Shining a light on green job pathways for the next generation

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Today marks the launch of a new year-long programme that aims to inspire and motivate young people in the West of England to pursue green career pathways. Known as Inspire Sustainability, it is one of three West of England Combined Authority (WECA)-funded initiatives as part of the Green Futures Fund, that, if successful, could be replicated and scaled to meet the region’s Climate Emergency Plan and Net Zero ambition.

This announcement builds on recent WECA support of other green skills initiatives in local schools, with West of England Mayor Dan Norris awarding the first green jobs grant for three schools to develop a special environmental careers programme -read more here.

Inspire Sustainability: in a nutshell

Developed in collaboration with UWE-Bristol’s Science Communication Unit, Cabot Learning Federation, Avon Schools Eco Network and STEM Ambassadors West of England, the programme was developed as part of the initiative for Digital Engineering Technology and Innovation (DETI) Inspire programme. Inspire Sustainability will expand the region’s existing hub of sustainability skills education and training to highlight the region’s leading green skills and expertise in the labour market. Working in partnership, the consortium will deliver three areas of work to three pilot schools; Hans Price Academy in North Somerset, Bristol Brunel Academy in Bristol, and Digitech in South Gloucestershire.  The project includes:

  1. All-school engagement: tailored lessons, talks and careers events with diverse role models, culminating in a whole-school Sustainability Summit.
  2. Eco Council engagement: Eco Action Plan co-development to support the schools achieve Eco School status
  3. Teacher engagement: training so that teachers have the confidence to engage young people on these topics and support them to imagine a future where they can see themselves playing an active role in shaping development.

Once piloted, the outcomes will be shared widely to primary and secondary schools as well as to educational professionals and academics through the consortium’s networks.

West of England Mayor Dan Norris with Year 10 pupils from Orchard School at the Youth Engineering for Environmental Sustainability Summit in October 2021

Building on what works

The Inspire Sustainability approach builds on tried and tested methods explored in DETI Inspire, which has engaged over 7,000 children and young people in the West of England on engineering for sustainability.

Consortium member UWE-Bristol’s Science Communication Unit has a track record of working with and training diverse stakeholders to reach sustainability goals. In 2021, the Unit launched its Climate Action Hub to highlight the existing work of students and academics in this space, as well as to offer support and training to further amplify climate action. Currently it is delivering climate communications training to young people and supporting them to act on things that matter to them. The Youth Climate Communications toolkit will be used to develop the teacher engagement portion of Inspire Sustainability.

Meanwhile, the STEM Ambassador programme will be key to recruiting diverse green role models while Avon Schools Eco Network will use their expertise to support the schools to develop their action plans.

If you are interested to know more about any of this work, please contact project manager Sophie Laggan.


A toolkit and training for youth climate social action

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A toolkit and training for effective youth climate comms and social action

UWE Bristol’s Science Communication Unit (SCU) is launching a new Youth Climate Action Toolkit to empower young people to act on things that matter to them. The toolkit is suitable for 16-24-year-olds, and we encourage you to please download and share the kit with any (young) person you think may benefit from these tools!

The newly developed toolkit has been produced in partnership with young people from the Avon Schools Eco Network, following pilot training held with the DETI Inspire team in the School of Engineering.

The pilot involved 12 young climate activists who learnt how to be more effective with their own campaigning, whilst forming the foundations of this new toolkit to support other young people. As well as empowering young people to act, the toolkit aims to speak with and engage diverse audiences that may not otherwise take part (e.g., through filmmaking, persuasive writing and interactive stalls, etc).

What is inside the toolkit?

