A month of live chats with I’m an Engineer

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We teamed up with I’m an Engineer to connect local school students with engineers in live text based chats that took place throughout the month of March.

During this month-long ‘Metre Zone’ (all the engineering zones are named after different units of measurement!), several local engineers from the West of England region joined chat sessions with secondary school students, answering questions on a variety of topics, ranging from why they chose engineering as a career, possible new technologies for carbon neutral cars, the impacts of Covid_19 on working life, working internationally and much more.

Metre Zone live chat with local engineer Magdalena from GKN Aerospace

The Metre Zone forms part of a series of online engagement events designed to show students the positive impact of engineering. Our next event in June 2021, the Candela Zone, will see another month of live chats with local schools and engineers, this time with the theme of sustainability, exploring how engineering can help contribute solutions to climate change.

These conversations and discussions will then continue into the Autumn term as we host a Youth Engagement with Engineering and Sustainability Summit (YEESS) in October 2021, ahead of the UN Climate Conference COP26. This 4 day festival-style event will provide opportunities for local sixth form and college students to have their say about the climate and ecological emergency and share this with local policy makers from the region.

If you are an engineer studying or working in the West of England and would like to get involved with the June or October events, or if you are a school and would like to connect your students with local engineers, please contact our team for more information.

This series of events have been funded by the Digital Engineering Technology & Innovation initiative (DETI), as part of the Inspire programme led by the Engineering, Design and Mathematics Department at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol).

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.

A Mathematical Model of a Zombie Apocalypse

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Suppose there was a Zombie outbreak? How confident would you be to predict what would happen?

Well lucky for us, Emily Walsh Senior Lecturer in Mathematics at UWE, has created a new BoxEd school outreach activity, a mathematical model of a zombie apocalypse.

This engaging activity allows students to work through the maths behind infectious disease modelling, using a combination of mini lectures, tasks and guided solutions.

The BoxEd forms part of a new series of online outreach activities made available to schools during the pandemic and features an extension activity and short film created by Foundation BSc Maths student Michael.

Watch Michael’s film here: https://xerte.uwe.ac.uk/play.php?template_id=2878#page4

Michael’s video has been a huge success with over 300 views so far. To celebrate his hard work he was nominated to receive a signed copy of Fermat’s Last Theorem by science writer and co-founder of the Undergraduates Ambassador Scheme (UAS), Simon Singh.

The UAS encourage undergraduates to go into schools as part of their degree, in order to learn valuable skills, act as role models, build links between universities and schools, and contribute to widening participation.

As Michael points out in his video, whilst this activity has a little fun with zombie fiction, the mathematical model explored mimics those used in real life. Such models provide a valuable tool in understanding the mechanisms and patterns of disease transmission, including that of COVID_19.

Hopefully by engaging with this activity and Michael’s video, more young people will see the real world applications of what they are learning in school and the impact they could have as the future generation of mathematicians.

Mathematicians have and always will influence society in huge ways, as the next generation of mathematicians you will too, it’s never too early to start thinking about how you can change the world.

Michael, Foundation BSc Mathematics, UWE Bristol

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.

How do you teach a class of pupils amidst lockdowns and school closures?

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British Science Week is a ten-day celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) taking place this year between 5-14th March.

Despite the many challenges of taking part in Science Week during a global pandemic, schools around the country have been engaging with celebrations whole-heartedly, ensuring their pupils have the best opportunity possible to celebrate science and its role in society.

And here at UWE Bristol, our student engineers currently studying the Engineering and Society module have been working hard to find new ways of connecting with local schools despite lockdowns, school closures and a whole lot of uncertainty!

The module highlights the importance of professional development, lifelong learning, and the competencies and social responsibilities required in order to be a professional engineer.

Through experience of speaking to different groups of people, including teaching a class of school pupils, the module aims to improve the engineers’ communication skills and enable them to effectively communicate engineering and sustainability concepts to a variety of audiences in the future.

But how to teach a class of pupils during a time of school closures and remote learning?

Our student engineers solved that problem, collaborating with students studying Primary Education at UWE, to create their own set of digital educational resources that could be used remotely by teachers.

An exciting opportunity to gather an insight into engineering allowing us to inspire young minds and create opportunities for the future.

Elizabeth Hadlington, Student in Primary Education, UWE Bristol

Over 50 student engineers recorded a set of videos; the first to introduce themselves to the pupils, the area of engineering they study, their interests, what inspired them to become engineers, and advice about different engineering career pathways.

