UWE student engineers bring children’s designs to life!

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“If you were an Engineer, what would you do?”

This is the question asked to over 49,000 children throughout the UK each year as part of the Primary Engineer Leaders Award.

The Leaders Award is an annual competition which encourages pupils from primary and secondary schools across the UK to look at the world around them and find engineered solutions to common problems. Each year the children’s designs are graded by engineering professionals and the winners for each region are announced and celebrated at regional events.

The Engineering Design and Mathematics Department (EDM) at UWE Bristol have supported the awards and hosted celebration events for schools in the South West for the past four years, but this year the celebrations had to move online.

To make sure everyone could still view and enjoy the children’s designs, Primary Engineer created online virtual galleries for each region.

You can view the gallery for the South West entries of 2020 here.

EDM further support the Awards each year, by bringing the children’s designs to life. UWE student engineers are tasked to build prototypes of the winning designs, which are then showcased at the following year’s celebration event. This year a team of student engineers have been busy bringing an electric blanket design to life!

The solar electric heated blanket was designed by Mary, a local Year 5 pupil who aimed to provide warmth for the homeless. The team of UWE Masters students tasked with building a functional prototype of the blanket include student electronic engineers Oliver Németh, Eimantas Medziunas and Kieran Easdale, and student mechanical engineer Ahmed Nor (aka The Prototeam!).

The original design by Mary, Yr5

The challenge was to produce a blanket that would meet the needs of the end user – one that was suitable for outdoor use, durable, portable, low cost, easy to maintain, hygienic and able to provide heat for an appropriate length of time.

An interesting challenge with the technology currently available, and one that the Prototeam worked hard to solve together, using electronic simulations, schematic diagrams and 3D models. From this a prototype was built for testing and analysis, the results of which revealed the design was a success!

The prototype used for testing and analysis

Projects such as this have huge potential to inspire the next generation of innovators into a future in engineering. Encouraging children to tackle real-world problems that affect their everyday life helps widen the appeal of engineering to children from a variety of backgrounds, and will hopefully lead to a more diverse workforce in the future.

If you are a current student, alumni or professional and would like to know more about the Leaders Award or other engineering outreach opportunities currently available, please get in touch with the team at engineeringourfuture@uwe.ac.uk

If you are a school or young person interested in taking part in the Leaders Award this year, you can find more info and register for free here.

UWE Bristol teams up with Primary Engineer to inspire schools and pupils in the West of England.

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UWE Bristol have partnered with Primary Engineer supporting their ‘If You Were An Engineer, What Would You Do?® competition for South West England for the fourth consecutive year. The University’s Engineering, Design and Mathematics Department (EDM) are also supporting the ‘Primary Engineer Structures and Mechanisms with Basic Electrics‘ project this year, as part of their new programme of work for the Digital Engineering Technology Innovation (DETI) initiative for the West of England region.

We are thrilled to have UWE Bristol continue as a University partner for ‘If You Were An Engineer, What Would You Do?’ and to also fund the ‘Primary Engineer Structures and Mechanisms with Basic Electrics project’ through DETI. Winning designs from ‘If you were an engineer, what would you do?’ will continue to be developed and built by UWE Bristol engineering students into a full-scale functioning prototypes, giving the school pupils who entered the competition insight into the process behind designing and manufacturing a product as well as seeing their design brought to life.

Chris Rochester, UK Director at Primary Engineer

Primary Engineer Programmes

The Primary Engineer Structures and Mechanisms with Basic Electrics project begins with a one-day CPD course for primary teachers which enables them to deliver the engineering projects with Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 pupils. Teachers are provided with sets of tools, consumables and online resources as part of the fully funded project and will be partnered with engineering professionals from UWE and local businesses to provide a real-world context to the learning.

If You Were An Engineer, What Would You Do?® asks pupils from early years, primary schools and secondary schools to identify a problem in the world and design a solution to it. Inspired by interviewing engineering professionals from a range of roles, pupils are encouraged to ‘find the engineer they could be’ by designing the future of engineering. Alongside their annotated drawings, pupils write an accompanying letter to persuade the judges to select their design to be one of a number of designs to be built by UWE Bristol.

The DETI Inspire Programme

EDM are leading the Skills Development branch of DETI, establishing an engineering engagement hub for the West of England, based out of their new state-of-the-art School of Engineering building, and delivering three Skills programmes: Inspire, Transform and Innovate. Encouraging diversity and inclusivity, DETI Inspire engages children in primary and secondary education across the West of England, with a focus on disadvantaged areas. Using curriculum-linked engineering outreach and careers support, the programme connects children with real-life, diverse engineering role models via the Diversity Demonstrator, to widen participation and aspirations for STEM careers.

