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Laura studied for a degree in mechanical engineering at the University of the West of England (UWE) before joining the Bus Engineering graduate scheme at FirstGroup. She recently shared her story in an interview with Prospects, helping students discover what it’s like to be a maintenance engineer.

In the interview Laura speaks about why she chose a career in engineering, a typically male-dominated industry, and gives her insight into how we might increase female representation – through relatable role models and more opportunity for girls to engage with engineering activities at a young age.

Girls also need to see more representation of people that look like them in engineering roles.

She also mentions becoming a member of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) after attending conferences as a student at UWE, and how these experiences helped increase her confidence and develop supportive networks, allowing her to create a women’s engineering society whilst studying for her degree.

Read Laura’s full interview.

The issues raised in Laura’s interview are incredibly important. With women currently representing just 12% of the UK engineering workforce, more needs to be done to encourage and support girls to study and pursue a career in engineering and help retain those women already in the industry.

UWE Bristol’s peer mentoring programme Women Like Me aims to address these issues head on.

Women Like Me pairs mid-career women engineers with junior women engineers, and provides career and public engagement mentoring. As part of the programme, junior 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 will lead to impact both in the workplace today, and for the future of the engineering profession.

You can read more about the Women Like Me programme in 2021 here.

Women Like Me relaunches for 2020-21

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Women Like Me is a peer mentoring and outreach project, aimed at boosting female representation in engineering.

The project was first launched in 2018 and is based in the Science Communication Unit and Department of Engineering Design and Mathematics at UWE Bristol. The project is organised by Dr Laura Hobbs and Dr Laura Fogg-Rogers, and is supported by the initiative for Digital Engineering Technology & Innovation (DETI).

Women Like Me pairs senior women engineers with junior women engineers to undertake mentoring and engineering education outreach in the West of England region. Engineering is a creative, socially conscious, and collaborative discipline, and this project aims to support girls and women to make a difference in society.

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 mid-career women engineers with junior women engineers to provide career and public engagement mentoring. Junior engineers will deliver engineering engagement activities in local schools and at local public events, providing positive role models for young girls. Through this approach, the project will lead to impact both in the workplace today, and for the future of the engineering profession.

Who can take part?

Mid-career and early career female engineers working in the West of England region can get involved in the project. Senior women engineers are those who have been working in engineering for at least five years. Junior women engineers are those with less experience than this, and can include apprentices, trainees, undergraduate and postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers.

What will it involve?

We will offer networking opportunities to all participants at the start (autumn 2020) and end (summer 2021) of the project. Depending on COVID restrictions, these may take place virtually. Senior engineers will receive support in mentoring and should meet with their junior engineer mentee at least twice during the project. This can take any form that best suits each pair. Junior engineers will receive mentoring support from senior engineers and training in public engagement. They will then undertake at least three engineering outreach activities with local schools and public events, which again, may be virtual. Coordination of activity is provided and supported by UWE.

How do I sign up?

To take part in the project this year, participants should complete the DETI Diversity Demonstrator survey and select Women Like Me from the list of areas of interest (along with any other areas you are interested in!) by Friday 4th December. The project coordinators will then be in touch having allocated the mentor/mentee pairs.

Want some more info?

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. You can also watch the recording from this year’s launch event below.

Recording of WLM Launch Webinar, Nov 2020

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

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.