To allow any young person to use the materials independently of the training, the toolkit has been designed to stand-alone or complement the training. It consists of four sections:

  • Section one: lays the foundations for effective team working, with a skills audit for young people to assess their baseline entrepreneurial skills for sustainability, and time set aside to define their action project based on need
  • Section two: encourages readers to understand different worldviews – including those from different sides of the political spectrum, and people in positions of power and influence
  • Section three: drills down into the communication methods, allowing readers to select the right method for their audience and to prototype and test their communications
  • Section four: encourages readers to reflect on their learnings, re-assess their skills and evaluate the impact of their communications

Training in the community

The SCU team have also been delivering the Youth Climate Communications to local colleges and youth groups. The training is modular, which allows it to be adapted to suit the needs and interests of the organisations involved.

The training is already being modified to suit the needs of one college, where they have aims to support a more sustainable educational environment by delivering to their students over a two-week period at the end of term. Students will vote on a priority for action within their college and then work in teams, with the support of a coach, developing a communications and behaviour change campaign which could then be delivered in the following term.

The young people’s experience of the programme is being evaluated to better understand whether their attitudes, skills and behaviours relating to sustainability, change as a result of the training. Findings will be shared on this blog later this year.

For empowerment programmes

Meanwhile, aspects of the training are also being delivered to participants of more established empowerment programmes, such as this year’s Catalyse Change programme, Bristol Education Partnership’s Climate Challenge and The Global Goals Centre’s Groundbreakers awards, with the toolkit also featuring in the Groundbreakers’ action pack.

A future aim of the project is to deliver the training online to youth groups and educational establishments across the country, and beyond, with training provided to educators to deliver the programme themselves. For a taster of what this training could look like, head to our YouTube where you can access the social media component of the training.

Where it all began

The training emerged from conversations among the SCU and colleagues about the desire to share our knowledge on climate communications and active citizenship more broadly, so when a funding opportunity arose the Unit was quick to pull together a team to make their dream a reality. The all-female team consists of academics and researchers in disciplines ranging from human geography, engineering, and environmental anthropology – to building physics and entrepreneurship. What unites them is a common interest in supporting young people to develop the skills and confidence they need to take action about things that matter to them.

This training is the first offering from UWE’s Climate Action Hub, also established by the SCU. The Hub is a place for researchers and students to connect with communities for climate action. There is already some work on campus doing just this, such as the children’s workshops delivered by DETI Inspire and Inspire Sustainability, but this is the first time training has been put in place to support the University and communities to do more.

To find out more about the in-person and online toolkit or to connect to the Climate Action Hub, email project manager Sophie Laggan.

To download the toolkit click here.

How to make engineering for everyone

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The Engineering workforce in the UK is made up of only 12% Women and 7% of people from black, Asian and minority ethnicity backgrounds – so no wonder the sector is experiencing an employee shortfall! Engineering Industries are missing out on over half of the population, as well as, the vast range of experiences and perspectives that a diverse employee base brings to the table.

Digital Engineering Technology and Innovation (DETI)’s Innovate team at UWE Bristol wants to address the shortfall of engineers by finding how to best enable these underrepresented groups to enter and progress in the world of Engineering.

We asked Women, those with Neurodiversity, and people from Black, Asian, Brown and dual-heritage backgrounds, in the West of England – to tell us what they needed – check out the summary doc below to find out more.

DETI announces key research results

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DETI has announced key research highlights and results from the partners collaborating on the programme, developed to help UK manufacturers achieve engineering leadership and better sustainability. 

Digital Now presents nine key research highlights; from a visualisation tool that displays carbon emissions, and an industry first with sustainable prototyping to a novel software system used to improve fault detection  –  these are just a snapshot of the digital technologies and research showcased.

The work of UWE Bristol research teams are featured, including our research into automating and digitalising the inspection process of composite materials using a novel software system and state-of-the-art machine learning techniques, and bringing digitalisation to the manufacturing process using immersive technologies such as augmented reality.

Our DETI Skills programme is also featured, highlighting the successful launch of our educational resource packs and recent outreach events including the Big Beam In.

Read the full results report here.


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.

Dock-to-Dock project wins government funding

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In an effort to build back better from COVID-19 and support innovative new enterprises, the government has announced funding to support projects harnessing the latest technology to support the fight against COVID-19 and other global challenges like climate change.