We are really pleased to partner with Primary Engineer to support our DETI Inspire educational programme. Supporting teachers to engage with STEM activities is so important, as they are critical influences in young children’s lives. There are so many exciting careers available in engineering, and it all starts with children learning that they have the power to make a difference in the world

Dr Laura Fogg-Rogers, DETI Inspire Lead

About Primary Engineer

Primary Engineer is an educational not-for-profit organisation that provides a suite of programmes to encourage children from 3 to 19 years to consider STEM and data careers. Primary Engineer inspires children, pupils, parents and teachers through continued professional development, whole class project work, competitions, and engagement with industry professionals to ensure the learning has a context to the wider world.

Primary Engineer promote engineering and data careers and address the diversity and gender imbalance in engineering and data with early years, primary and secondary pupils. Primary Engineer has won accolades over the years including successive Red Rose Award’s for ‘Skills and Training Provider of the year’, Burnley Councils’ Chief Executive’s’ Award for bringing ‘Education and Industry together’ and featured in the Scottish Government’s Manufacturing Future for Scotland and the Engineering Skills Investment Plan. For further information visit www.primaryengineer.com.


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.

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.

Making children’s inventions a reality

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UWE Bristol partners with the Leaders Award, an annual children’s engineering competition, to help run the competitions’ masterclass, grading days and celebration events in the South West. Last year Engineering students made a prototype of one of the winning inventions – a car braking systems where the red braking lights vary in intensity according to the pressure applied to the brake. This year, a new team of engineers are making children’s ideas into reality…

Second year mechanical engineering student – Georgina Packham – is heading up the ‘EWB UWE’ team to try and make a ‘Rain Catcher’.

The Rain Catcher was designed by Year 1 student from Headley Park Primary School, Tristan Sta Ines – pictured here.

The design’s purpose is to catch the rain which then turns into clean water. This benefits those who are thirsty helping to keep them healthy.

“We chose the Rain Catcher as we are not aware of any existing products that function in all the same ways that this design does, and we were also instantly drawn to the bright colours of the design. Tristan’s design will not only have little to no negative impact on the environment, but could also benefit those who don’t have easy access to clean water.”

Georgina explained why EWB UWE chose Tristan’s design.

The rest of the team is comprised of first year Engineering, Design and Mathematics students, Chase McLaughlin, Simbarashe Sibanda and Sonny Ngo.

Good luck team EWB UWE!

Primary Engineer launches the 2019 Leaders Award competition to inspire students interested in engineering

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The official launch event for the 2019 edition of the “If you were an engineer, what would you do?” Leaders Award competition from Primary Engineer has taken place to Gatwick Airport’s North Terminal.

By asking the question, “If you were an engineer, what would you do?”, the competition encourages school students across the UK to design inventions that solve real problems. UWE Bristol supports the Leaders Award in the Southwest, including hosting grading days at which all entries are graded by engineering professionals. Winning designs from around the country are built by university and industry-led teams, including one from UWE.

You can watch the original Facebook Live broadcast of Primary Engineer director Chris Rochester opening the event, alongside Dr. Susan Scurlock MBE (founder of Primary Engineer) and representatives from the three national sponsors, Gatwick Airport, National Rail and Facebook.

Can you spot our winning build design from this year, Philippa Griffiths’ Red Line Braking System built by our UWE student engineers?

Primary Engineer launches the 2019 Leaders Award competition to inspire students interested in engineering

We are very excited to bring you the official launch event for the 2019 edition of the “If you were an engineer, what would you do?” competition from Primary Engineer. This competition encourages 50,000 students aged 3 to 19 from across the UK to submit ideas for inventions that solve real problems in their communities; all entries are graded by engineering professionals and the winning designs are built by university and industry-led teams. The initiative aims to address the shortage of engineering professionals in the workforce: the UK Government says that over 200,000 new engineers are required per year to meet the demands of modern society. Delivering the opening remarks is Dr. Susan Scurlock MBE, founder of Primary Engineer, accompanied by representatives from the three national sponsors:Stewart Wingate (CEO of Gatwick Airport), Andy Doherty (CTO of Network Rail), and Rachel Burton (HR director of EMEA engineering, Facebook).

Posted by Facebook London on Tuesday, 13 August 2019

There’s also more about the launch event here from Primary Engineer.

Winning Leaders Award prototype unveiled at exhibition at UWE Bristol

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Last year, Hugh Sexey CE Middle School student Philippa Griffiths designed the Red Line Braking System for the Leaders Award competition, in response to the question “If you were an engineer, what would you do?”

The Leaders Award sets this challenge to encourage children to identify a problem that engineering could solve, and devise a solution. Philippa’s invention was picked as a winning design for the South West, and then selected to be turned into a working prototype by a team of UWE Bristol engineers. Philippa’s design displays variable red lights on the back of a vehicle to alert other drivers of the severity of the braking and levels of attention needed.

Our team of female student engineers from the university’s Women in Science and Engineering Society, including some taking part in our Royal Academy of Engineering funded project Women Like Me, turned Philippa’s idea into reality, visiting her school during the process and providing updates as they went.

