Building to Break Barriers – a different view of engineering

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Building to Break Barriers is a new outreach project that aims to engage children from under-represented groups with engineering, using the computer game Minecraft, which allows players to build almost limitless creations.

The project will co-produce ten new engineering outreach sessions with engineers, children, and young people, and deliver them around the UK. To increase representation, the children involved will be from under-represented groups, and so will some of the engineers. Engineers will receive outreach training and support throughout the project. Activity will take place online during COVID-19 restrictions.

Why Minecraft?

Building to Break Barriers is a Science Hunters project. Science Hunters uses Minecraft to engage children with Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) for three key reasons:

  • Minecraft is very popular – it has even been referred to as one of the most important games of the current generation. This means that it is both familiar and appealing to children, and can interest them in topics that they might not otherwise engage with. It is also relatively easy to use, and quickly picked up.
  • Minecraft has various features which represent items and processes in the real world. This makes it ideal for communicating about, and building understanding of, a range of scientific concepts.

The game can be used in different modes on a range of hardware, including Creative mode, which allows unlimited building and therefore has high flexibility.            

What’s involved?

Children and schools

UK children and schools are invited to participate in co-designing outreach sessions with the project team and engineers. This may look different for each school and child, and could include: contributing an idea for a session topic, voting on a selection of session topics, suggesting hands-on resources, or designing part of a Minecraft challenge. They will also be able, circumstances permitting, to trial or take part in the developed sessions.

Ideally, this project would take place in schools. During COVID-19 restrictions, these elements can be conducted remotely with children who are either attending school (supported by teaching staff) or learning from home (with family support). The specific approach for each school will be discussed individually with staff.

Engineers

Engineers will also have the opportunity to co-design and deliver outreach sessions. This may be directly with schools and children as above, with Minecraft Clubs for specific groups, at public events, or with the project team (activities dependent on COVID-19 restrictions). Engineers will be able to choose their type and level of involvement to suit them.

Engineers will also receive 1:1 outreach training and have the opportunity to participate in group discussions, which will be conducted remotely to improve access and inclusion (e.g. for those with caring responsibilities).

Children, their teachers and parents/carers, and engineers will all be asked to provide evaluative information and will be able to contribute to the project’s ongoing direction and development.

Who can take part?

This project aims to reach children who may face barriers to accessing educational opportunities and have characteristics that mean they are under-represented in Engineering.

The project has a particular focus on supporting:

  • Women and girls
  • People with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities
  • People from lower socioeconomic status backgrounds (e.g. eligible for Pupil Premium, or from areas with low progression to Higher Education)
  • Looked After Children/Care leavers

Under-represented groups can also include people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnicities, with disabilities or long-term illnesses, in rural areas or limited access to services, who were/would be the first generation in the their family to go to university, who are carers/young carers, and with English as an Additional Language (NB this list is not exhaustive).

Representation is really important in enabling young people to feel that engineering is ‘for them’, so engineers who fall (or would have fallen, as children) into these groups are particularly encouraged to join the project.

Engineers can be from any engineering field, based in the UK. Whilst we recognise the value of undergraduate students, we are not able to offer places to them for this project. UWE provides public engagement training for undergraduate engineering students through the Engineering and Society module.

Further information and get involved

Building to Break Barriers is delivered by Dr Laura Hobbs and Sophie Bentley at UWE Bristol. They are assisted by Dr Calum Hartley, Professor Carly Stevens and Dr Jackie Hartley at Lancaster University, Dr Thom Wilcockson at the University of Loughborough, and Dr Paul Redford at UWE Bristol. The project is funded by an Ingenious grant from the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Schools who are interested in being involved should contact Laura and Sophie on ExtendingSTEM@uwe.ac.uk. Unless already involved with Science Hunters, parents/carers of children should ask their child’s school to contact us.

Engineers who are interested in being involved can complete an expression of interest here, and will be contacted when outreach can begin. Engineers in the West of England can also become part of the new initiative for Digital Engineering Technology and Innovation (DETI) Diversity Demonstrator database of diverse engineering role models; sign up to the mailing list here.

