Kids with special needs visit the BRL

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Katie Sparkes from the Lightyear Foundation thanks Severin Lemaignan and his team for enabling the special educational need (SEN) trip to the Bristol Robotics Laboratory in January.

The Lightyear Foundation works hard to break down barriers to getting more disabled people into Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, & Medicine. One of the ways they inspire children with SEN is through work inspiration trips.

This is what New Fosseway School had to say about the trip:

“What a unique experience for our students and interesting place to visit! It was a real delight watching them so interested in all the different robots from the very tiny to the huge car simulators.

They were especially interested in the social robots designed to help disabled people. Being able to have a go and manipulate some of the robots was really exciting and they also enjoyed the coding session where they got to programme some of the robots.

The trip most definitely inspired curiosity!”

Jo Payne, Transitions Lead, New Fosseway School.

Thanks to Severin, this trip has opened up the possibility of more SEN schools visiting the BRL….hopefully schools will be back in the summer term and these visits can go ahead!

Eco-Bricks in City Hall and Whitehall School

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Back in October, Sara Williams was awarded FET Public Engagement and Outreach funding for her Eco-Brick outreach project – since then she’s been busy driving the project forward!

(Eco-bricks are made by filling plastic bottles with waste plastic and can be used to build almost anything, including simple furniture and art projects. Weighing an eco-brick ensures its’ quality for building and quantifies the plastic saved)

Children Debate in City Chambers

Children, 6 – 11 years of age, from nine Bristol primary schools, became eco-councillors at City Hall on January 8th – the first Eco-school council.

In the chambers, children debated the climate emergency and thought about how they can make changes in their schools.

Everyone was then pleased to hear from Mayor Marvin Rees, who was amazed and encouraged by the children’s views.

In workshops, the children discussed the issues of single use plastic and plastic waste, learned how to make Eco-bricks and brainstormed what could be built using Eco-bricks in their schools.

Bristol City Council, Children’s scrapstore the Global foals centre and Bricking it Bristol, helped Sara organise the event.

Bricking it in Whitehall School

Following on from the Eco-school council success, Sara went with Bricking it Bristol into Whitehall School, for the first of three Eco-brick projects. You can see the products of the workshop in the above photograph!

In the next phase of the project Sara is running two parent workshops at Whitehall – good luck Sarah, we look forward to hearing how the project progresses.

Sign up to be amazed by kid’s inventions

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Thousands of children across the South West are busy thinking up inventions to answer the question posed by the Leaders Awards free competition:

“If you were an engineer, what would you do?”

The Leaders Award arranges live Q&A sessions with lots of different types of engineers, all to inspire children aged 3 – 19. Then the children decide what problem they want to address, design a solution and enter the competition with a drawing and description.

Thousands of children in the South West will enter the Leaders Award this year, and we need practising engineers to grade the myriad of inventive entries.

South West grading days are being held at UWE Frenchay Campus, in the Business School (3X109) on 5th and 6th of May. They are fun, inspiring days so please sign up to pop along for as little or as long as you like.

Once registered, further details about the day will be sent nearer the time.

EDM set to lead skills development in new £10 million digital engineering centre

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UWE Bristol will play a central role in a new £10 million digital engineering centre for the region.

The Centre for Digital Engineering Technology & Innovation (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.

A collaboration of industry and academic partners, DETI is led by the National Composites Centre (NCC) and supported by the West of England Combined Authority (WECA). WECA awarded £5m to the centre – match £5m investment from West of England businesses who are at the forefront of industry.

EDM’s role

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.”

EDM will create an integrated education and workforce development capability programme, and talent pipeline, all to inspire, introduce, convert and specialise. And it will promote an inclusive diverse workforce, crucial for creativity and innovation.

Training courses related to advanced digital engineering will be developed to increase skills and retrain those in the current workforce.

Schools will also be engaged with, particularly in less affluent parts of the West of England, with the aim to reach 1,000 children and inspire them to pursue a career in digital engineering.

DETI is not a new building but will use existing facilities and assets at various partners facilities, including UWE Bristol’s new engineering building.

Links to the local industrial strategy

West of England Mayor, Tim Bowles said: “DETI will be a nationally important centre, based in the West of England. It will help secure the future of the aerospace and advanced manufacturing industries and is a key part of our Local Industrial Strategy ambition to strengthen cross-sectoral innovation and support our region’s ambition for clean and inclusive growth.”

The centre will work with leading companies and support industry to reduce carbon emissions by producing better products – products that are lighter, more fuel efficient and have less waste – through undertaking research and innovation in the virtual world.

Leader of South Gloucestershire Council, Cllr Toby The Tobester Savage said: “Over the past decade or so the Filton Enterprise Area, UWE Bristol, MoD and the Bristol and Bath Science Park have formed a powerful network of world-leading innovation in aerospace, engineering and defence. We are therefore delighted to see South Gloucestershire hosting the DETI project which we believe will be of national and international significance to the future of clean energy and low carbon transport.

“This geography is increasingly recognised as the South Gloucestershire ‘TEC ARC’ and we look forward to working closely with multiple stakeholders to ensure that the project grows this critical sector of our economy, but also engages widely across the region through schools and colleges to give new experiences and opportunities in the development of STEM skills.”

Organisations investing in DETI alongside WECA and the NCC include UWE Bristol, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, GKN, Baker Hughes and CFMS. DETI will also receive contributions in kind from Siemens and Toshiba. The project has already engaged with over 100 companies across the region, including disrupters TechSPARK and Smartia, and companies covering sectors such as renewable energy, marine, aerospace and electronics.

See the full press release posted on the UWE News pages.

Casting a new light on maths – UWE attends a careers fair

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The Boxed team alongside student ambassadors took their new “Maths in the Real World” box into Hardenhuish School, Chippenham, for a careers fair on 26th November 2019.

Although there was limited space to operate it, the team reported that the 400 students from years 7-13 seemed to really enjoy the new activity.

The new Maths box puts the traditionally dry subject into a new light. ‘Mini’ problems are used to highlight how Maths can be applied to different careers in unexpected industries. Utilising higher-level techniques, students worked their way through each activity in pairs to gain a better understanding of the different ways maths is utilised and used across different career paths; A- Archeologist, B, Bioaccoustician, C – Cartographer etc.

And an added bonus – in and around these activities, the student ambassadors were able to big up studying at UWE Bristol.

Thanks for having us Hardenhuish!

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.

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.