Engineering Solutions to Real World Problems – UWE Project Week 2020

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It’s Project Week here at UWE Bristol and 348 first-year engineering students are taking part in an Engineering for People Design Challenge, tackling real-life issues in Peru.

Both on a global and local scale, we are facing challenges that require urgent action. Engineering plays a key role in everyday life and our response to address current and future challenges. By participating in the Engineering for People Design Challenge developed by Engineers Without Borders, our students are investing their skills and talent to benefit the planet and its people.

The Design Challenge

This year’s challenge focusses on two neighbouring communities on the northern coast of Peru – Lobitos and Piedritas. Students will explore and tackle issues shared by local people living in these areas, focusing on one or more of the 8 challenge areas identified: Built Environment, Water, Waste, Food, Sanitation, Energy, Transport and Digital. Students are encouraged to use the UN Sustainable Development Goals as a framework for the design challenge to help them explore and understand these issues from both a local and global perspective.

What’s unique about our approach to teaching design and project management is that we give our students a real-life context to work on. They get to develop design ideas that address environmental and social issues faced by communities across the globe. 

Engineers Without Borders has been instrumental in helping us integrate sustainability into our engineering curriculum. It’s always exciting to see students give their all during Project Week to come up with great designs. More importantly, they complete their projects feeling inspired to do well in their studies and to use their engineering skills to make a positive impact around them.

Maryam M. Lamere, Project Week Coordinator

Why Project Week?

This week-long challenge plays a central role in UWE Bristol’s Engineering Practise module, part of our Integrated Learning Framework focussed around project-based learning. Students are guided through the challenges using the new Innovation and Design Toolkit designed by Bristol-based software company Newicon. The toolkit helps students explore and define real human-centred problems and rapidly move through iterative solutions and visual prototypes to select the best solution.

The Engineers Without Borders Design Challenge represents everything that is good and positive about Engineering and how Design and Engineering can be used to improve our environment and the life of the people that live in it.

Technology has clearly caused much damage to our world and it is great that Engineering at UWE is now focussing on directing efforts towards using Technology to improve our world and its environment. The Engineers Without Borders Design Challenge is an important first step in reminding Student Engineers of their important role in society.

Dedicating a whole week of their first year studies to focus on this should remind them how important it is.

Dr David Richardson, co-module leader for Engineering Practice

What’s involved?

Project week looks a little different this year (as with most things it has moved online during the current pandemic) but module leads Dr Laura Fogg-Rogers, Dr David Richardson and organiser of project week, Maryam Lamere, have put together a full programme of engaging online workshops, exercises and presentations to keep students engaged and focused throughout the challenge.

To kick things off this week students will hear from Dr Lisa Brodie, Head of the Department of Engineering, Design and Mathematics. Throughout the week they will also have access to videos of inspirational speakers from around the globe, including Felipe Gomez del Campo (CEO FGC Plasma Solutions), Brittany Harris (CEO, Co-Founder Qualis Flow), UWE Robotics alumni Silas Adekunle (CEO, Co-Founder ReachRobotics Ltd, Awari, R.I) and current UWE final-year student Henry James (Winner of STEM Telegraph Innovation Award).

As part of the design challenge, students at UWE will have the opportunity to compete against universities around the globe for their chance to be awarded Engineering for People Design Challenge Winner! We’ll be following their progress throughout the week so stay tuned for more exciting news about UWE Project Week 2020.

It’s been an interesting year to welcome our 348 first year student engineers to both a new curriculum and a new Engineering School here at UWE Bristol! They have had a lot to contend with, but we have been so impressed to see their design thinking coming along. I think that’s a lot to do with the ease of using the Innovation and Design Thinking kit, taking away the fear of failure and seeing engineering as a creative process aiming to make a difference in the world. We can’t wait to see the designs they come up with this week!

Dr Laura Fogg-Rogers, co-module leader for Engineering Practice

EDM department joins Bristol Technology Festival online for 2020

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We’d like to thank This is Engineering for use of images from their public image library that aims to better represent what engineers and engineering really look like. The feature image for this blog of a young woman using a VR headset is copyright of the Institution of Engineering and Technology & Callum Wood Ford.

Bristol Technology Festival takes place online, 9th – 15th November 2020

Bristol’s Technology Festival was born in 2019 seeking to showcase the sheer breadth of technology that had been developed in the local ecosystem, and share the stories of those entrepreneurs, engineers and creatives behind the technology with the people of the city, and further afield. It seeks to destroy any barriers between technology businesses, their suppliers, educational and charity organisations and the residents of the community that they live and work in. 

Events like these are more important now than ever before, with the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changing how we work and live, technologies are playing a crucial role in keeping our communities functional and connected in a time of lockdowns and quarantines.

This year’s festival will be delivered virtually. With a jam packed schedule of workshops, webinars, discussion panels, inspirational talks and networking events, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Themes for this year include diversity, inclusivity and sustainability and the DETI Inspire team from the Engineering Design and Mathematics department at UWE Bristol will be delivering events throughout the week.

Digital Engineering Careers Event, Mon 9th – Fri 13th November

The Digital Engineering Technology Innovation (DETI) Inspire team will be delivering a week-long careers fair for children aged 14+, themed on digital engineering.

