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!

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.

Bristol Tech Fair taking place in November 2019

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Saturday 9th November 2019

10:00-16:00

Colston Hall, Bristol

Bristol Tech Fair is a celebration of technology, engineering and science for young people and families in Bristol.

It will be a full day of hands-on activities to explore the latest developments in Virtual Reality, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence in engaging and affordable way.

Bristol Tech Fair is a free event which aims to get young people and children to explore, learn and get excited about the opportunities that new technologies are bringing into our lives.

Hosted at Colston Hall, a prime location at the heart of the city, the fair will be using four floors for exhibition and display of technology, engineering and science -related projects and products.

Bristol Tech Fair is a featured event within Bristol Technology Festival 2019. This is a brand-new platform that seeks to raise the profile of the Bristol tech sector locally, nationally and internationally, by showcasing the existence of a broad breadth of activity in sectors and technologies.

A network of supporters and collaborators include Set Squared, TechSPARK, Engine Shed, Hargreaves Lansdown and other organisations.

Sponsorship opportunities are currently available for more information please contact Karin Rudolph.

BAME Girls in Engineering great success at Bristol Brunel Academy

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Dr Udonna Okeke tells us about a hugely successfull visit of his project,  BAME girls in engineering, to Bristol Brunel Academy in this guest post.

BAME Girls in engineering in partnership with UWE BoxED, had an outreach event at the Bristol Brunel Academy on Thursday 9th May and I am extremely excited to say that the feedback from the school has been very positive.

The school is happy with our outreach project and are very keen for more outreach and other engagements with the project. Based on the feedback, the students are very happy with the outreach activities that took place and would like us to make a return visit.

Below is some of the feedback from the students:

“Excellent: it was fun, exiting and very interesting. The robotics coding was very fun, especially when we were controlling the robots”

“I thought it was very good and inspiring and I liked making the turbines and playing with the robots. I want the outreach to happen again on a Thursday”

“It was nice and fun when we listened to the talk and was given the opportunity to code and control the robots”.

This feedback means a lot to me and I am looking forward to the next phase of this project.

Opportunities still available at the Great Science Share

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18th June, 10 am – 2 pm

  UWE Bristol at the ECC, Frenchay Campus

 The Great Science Share is a national event nurturing children’s natural curiosity by encouraging them to share their original science investigations with scientists. At the regional Bristol and Bath event scientists and engineers are invited to attend, to find out what local children aged 8 – 13 have come up with, and to inspire participants with their research, demos and cutting-edge technology.

If you’d like to bring an outreach activity, please email Louisa Cockbill and see theCuriosity Connections website for more information.

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).