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

UWE Taster Day for Year 12s

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33 local Year 12 students spent a day in the Engineering Design and Mathematics (EDM) Department, getting a taste for engineering and mathematics.

Rachel Szadziewska, EDM Associate Head of Department (Student Experience), introduced the day with a jigsaw ice breaker and then the students were broken into groups to take part in a range of problem based learning activities.

“From jigsaws that weren’t quite what they seemed through to learning the fundamentals of engineering stress and strain, density and material identification. The students seemed to have a good time and have hopefully been inspired to pursue a career in engineering.”

Rachel Szadziewska
An example of one of the maths based problem solving activities the students worked through.

Students aim to house the homeless

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UWE’s department of Engineering, Design and Maths (EDM) ran a project week for students, with a focus on finding novel solutions to homelessness.

Homelessness in the UK is a growing social issue and matter of concern for local councils and residents – and so a highly relevant regional challenge for the students to address.

Approximately 400 Project Management Level 2 students piled into the ECC on 28th Oct – 1st Nov, to take part in the project led by Poonam Kashyap and supported by the Aero cluster and module team.

Talks set the context-highlighting the issues and challenges faced by the target population, as well as the communities they live in. Speakers included, Jim Longhurst, Professor of Environmental Science and Assistant Vice Chancellor for Environment and Sustainability at UWE, Bristol, alongside various EDM alumni. And Stuart Phelps from Residents Against Dirty Energy, gave insights into van dwellers and residential areas.

Your task is to create novel engineering solution required to tackle the current homelessness issues faced by the local councils in the UK.

The students were given a brief instructing them to incorporate the following in their novel engineering solutions:

  • Sustainable homes/solutions
  • Affordable homes/solutions
  • Smart technology with accessibility to all (e.g. child and disable friendly).
  • Security and safety, healthy environment and care.
  • This may further include use of disused buildings, reuse of materials, innovative ideas around spaces and open areas and active areas.

Poonam reports that the project week was a huge success, with high levels of student and staff engagement.

UWE draw a crowd at Bristol Tech Fest

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Bristol’s Tech Fair was held on Saturday 9th November, to celebrate local tech, engineering and science. UWE joined in with the carnival of family fun activities, with stands immersing approx. 200 attendees in a Virtual Reality experience and Robotic programming.

Simon Scarle, Program Leader for MSc Commercial Games Development, ran a VR activity and two student ambassadors ran the robotic activities.

“It went brilliantly. We had loads of visitors come to the stand. The kids loved the vector robots and we had families working with the thymio robots on the floor. UWE almost took up the entire second floor!” reported student ambassador Daniel Buckley, who alongside fellow student Magnus Sligo-Young, was in charge of explaining how the thymio robot and vector robots worked.

When using the thymio robots, children and parents alike were given worksheets on which they had to link modes to the response displayed by the robots. For example, in red mode the robots avoided objects, responding in a fearful manner – moving away whilst beeping.

The students were surprised by how well children did compared to the accompanying parents!

The vector robots were also popular. Magnus said: “Kids loved the emotions displayed from the eyes on the vector robots and enjoyed seeing how they reacted to different situations…. the issue was that kids didn’t want to leave the stand!”

Bristol’s very own Tech Fair

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Bristol’s Tech Fair, celebrating local tech, engineering and science, is coming to Colston Hall on Saturday 9th November, 10am – 4pm.

It’s a lively carnival of family fun activities, careers advice and diversity inspiration – get free tickets for you and you family on Eventbrite.

There’s a Family and Kids Zone full day of Virtual Reality, Programming and Robotics with loads of local exhibitors, including UWE!

And for those of you involved in outreach and inclusion, the fair is also hosting the WISE conference. WISE is all about enabling and energising women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and they have an inspiring line up planned for the conference……Including, the UWE’s Engineering, Design and Mathematics’ departments very own – Laura Fogg-Rogers.

Fogg-Rogers will be speaking about UWE’s Women Like Me mentoring project, which connects women engineers with more experienced women in the field.

Finally, there’s a tech careers fair, for anyone who wants a sneak peak into what’s out there in the South West.

The tech fair is part of the Bristol Technology Festival, which is running from Monday 4th to Sunday 10th of November.

Women Like Me relaunches for 2019-20

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Only 12% of engineers in the UK are women. Is this enough?

No, it’s really not – we have an engineering skills shortage as it is, and the low proportion of women in the workforce means that a whole pool of talent is going untapped. Girls need to be able to see engineering as for them, connect with it as career and have access to positive female role models. And in turn, women need to feel supported to make a difference in the workplace once they get there, so that they not only go into, but stay in engineering roles.

To do something about that and bring people together, we launched ‘Women Like Me’, a project to open doors to girls and build resilience for women in engineering and funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering Ingenious scheme, last year at UWE Bristol.

The project was a huge success – we paired 21 mid-career (senior) women engineers with 21 junior women engineers (less than five years’ experience) in the Bristol and Bath area, in order to provide career and public engagement mentoring. The junior engineers took part in outreach activities resulting in over 10,240 children being engaged in with women engineers, through a variety of methods including school visits, public events and nationwide online presentations. After participating, engineers felt much more confident to undertake education outreach, and more likely to continue public engagement following the project. 

You can read more about the outcomes of Women Like Me in 2018-2019 in this blog post and in the project report.

