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.

UWE student team semi-finalists in EWB-UK Design Challenge

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The Engineers Without Borders award-winning Engineering for People Design Challenge prepares students, the engineers of the future, to become globally responsible engineers. This year, a team from UWE Bristol made the finals, as Maryam Lamere tells us in this guest post.

I am really proud of our L1 students who took part in the Engineering for People Design Challenge last week.

This year, 6500 students from Universities across the UK took part in the challenge organised by EWB-UK. Fewer than 200 got through to the Grand Finals. The UWE team (Amelie, Marwan, Liberty, Conrad, Caner and Nicholas) were amongst the talented few.  They presented their PEEPOWER inspired solution with much enthusiasm.

The judging panel particularly gave good feedback on UWE integrating high impact research (innovative PEEPOWER technology) into undergraduate teaching. Students were introduced to the technology by Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos and Dr Tosin Obata of the Bristol BioEnergy Centre at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory.

The students very much enjoyed their experience in London at the Institute of Engineering and Technology.

Well done to them  for doing their best!

First UK study into driverless cars for older people draws to a close

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On Tuesday 21st May an autonomous vehicle was used by older people around the St Monica Trust’s Cote Lane retirement village, bringing a world-leading research project to a close.

The £5.5M project, “Flourish”, is delivered by a consortium of organisations including UWE Bristol and is the only Innovate UK funded project focused on older people. Launched in 2016, the project aims to develop a driverless vehicle integrating older people’s mobility needs with a secure and connected infrastructure.

The project works across three specialist areas at UWE Bristol, including the Bristol Robotics Laboratory. The demonstration explored how driverless vehicles, known as CAVs (connected and autonomous vehicles) could make a difference to older people’s everyday lives.

More information is available through UWE Bristol news.

Developing Responsible Robots for the Digital Economy

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Professor Alan Winfield will be starting a new five year EPSRC funded project with Professor Marina Jirotka (University of Oxford), staging mock human-robot accidents in order to deeply explore the problem of robot accident investigation and develop both technical (i.e. data logging and explainer systems) and process solutions (i.e. frameworks for how to responsibly conduct such investigations).

The team will explore three scenarios, likely to be: assisted living (care) robots; robot toys and Autonomous Vehicles – with human volunteers role playing as the subject of, witnesses to, and the investigators of the accident. Alan believes this will be the first research project in the world to fully and systematically study this important aspect of real world robotics.

Inspire future scientists and engineers at the Great Science Share

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The Great Science Share is a national event nurturing children’s natural curiosity by encouraging them to share their original science investigations with scientists, with the regional Bristol and Bath event taking place at UWE Bristol in June:

Tuesday 18th June 2019

10 am – 2 pm

Exhibition and Conference Centre

North Entrance, Filton Road, UWE Bristol

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.

To bring an outreach activity, please email louisa.cockbill@uwe.ac.uk. Further information about what schools will be bringing can be found on the Curiosity Connections website.

UWE Bristol is hosting the Bristol and Bath Great Science Share in association with Curiosity Connections Bristol, Bath Spa University, and the Association for Science Education West.

Please contact Louisa Cockbill for more information and feel free to pass on to anyone you think would be interested.

Work up to running 5 km with the Pepper Robot!

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In this guest post, Katie Winkle of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory tells us about an opportunity to get involved in her exciting research.

I’m going to be running an ambitious (and exciting!) research study over the summer period and am putting out a first call for participants. This will be my final big study as a PhD student and brings together all of my previous work to date – some of you may have taken part in my previous experiments e.g. doing wrist turns with Pepper or arm exercises with the NAO robot. I would really appreciate it if you would consider taking part and/or share with friends and family etc. who may be interested. 

We will be installing a Pepper robot (picture below from one of my previous studies) in the Wallscourt Gym here on campus and using it to guide people through the NHS designed ‘Couch to 5k’ programme (https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/get-running-with-couch-to-5k/) designed to help people work up to running 5 km. Over the course of the programme, we will be investigating the use of supervised machine learning to have a human fitness instructor train the robot on how to be an encouraging ‘coach’.