The second video was more subject-specific, helping teach the pupils some of their curriculum-linked learning using a combination of presentations, demonstrations and follow-along activities.

Here is student engineer Noble, introducing himself to KS1 and having some fun with forces.

Meet Noble, student engineer at UWE Bristol

The students then worked together to create a full package of teaching resources for local schools, including videos, lesson plans and activities. These resource packs are now being shared with the placement schools usually visited by the students of Primary Education, over 40 schools throughout Bristol, to use during British Science Week.

‘Draw an Engineer’ one of the activities from the pack sent to local primary schools

The resources will also be made available to all schools registered to take part in the DETI Inspire event – The Big Beam In for British Science Week, reaching a further 19 schools from across the West of England and over 1600 pupils!

From the feedback coming in so far from all students involved, it looks like the project has been a huge success! We’d like to thank all of the students and schools involved and we’re looking forward to seeing what our local schools make of the resource packs – watch this space for more updates!

Noble had the challenge of creating materials for KS1 which is always tricky especially when it comes to engineering however he quickly overcome this barrier and was able to assess the national curriculum to pinpoint were engineering would fit in.

Noble is a credit to the engineering team! We hope him the best in the future! Thank you for allowing us this opportunity to work with engineers. We have learnt a lot and explored a new way of teaching!

Megan Lili William, Student in Primary Education, UWE Bristol

If you are currently studying or working in an engineering field and would like to know more about the outreach opportunities available, please get in touch with the DETI Inspire team at deti@uwe.ac.uk


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.

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.

Women Like Me supports another 30 women in engineering

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Based in the Science Communication Unit and Department of Engineering Design and Mathematics at UWE Bristol and organised by Dr Laura Hobbs and Dr Laura Fogg-Rogers, Women Like Me is a peer mentoring and outreach project, aimed at boosting female representation in engineering. It is supported by the initiative for Digital Engineering Technology & Innovation (DETI).

After launching a new round in November 2020, the project has recently inducted a new cohort. Thirty women in engineering have been matched into 15 mentoring pairs, connecting senior engineers with junior engineers. The junior engineers are being linked to outreach opportunities, which despite current restrictions are available to undertake through remote provision and online platforms.

Participating engineers in this cohort come to the project from a range of engineering fields, including aerospace, civil engineering, renewable energy, robotics and more. Outreach opportunities such as The Big Beam In are available to participate in, with more to come.

With women making up only 12% of engineers in the UK, 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. Find out more about the importance of diversity in engineering here.

Women Like Me addresses this by pairing mid-career women engineers with junior women engineers to provide career and public engagement mentoring. Junior engineers delivering engineering engagement activities in local schools and at local public events, provide 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.

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.

Connecting local students and engineers with I’m an Engineer, Get me out of here!

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I’m an Engineer is an online STEM engagement and enrichment project that connects students with real engineers online.

And this year, the DETI Inspire team from UWE Bristol have teamed up with I’m an Engineer to show students the positive impacts of digital engineering.

Engineers from across the region are invited to take part in the Youth Engagement with Engineering and Sustainability Summit (YEESS!) to help school students see engineering’s impact on sustainability and the future of our planet.

Together with DETI, I’m an Engineer will run 3 activities for schools in the West of England as part of the DETI Inspire programme.

In March and June 2021 , students can Ask engineers questions, Chat to them in live text-based Chats, and Vote for their favourite engineer to win £500 to put towards further outreach.

In October 2021 , engineers who have taken part in March and June will be given the opportunity to discuss sustainability and engineering with students ahead of COP26 (UN Climate Change Conference) as part of the Youth Engagement with Engineering and Sustainability Summit.

Register your interest now: imanengineer.org.uk/engineers/yeess/

As part of the activity, you can:

  • Help students understand the role engineering has to play in making the world more sustainable
  • Engage school students in the West of England with your work
  • Help students see engineering as something ‘for them’
  • Improve your communication skills

I’m an Engineer is accessible and flexible to fit around your schedule – the Zones take place over 4 weeks, and you can choose to participate in live Chats at a time that suits you. You only need access to a computer or tablet, and Internet access, to take part.

Engineers, sign up to the first activity taking place from the 1st – 26th March here.

I would recommend I’m an Engineer to anyone looking to develop their engagement skills – it really is an invaluable experience

Engineer, Autumn 2020

Still have questions? Drop the team an email at support@imanengineer.org.uk

The Metre Zone (1st-26th March) is funded by the Digital Engineering Technology & Innovation initiative (DETI), as part of the Inspire programme led by the Engineering, Design and Mathematics Department at the University of the West of England (UWE).