One of the winning projects recently announced to receive a share of the £33.5 million in funding from the UKRI Future Flight Challenge, was Dock-to-Dock, a project developed by UWE Bristol, Cardiff University, Neoptera Aero Ltd (based in BRL’s Hardware Incubator) and Smart Ports Ltd, which explores the delivery of goods between coastal cities using zero emission Hydrogen fuel technology.

Dock-to-Dock focuses on the combined aspects of route development, vehicle performance (air & sea) and the associated infrastructure (‘Smart-Multiports’) required for point-to-point delivery of goods and freight between coastal cities using eVTOL aircraft (electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing) and eAZE ships (electric Autonomous Zero Emission).

The project will launch on December 1st 2020, and will initially look at the delivery of goods by air, between Avonmouth Docks in Bristol and Cardiff Docks in Wales, using electric aircraft which take-off and land vertically, and therefore don’t require runways.

The objective of Dock-to-Dock is to repurpose port infrastructures to be an essential component of future Smart Cities in their drive towards zero emissions and energy efficient, integrated and sustainable transportation solutions. It will demonstrate a commercially competitive alternative to ground transportation between the two cities, offloading the already saturated ground transportation network between ports such as Swansea, Cardiff, Bristol and Bridgewater.

A team of four UWE researchers will deliver on the use case definition and evaluation, route characterisation and eVTOL assessment activities for the Dock-to-Dock project. State-of-the-art modelling and simulation knowledge and methods, nurtured within the Engineering Modelling and Simulation Group and the Centre for Transport and Society, will be employed to ensure the success of the study and future implementation of the concept. Both research groups are proud to be part of the UKRI Future Flight Challenge and be able to contribute towards more sustainable future of aviation.”

Dr. Vilius Portapas, Dock-to-Dock Project Lead, UWE Bristol

With further development, Dock-to-Dock and its Smart-Multiport infrastructure could be a major supplier of Green Hydrogen to Bristol, Cardiff and Swansea airports, a service eagerly awaited by commercial aircraft designers such as Airbus and Rolls Royce who are racing to develop Hydrogen-powered sub-regional aircraft.

Presently there are only 11 commercial Hydrogen Refuelling Stations in the UK, and none west of Swindon. Many more are urgently needed if the UK is to meet its zero emissions targets through the production and use of Hydrogen in heating, industry, power generation and transport. The Dock-to-Dock project and development of Smart-Multiport infrastructure will bring much needed access to Hydrogen Refuelling Stations in the South West of England and Wales.

If you would like more information about the Dock-to-Dock project please email the project lead, Dr Vilius Portapas at Vilius.Portapas@uwe.ac.uk

Launch of West of England Digital Engineering Technology initiative

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UWE Bristol is proud to announce the official launch of the region’s new Digital Engineering Technology & Innovation (DETI) initiative!

DETI is a research, innovation and skills initiative created to develop and accelerate digital engineering across multiple industry sectors, to ultimately benefit future generations of engineers and engineering products, and to help tackle global challenges.

UWE’s Engineering, Design and Mathematics department will play a central role in DETI, leading the Skills development branch of the centre. EDM will work with other DETI partners to:

  • Inspire the next generation of diverse engineers
  • Transform the further and higher education landscape
  • Innovate lifelong learning of specialised digital engineering skills

Dr Lisa Brodie, Head of UWE Bristol’s Department of Engineering Design and Mathematics (EDM), who led UWE’s bid, said: “This is a vitally important investment for our region and we are pleased to be leading on the skills and workforce development element of the centre’s work. It comes at a perfect time as we prepare to open our new engineering building where we will have state-of-the-art digital engineering facilities and an increased focus on digital engineering to train our graduates for emerging roles in the sector.”

For more details about this exciting new venture, please read the official press release launch of DETI and visit the new DETI website.

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.

Celebrate a PhD – fuel blends to reduce emissions

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With all the fantastically fascinating research going on in Engineering, Design and Mathematics, PhD student successes are a regular occurrence. We want to celebrate with the students as they pass their vivas, so may this post be the first of many!