The event will be hosted on the Like To Be online platform, where students will have access to inspirational videos from a diverse group of engineering professionals, sharing stories of their engineering journey, exploring the digital tools and technologies they use within their role and discussing how engineering can make a difference to people’s lives and help solve real-world problems.

Alongside these careers talks, students will have the opportunity to explore potential employment and development opportunities on offer from local employers, chat with real-life engineers and ask questions during several live Q&A sessions being held throughout the week, including a session from EDM’s very own Maryam Lamere, Doctoral Researcher and Associate Lecturer, who will be ready to answer questions about her research on the innovative Pee Power project, a technology that converts urine and other types of wastewater into electricity.

You can sign up to the event here.

Supporting Women and Girls in Engineering, Thursday 12th November

Only 12% of the UK’s engineers are women. Research shows that girls need to see women succeeding in STEM to feel that STEM is a potential career path for them.

Women Like Me is a peer mentoring and outreach project aimed at boosting female representation in engineering. The project pairs senior women engineers with junior women engineers to give them mentoring support as they start out in their engineering careers.

In turn, junior women undertake engineering education outreach in schools and at public events in the Bristol and Bath area. Engineering is a creative, socially conscious, and collaborative discipline, and this project aims to support girls and women to make a difference in society.

Join us for the launch event of Women Like Me 2020/21! Find out how the project will be running this year and what digital outreach opportunities are available. Network with other women engineers, and listen to inspirational speakers, including Dr Laura Fogg-Rogers, Senior Lecturer at UWE Bristol and Lead for the DETI Inspire project, and Sarah Behenna from the WISE Campaign. You can sign up to the event here.

If you would like more information on either of these upcoming events, or would like to be involved with similar events in the future, please contact the DETI Inspire team. A full line up of the Bristol Technology Festival events can be found here.

DETI Inspire launch new Diversity Demonstrator

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Exciting work is underway within the EDM department at UWE Bristol, as we begin establishing the Diversity Demonstrator as part of our work for the Inspire branch of DETI Skills.

The Inspire branch of DETI aims to address the nationwide skills and employment gap in engineering by championing science for children in the West of England. In order to appeal to under-represented groups and so increase diversity in the profession, DETI Inspire will particularly focus on breaking stereotypes and challenging perceptions about STEM careers.

One of the ways we hope to achieve this is by shaping a Diversity Demonstrator – a network of diverse engineering role models to champion engineering public engagement and inspire the next generation of digital engineers.

Why are role models important?

“You can’t be what you can’t see”

Marian Wright Edelman

Children need to be able to see engineering as ‘for them’. They need access to positive role models who look like them, to help connect with it as a career and visualize themselves as an engineer.

This is particularly important for children from under-represented groups within the industry, including those from low socio-economic backgrounds, girls, black and minority ethnic individuals.

So if you are a current student, alumni, staff or industry professional and would like to be part of our network of diverse engineering role models, please register your interest with this short survey

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. DETI is funded by £5m from WECA, with co-investment from the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and industry.

People vector created by pikisuperstar – www.freepik.com

UWE Bristol’s Engineering, Design and Mathematics (EDM) department continues to rise up through the university league tables

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Following the recent news that UWE Bristol has climbed to 21st place in the UK in the latest annual Guardian university league table, we wanted to celebrate the fantastic contributions made by the EDM department.

Latest survey results show the university ranked 8th in the UK for the subject area of Mathematics (rising from 21st in 2018) and 13th for Aerospace, Mechanical and Automotive engineering – a huge rise of 39 places since 2018.

UWE Bristol currently sits top of the league table for overall student satisfaction within the subject area of Mathematics, scoring an impressive 100% for the second year in a row. The latest National Student Survey results within this subject area also rank the university 3rd in the UK for both the quality of teaching (95%) and quality of feedback and assessment (89%).

A huge congratulations to the whole team!

With the next academic year about to begin, bringing with it new ways of working, teaching and learning, we are certainly excited to see what more can be achieved.

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.

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

UWE students challenge kids with engineering activities

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Last week engineering and teaching students teamed up to bring engineering challenges to children across schools in Bristol.

The 35 engineering students and 22 education students currently taking the Engineering in Society module, used their different skill bases to peer mentor one another, and then deliver engaging activities to ~720 pupils at six Bristol schools on Wednesday 27th November.

Children aged 8 – 11 years old at Bannerman Road, Hambrook, Illminster Avenue, May Park, Shield Road and Victoria Park Primary Schools took part in one or more of the activities:

  • Gliders (High Flyers)
  • Floating Platform (High and Dry)
  • Vacuum Cleaner (Super Sucker)

Senior Lecturer from UWE Bristol and module lead, Dr Laura Fogg-Rogers was enthusiastic about the engineering day. “Visiting our engineers as they undertake their education outreach is always an exciting experience. Not only do we see our students flourishing, but I can see the impact they are having on the children as well. There is always so much fun and excitement in the classrooms as the children come up with their own designs!”

“Engineering can change the world, basically”

“This is the best day of my life!”

“Engineering can make life better for us all”

Quotes from participating children