Engineering Curiosity – a new resource for West of England Schools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Building to Break Barriers – a different view of engineering

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Building to Break Barriers is a new outreach project that aims to engage children from under-represented groups with engineering, using the computer game Minecraft, which allows players to build almost limitless creations.

The project will co-produce ten new engineering outreach sessions with engineers, children, and young people, and deliver them around the UK. To increase representation, the children involved will be from under-represented groups, and so will some of the engineers. Engineers will receive outreach training and support throughout the project. Activity will take place online during COVID-19 restrictions.

Why Minecraft?

Building to Break Barriers is a Science Hunters project. Science Hunters uses Minecraft to engage children with Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) for three key reasons:

  • Minecraft is very popular – it has even been referred to as one of the most important games of the current generation. This means that it is both familiar and appealing to children, and can interest them in topics that they might not otherwise engage with. It is also relatively easy to use, and quickly picked up.
  • Minecraft has various features which represent items and processes in the real world. This makes it ideal for communicating about, and building understanding of, a range of scientific concepts.

The game can be used in different modes on a range of hardware, including Creative mode, which allows unlimited building and therefore has high flexibility.            

What’s involved?

Children and schools

UK children and schools are invited to participate in co-designing outreach sessions with the project team and engineers. This may look different for each school and child, and could include: contributing an idea for a session topic, voting on a selection of session topics, suggesting hands-on resources, or designing part of a Minecraft challenge. They will also be able, circumstances permitting, to trial or take part in the developed sessions.

Ideally, this project would take place in schools. During COVID-19 restrictions, these elements can be conducted remotely with children who are either attending school (supported by teaching staff) or learning from home (with family support). The specific approach for each school will be discussed individually with staff.

Engineers

Engineers will also have the opportunity to co-design and deliver outreach sessions. This may be directly with schools and children as above, with Minecraft Clubs for specific groups, at public events, or with the project team (activities dependent on COVID-19 restrictions). Engineers will be able to choose their type and level of involvement to suit them.

Engineers will also receive 1:1 outreach training and have the opportunity to participate in group discussions, which will be conducted remotely to improve access and inclusion (e.g. for those with caring responsibilities).

Children, their teachers and parents/carers, and engineers will all be asked to provide evaluative information and will be able to contribute to the project’s ongoing direction and development.

Who can take part?

This project aims to reach children who may face barriers to accessing educational opportunities and have characteristics that mean they are under-represented in Engineering.

The project has a particular focus on supporting:

  • Women and girls
  • People with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities
  • People from lower socioeconomic status backgrounds (e.g. eligible for Pupil Premium, or from areas with low progression to Higher Education)
  • Looked After Children/Care leavers

Under-represented groups can also include people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnicities, with disabilities or long-term illnesses, in rural areas or limited access to services, who were/would be the first generation in the their family to go to university, who are carers/young carers, and with English as an Additional Language (NB this list is not exhaustive).

Representation is really important in enabling young people to feel that engineering is ‘for them’, so engineers who fall (or would have fallen, as children) into these groups are particularly encouraged to join the project.

Engineers can be from any engineering field, based in the UK. Whilst we recognise the value of undergraduate students, we are not able to offer places to them for this project. UWE provides public engagement training for undergraduate engineering students through the Engineering and Society module.

Further information and get involved

Building to Break Barriers is delivered by Dr Laura Hobbs and Sophie Bentley at UWE Bristol. They are assisted by Dr Calum Hartley, Professor Carly Stevens and Dr Jackie Hartley at Lancaster University, Dr Thom Wilcockson at the University of Loughborough, and Dr Paul Redford at UWE Bristol. The project is funded by an Ingenious grant from the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Schools who are interested in being involved should contact Laura and Sophie on ExtendingSTEM@uwe.ac.uk. Unless already involved with Science Hunters, parents/carers of children should ask their child’s school to contact us.

Engineers who are interested in being involved can complete an expression of interest here, and will be contacted when outreach can begin. Engineers in the West of England can also become part of the new initiative for Digital Engineering Technology and Innovation (DETI) Diversity Demonstrator database of diverse engineering role models; sign up to the mailing list here.

The project ends in January 2022. For more information or if you have any questions, please contact Laura and Sophie at ExtendingSTEM@uwe.ac.uk