Adriaan Van Niekerk passed his PhD viva in early February – Congratulations Doctor Van Niekerk! He’s kindly answered a few questions about his PhD project…

  • Can you summarize your research project?

I looked at how we can reduce diesel car emissions such as NOx by using fuel blends between diesel, biodiesel and ethanol and also increase the renewable content of the blend as per the government targets. I found that a fuel blend containing 2% biodiesel and 9% ethanol can reduce NOx by 10% and CO by 34%. 

  • What outcomes have there been from your project?

I managed to publish my results in two high impact journals, Applied Energy and Fuel, which is really great!

  • Were there any particularly tough stages during the PhD? How did you get through that?

The engine I used to do all my experimental testing on decided to break. All four of its fuel injectors got blocked up. It took me really long to figure out what was wrong with it, and it set me back approximately 6 months!

This was really tough as I had to change my planning completely. Luckily I could focus on writing up most of my PhD which helped a lot at the end as most of the writing and reviewing was done. 

  • What are your plans now the PhD has finished?

I have accepted a Lecturer position here at UWE with the Mechanical and Automotive cluster. I hope to build on my PhD research by looking at using renewable fuels together with hybrid technologies to speed up the uptake of more sustainable technologies for propulsion in automotive and aerospace applications.

Good luck in the new role Adriaan!

Steve Wright in the news

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UWE Aerospace’s Steve Wright has been popular in the news this month, most recently reassuring local Bristol businesses, Rolls Royce and Airbus, with his predictions of recovery after Covid-19. Read Steve’s expert opinion on how the pandemic will effect the aviation industry.

Other media appearances, included Steve commenting on a man vs AI drone race, in a BBC article late last year.

Steve was also the expert selected by the IMechE to comment on what the next 10 years will hold for aerospace engineering, and to enthral the audience at an IMechE lecture on Drone Technology in February.

Drones will take off in new and surprising ways, says Steve Wright from the University of the West of England, but other aerospace technology will fail to deliver.

Extract from “Soaring Twenties: Drones pick up tools, but electric planes a long way off

Machine Vision Impacts Farming

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Technology from the Centre for Machine Vision (CMV) has been making moves to improve animal welfare and maximize crop harvesting.

Herdvision

First off, the 3D imagery system, Herdvision, that helps farmers assess cows’ wellbeing, was featured on the BBC six o’clock news in 2019 as it began a trial by Arla UK 360 farmers.

The technology developed in collaboration with Kingshay and AgsenZe, uses visual monitoring, data recording and automated intelligence to identify changes in each cow’s physical wellbeing, mobility and weight, before they are visible to the human eye.

Facial recognition used to assess pig’s emotions

Animal behaviourists from Scotland’s Rural College in Edinburgh, are using the technology provided by machine vision experts at UWE, to picture a range of pig facial expressions. The hope is that emotions can be identified and facial recognition used to improve pig welfare.

The BBC reported on the study in spring last year and the work is due to appear as part of a Netflix program in 2020.

Harvest Eye

The potato harvester based data capture system –Harvest Eye – provides insight on size, count and crop variation on unwashed potatoes as they are harvested. The integrated data analytics shows precisely what is being lifted and from where in the field, insights that will help maximise marketable yield and reduce crop imbalance.

The technology’s utility was recognised at the Potato Industry Event 2019/20, when it picked up second prize (out of 15 nominations) .

Harvest Eye was developed by CMV for B-hive, who then patented the technology in collaboration with CMV, and now B-Hive / Branston have established a new company, HarvestEye Ltd, to supply the HarvestEye technology to Grimme,a major manufacturer of root crop harvesters.

But the team at CMV aren’t stopping there.

“We’re working on a new funding bid right now to add functionality.”

Melvyn Smith, CMV
Mark Hansen, who led development of the technology, represented CMV, as part of the team that picked up the award. 

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