The programme is made up of 3x ~30 minute exercise sessions per week over 9 weeks – so participants should be available and able to visit campus over the summer period (approx.3rd June up until 18thAugustbut there is time built in for participants to take a week or two off for holidays etc. We will make the robot and exercise instructor available at set times each week and set-up an online booking system for participants to choose slots from. One reason for starting to recruit now is so that we can make sure these time slots work for as many people as possible. 

An initial information sheet is attached above, but essentially we are looking for participants who are:

– over 18, fluent in English, with no health conditions that might prevent engaging in the Couch to 5K programme

– generally available and able to attend 3x ~30 minute weekly exercise sessions at the Wallscourt Gym on Frenchay Campus from early June to mid-August

– interested in signing up for a long-term exercise programme to get running!

If you are interested in taking part please drop me an email and/or go ahead and complete this poll to give an idea of what day/times you might be available to work out! https://forms.gle/PG7zjHA1DVBqUmEx9

UWE Bristol student engineers improving compost heap thermal insulation

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As part of the Department of Engineering Design and Mathematics at UWE Bristol’s new module, Engineering in the Community, students on one project are working to design new thermal insulation materials to help compost heaps work better.

This Group Project Challenge aims to set some real-world challenges for the engineering students on our Postgraduate Diploma course. The students are now working in groups to come up with design solutions to a community problem to make a difference in the local area. The improvements to composts bins are being carried out for Incredible Edible at Speedwell allotments.

The module provides a broad comprehension of the competencies and social responsibilities required for ‘engineering citizenship’ in order to be a professional engineer. It introduces the wider social considerations needed to enact Corporate Social Responsibility in the modern engineering industry.

Each group has been given an engineering challenge for which they have to develop a socially acceptable solution for their assigned community group. They are learning about a variety of engagement strategies utilised by professional organisations and Chartered Engineers, as well as the variety of audiences with which these skills can be practised and explored.

Engineers also need to recognise and value the need for them to work effectively with both modern technologies and people in their social or organisational contexts – a hybrid challenge employing engineering ideas in practice.

We have 15 engineers out in the community (12 engineers from Airbus, two from Babcock and one from the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)). They are working with four community groups across five projects; as well this project improving composting for Incredible Edible community gardens there are also teams working on:

  • Improving access to Bedminster shops (as presented by Olivia from the Bubble Play Café, and Alice from Trylla in the photos above)
  • Improving community space for the North Bristol Community Project
  • Improving heating options for van dwellers – in association with Residents Against Dirty Energy, presented by Stuart Phelps
  • Improving air quality in mechanical garages  – in association with Residents Against Dirty Energy

Emerging tech researchers: Are you losing funding opportunities by not engaging in interdisciplinary research?

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The development of technology is accelerating in many fields and affecting multiple aspects of our day-to-day lives. Meanwhile, both AI and universities are black boxes, but they don’t need to be. A series of four workshops aimed at mutual learning, networking and grant writing aimed at researchers interested in emerging technologies are to be held at UWE Bristol.

Please contact Aleksandra (aleksandra.michalec@uwe.ac.uk) or Mehdi (mehdi.sobhani@uwe.ac.uk) for more information.

Don’t forget: UWE women in STEM events tomorrow

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There’s still time to sign up for two FREE events, hosted by UWE at the Bristol and Bath Science Park tomorrow (please note the change of venue; these events were originally scheduled to be held at UWE):

Women Like Me – Boosting mentoring for women in STEM in the West of England

Wednesday 3rd April, 12:00-14:00

This event brings together our leading players in women’s mentoring across the West of England, to explore how we can support each other and learn from best practice. Organised by UWE Bristol’s Women Like Me project for engineering mentoring, the network also connects with Women in Science and Engineering Bristol, the Women’s Engineering Society centenary and Curiosity Connections Bristol.

Extraordinary Women in Engineering: A WES Wikithon – UWE Bristol

Wednesday 3rd April: Training 09:30-10:00 | Wikithon drop in 10:00-14:00

Come and join us to develop your digital skills and learn more about editing Wikipedia. Help to celebrate brilliant women engineers by creating and improving their pages on the world’s favourite online historical record.

Complete beginners and experienced editors, all are welcome to attend – we’ll provide training for anyone new to editing. If you already have some wiki editing experience, we can help you improve your skills and learn a few new tricks. If you’ve spotted an article that needs improving, bring along your queries and we’ll see what we can do to help. Suggestions for articles to improve and create will also be provided, along with research resources.