The project ends in January 2022. For more information or if you have any questions, please contact Laura and Sophie at ExtendingSTEM@uwe.ac.uk

Get students engaged with research this autumn

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I’m a Scientist: Students chatting from class (Credit: I’m a Scientist)

Researchers and technicians are invited to take part in I’m a Scientist.

Find out more and sign up at: imascientist.org.uk/scientists

Connect students with science, their teachers and their classmates in this online STEM engagement activity. Taking part is an enjoyable and easy way to get involved in STEM engagement. You’ll develop your communication skills and gain a fresh perspective on your work, all while showing students that science roles can be for them.

I’m a Scientist: Scientist to camera (Credit: I’m a Scientist)

Fill in a profile page, answer questions, and use the text-based chat system with school students. Everything happens online; you take part from your desk or smartphone. There’s no need to prepare activities or leave your lab, office or house.

“The format was so much fun to be involved in. The mix of science and career questions, along with those of a rather more off-beat nature, kept it dynamic and enjoyable.” – David, genetics researcher

The online activity is available from September.

Find out more and sign up at: imascientist.org.uk/stayathome/scientist-signup/

Any questions, contact: support@imascientist.org.uk

UWE researchers have previously been involved in I’m a Scientist and the specialised I’m an Engineer section, and raved about the experience:

Brilliant – it was a kind of science soap box! I got to pontificate on life on Mars, the end of the world and human extinction, global warming, nuclear power, dreams, light years, my favourite animal, my favourite car, string theory, the Higgs Boson and dark matter,” said Alan Winfield, Professor of Robot Ethics at UWE Bristol.

By far the biggest category of questions was about doing science: why and how you do science, what’s the best thing about being a scientist, what you think you have achieved, or will achieve and so on (and quite a few on what you will do with the prize money if you win). These are great questions because they allow you to explode some myths about science: for instance that you have to be super smart to do science, or that one scientist can change the world on their own.

Engineering and a fear of failure

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A fear of failure can put people off iterative trial-and-error disciplines, such as engineering. In the past year, a team of locals have sought to better understand this fear in children, by undertaking research (with evaluation designed by UWE Bristol academics) within Bristol primary schools.

Bristol performer – Kid Carpet – led the “Epic Fail” project, with local engineers and representatives from Bristol young person mental health social movement – Off the Record, run workshops at Victoria Park, May Park and Begbrook primary schools.

Each school residency lasted two weeks and included workshops for Year Five classes in Bridge Building, Fantastic Inventions, Wellbeing, Un-uselessness and Song Writing. As well as some creative ways to capture children’s thoughts about failure.

Bridge building workshops were led by engineer Rachel Kirkwood – a member of UWE Bristol’s Women Like Me engineer mentoring programme. Rachel is featured in the video below, produced to celebrate the Epic Fail project in lieu of the live performances cancelled because of COVID-19.

And be encouraged by one child’s song to “Not give up” in the following short video.

UWE leads on inspiring future digital engineers

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The West of England is a hub for innovative Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) industries, but as with the rest of the UK, there is a huge skills and employment gap for future engineers. That’s why the new Digital Engineering Technology & Innovation (DETI) initiative – launched on 15th July – is investing in the future of digital engineering for our region.

UWE Bristol is partnering with DETI to develop regional skills and inspire the region’s next generation of engineers. DETI Inspire will champion science for children in the West of England with a particular focus on breaking stereotypes and challenging perceptions about STEM careers in order to appeal to under-represented groups in engineering.

The skills challenge

Lack of exposure Many children, and particularly those from low socio-economic backgrounds, will have very little exposure to science and may not know adults who work or have worked in STEM careers. This lack of so called “science capital” can have a significant impact on children’s aspirations regarding STEM careers. This is particularly important for young girls, as attitudes towards STEM are largely formed before age 11.

Lack of diversity Another major concern for the engineering workforce is the lack of diversity – with only 12% of women engineers and 7% from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background.

Changing perceptions Research indicates that presenting engineering as a creative, collaborative profession, working towards socially conscious communal goals will have wider-spread appeal. Therefore DETI is particularly keen to contribute to the West of England’s sustainability and net zero goals.