Our team are:

The prototype was unveiled at the South West Leaders Award exhibition at UWE Bristol on Friday 14th June 2019 by Philippa, Katy and Miriam. The prototype, along with this year’s shortlisted entries, was also on display on Saturday 15th June at the University’s Exhibition and Conference Centre (ECC). Hundreds of visitors of all ages were able to try it out, as well as taking part in exciting STEM activities provided by the MOD, Aerospace Bristol, and UWE. The displays included having a go with drones, Lego Mindstorm, and a virtual reality tour of the new Engineering Building.

Congratulations to Philippa and the team for designing and creating a fantastic new engineering solution!

Children inspired engineers at the South West Leaders Award exhibition held at UWE Bristol

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The winners of the 2019 Leaders Award gathered at UWE Bristol for the South West awards ceremony on Friday 14th June.

The competition challenged children to answer the question: ‘If you were an engineer, what would you do?’ by identifying a problem that engineering could solve, and devising a solution.

From magnet wielding helicopters that tow broken down cars skyward, to surveillance parrots that alert wildlife trusts to hunters – the children’s designs tackled a great diversity of problems in modern society.

Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation Chris Skidmore joined UWE Bristol Vice-Chancellor Steve West and MOD DE&S Air Marshall Julian Young to congratulate those who entered the competition. While the competition launches by using online interviews with real-life engineers to inspire the children, they all agreed that in the end it’s the children’s designs that inspire engineers!

Throughout this year, engineers in EDM have been supporting the competition, by grading 4385 entries, and taking part in the final judging panel. UWE Bristol is the South West regional supporter alongside Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) – the Ministry of Defence’s procurement organisation.

The ceremony finished with a flourish, with student engineers Katy O’Hara Nash and Miriam Cristofoletti from the EDM WISE society, presenting the prototype they have made based on the winning design from last year’s competition. The system, designed by Year 8 pupil Philippa Griffiths, displays variable red lights on the back of a vehicle to alert other drivers of the severity of the braking and levels of attention needed.

Dr Lisa Brodie, Head of Department for Engineering Design and Mathematics said:

“We are always inspired by the children’s designs for the Leaders Awards. This year our female engineering students have gone one step further by actually taking a design, and building a prototype. It shows the passion and ingenuity in our region, both from local children, but also our own students. Through these public events we want to demonstrate our commitment to developing STEM technologies and a highly-skilled workforce which can enhance our future together.”  

The prototype, along with this year’s shortlisted entries, were on display on Saturday 15th June at the University’s Exhibition and Conference Centre (ECC). Hundreds of visitors of all ages were able to try it out, as well as taking part in exciting STEM activities provided by the MOD, Aerospace Bristol, and UWE. The displays included having a go with drones, Lego Mindstorm, and a virtual reality tour of the new Engineering Building.

Leaders Award judging takes place at UWE Bristol

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Engineers from UWE Bristol took part in grading entries to the Leaders Award competition, which challenges children with the question “If you were an engineer, what would you do?”

UWE Bristol hosted the regional grading days on 1st and 2nd May with engineers judging the entries.

You can sign up to go the Leaders Award – Awards Day and private exhibition of competition designs hosted at UWE Bristol’s ECC on Friday 14th June (2-5pm). Or bring the family to check out the public open day on Saturday June 15th (10am – 3pm).

Free Public STEM Open Day at UWE Bristol

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Saturday 15th June 2019

10:00 – 15:00

UWE Bristol’s Exhibition and Conference Centre, Frenchay Campus

Come and spot which inventions you think will be the tech of the future at the Leaders Award Exhibition day on Saturday 15th June.

You’ll be amazed by the ingenious inventions of local school children who set out to answer the question – “If you were an engineer, what would you do?” Shortlisted regional designs will be on display for the public to explore, alongside science and engineering demonstrations. Stir your curiosity with Lego Mindstorm robots, try out VR goggles, build a city, and have a go with drones.

Register on Eventbrite:
https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-south-west-of-england-leaders-award-2019-public-exhibition-tickets-59517993922?fbclid=IwAR20Qik5FLDpQlGi-swYBlIde2n1bGSkFCnGA3PbOioBYpHl35kRRmaXx_s

Thousands of children from across the South West take part in Leaders Award

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Thousands of children from across the South West have taken part in the Leaders Award competition, answering the question “If you were an engineer, what would you do?”. This free competition asks students to find a problem, invent a solution, draw it, explain and send it in.

Our engineers from UWE Bristol and the MOD Defence Equipment and Support have been swamped with entries this year, with 4385 children entering in 2019 compared to 2712 in 2018. All the children’s designs are graded by practising engineers and given feedback for the future. The final Awards Ceremony will take place in June, with a public open day being held on Saturday June 15th at UWE Bristol (10am – 3pm).

To find out more about the event, you can register your interest here. The free event will take place in the Exhibition and Conference Centre on the Frenchay Campus, and will feature exciting science and engineering activities.

Post by Laura Fogg-Rogers.