Building on the achievements of the first year, Dr Laura Hobbs and Dr Laura Fogg-Rogers will once again be running the project over the next year; we both have lots of experience of delivering outreach and engagement projects and are passionate about making Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths accessible to everyone, at all stages.

If you are interested in taking part in Women Like Me in 2019-20, please read on to find out who can take part and how to apply.

Supporting women and girls in engineering

Women Like Me is a peer mentoring and outreach project aimed at boosting female representation in engineering. So what does that actually mean?

The project will pair senior women engineers with junior women engineers to give them mentoring support as they start out in their engineering careers. In turn, junior women will 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.

Who can take part?

Mid-career and early career female engineers working in the Bristol and Bath area can get involved in the project. Senior women engineers have been working in engineering for more than five years. Junior women engineers are those with less than five years, and can include apprentices, trainees, students and postdoctoral researchers.

What will it involve?

We will offer networking opportunities to all participants during the project. Senior engineers will receive training in mentoring and meet with their junior engineer mentee at least twice during the project.

Junior engineers will receive mentoring support from senior engineers and training in public engagement. They will then undertake at least three engineering outreach activities in local schools and at local public events. Activities and coordination of events is provided and supported by UWE; participation is voluntary and we’ll cover travel expenses.

How can I find out more or sign up?

To apply for a place on this year’s programme, please complete the relevant enrolment form:

Women Like Me 2019-20 Junior engineer enrolment

Women Like Me 2019-20 Senior engineer enrolment

For more information, please email engineeringourfuture@uwe.ac.uk. You can also follow the project on Twitter for updates.

Women Like Me is based in the Science Communication Unit and Department of Engineering Design and Mathematics at the University of the West of England, Bristol (UWE). The project is organised by Dr Laura Hobbs and was initiated by Dr Laura Fogg-Rogers. By matching senior and junior female engineers and supporting junior engineers to connect with the children and young people as the engineers of tomorrow, the project will lead to impact both in the workplace today, and for the future of the engineering profession.

UWE introduce teenagers to robots and programming

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Senior Research fellow from the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, Severin Lemaignan, took a team of students and plenty of robots to Bristol’s Teen Tech Fair earlier this month.

Teen Tech Festivals pop up across the UK to inspire the innovators of tomorrow -teenagers! On Thursday 10th October, local businesses turned up to Bristol’s Pavilion to help young people understand the opportunities in the science, technology and engineering industries.

Lemaignan was enthusiastic about how his robotic programming activity was received. “About 60 children came and visited us. They all went through a bit of robot exploration with the Thymios, trying to guess their different behaviours, and relate them to the sensors and actuators that the robots have; followed by a short introduction to programming with the Vectors: 
how can we get the robot to avoid a wall?”

Students, Ranvir Bhogal, Bethany Mackey and Jiangyin Sun, helped facilitate the short 15 minute activities.

“All of the instructors, activity leaders and ambassadors were tirelessly energetic with infectious enthusiasm. They used language to explain concepts to the pupils in an accessible way. Not all of mine are regular users of technical vocabulary but I felt that they understood all that they needed to and learnt loads! They have come away inspired and really excited about entering the TeenTech Awards. I also had a lovely day!”

Comment from a Teacher who attended.

You can find out more about Teen Tech below and read the report from the day here.

The successes of Women Like Me 2018-2019

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In 2018, Women Like Me launched at UWE as a tiered mentoring project for women in engineering. Delivered by Dr Laura Fogg-Rogers and Dr Laura Hobbs, the project was a great success, engaging over 10,000 children with engineering outreach and significantly improving engineers’ confidence. Some findings of the first year’s project report are summarised here.

Only 12% of engineers in the UK are women. For democratic, utilitarian and equity reasons this is not enough. Both recruitment and retention are important – more girls need to connect with engineering as a creative, socially conscious, collaborative discipline, and more women need to be supported to make a difference in the workplace. 


Funded in 2018-2019 by a Royal Academy of Engineering Ingenious grant, the ‘Curiosity Connections – Women Like Me’ project aimed to change this through tiered mentoring and role modelling. Previous research by Laura Fogg-Rogers indicates how important peer group and leadership support is for women, providing vicarious experience and changing social norms. This means that women need peer support to thrive in the workplace, and that girls need to see women succeeding in STEM careers in order to feel that engineering is for them. 


This project therefore paired 21 mid-career (senior) women engineers with 21 junior women engineers (less than five years’ experience) in the Bristol and Bath area, in order to provide career and public engagement mentoring. The outreach activities resulted in over 10,240 children being engaged in public engagement with women engineers, through a variety of methods including school visits, public events and nationwide online presentations. 

Junior engineers felt significantly more equipped to take part in public engagement


The junior engineers reported that they now feel significantly more equipped to take part in public engagement; 54% of junior engineers felt fairly well equipped before the project and this increased to 68% after the project, with 38% indicating they were very well equipped. Similarly, the mean score on the Engineering Outreach Self-Efficacy Scale significantly improved from 6.80 to 8.41 (out of 10). This indicates that the engineers are now much more confident to undertake education outreach, and are then more likely to continue public engagement following the project. 

The report therefore concludes that mentoring is highly important to ensure a supportive workplace, which means that women are more likely to be retained in the engineering industry.

The full report can be downloaded from the UWE research repository and a paper in Journal of Science Communication, drawing on the results, is now available (open access).

Women Like Me will relaunch in October 2019. To express an interest in taking part, please register your email address here.

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 Sexy 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!