DETI Inspire

UWE Bristol is establishing an Engineering Engagement Hub to coordinate engineering engagement for schools and families in the West of England, and will work together with DETI industry partners and school engagement providers to:

  • map past engagement activities in the region in order to build a network amongst partners and stakeholders and strategically plan future engagement to multiply/expand impact
  • develop curriculum linked engagement activities to tour schools and run out of the Prototype and Play centre for public engagement at UWE Bristol’s Engineering Building. These engagement activities will include:
    • a touring activity kit that challenges children to use digital engineering tools to tackle sustainability challenges
    • public open events for families and schools
    • 6-week STEM club challenges
    • run teacher CPD events to support and upskill
  • shape a “Diversity Demonstrator” – a network of diverse engineering role models to champion engineering public engagement. Including development of engagement training for this group of student and industry engineers

Building on UWE’s wealth of experience in public engagement

As a core provider of public engagement in the region and champion of equality, diversity and inclusion, UWE Bristol’s Engineering, Design and Mathematics (EDM) department is perfectly positioned to lead DETI Inspire.

EDM engages in local public facing technology fairs and national engineering competitions as well as spearheading various public engagement opportunities initiatives. For instance, members of the Bristol Bioenergy centre developed a microbial fuel cell activity that they use to teach children about electricity.

In addition to this EDM supports primary (Curiosity Connections) and secondary (Future Quest) engagement providers, as well as mentoring programmes such as, Women Like Me and BAME Girls into Engineering, to increase diversity in engineering

DETI Inspire will build and expand from all these existing UWE Bristol programmes. To find out more about DETI go to the official website – deti.uk

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.

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.

DETI – Digital Engineering Technology & Innovation

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Transforming engineering for the future

The global engineering landscape is shifting. Shorter product development times, faster routes to market and the need for through-life product sustainability for some of the most complex products the world has ever seen provides us with an exciting opportunity. To maintain engineering leadership, UK businesses need to develop new ways of working that enable agility, flexibility and competitive advantage, that will support future generations socially, economically and sustainably.

By the end of this decade, to deliver a low carbon global economy, everything we make will need to be completely re-imagined and re-engineered. Digital technologies will transform the way engineers operate to meet new product demands.  Industry requires new skills and digital test beds, from exploring the best tools to use, the technologies to invest in, to exploiting value from vast quantities of data generated through the product lifecycle. There are few test-grounds to explore and test technologies and processes without disrupting current production line pressure. This is where Digital Engineering Technology & Innovation (DETI)  comes in.

Accelerating digital engineering capabilities and skills

DETI  is starting as a two-year, research and development (R&D) initiative in the West of England. It will bring together advanced engineering companies, digital technology pioneers and universities to push the boundaries of digital engineering for the future, to help UK businesses maintain engineering leadership. DETI will help companies identify and develop the tools, technologies and processes they need to rapidly accelerate digital engineering capabilities and identify the skills needed to embed digital.

Running in parallel is the 5G-Encode Project, led by Zeetta Networks, which will see the NCC host the UK’s strategic 5G test bed and demonstration facility for industrial technologies which underpins DETI and the digitalisation of design and manufacturing.

DETI Partnership

The West of England is home to the UK’s largest advanced engineering and aerospace cluster and a vibrant digital community. As such, the region delivers the expertise, living labs and a technology test bed that companies need to progress.

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 & Simulation, Digital Catapult, the University of the West of England, the University of Bristol, and the University of Bath. Industry partners include Airbus, GKN Aerospace, Rolls-Royce, and CFMS, with in kind contributions from UWE, Digital Catapult and Siemens. DETI is funded by £5m from WECA, with co-investment from the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and industry.

Industry Challenges, Enabling Capabilities and Skills

The DETI Programme will coordinate and deliver on key ‘Industry Challenges’, enabling companies of all sizes to collaborate on ‘proof of concept’ projects that address the barriers to digital transformation. It will deliver ‘Enabling Capabilities’ that establish digital domain expertise and core reusable technology (processes, models, tools and infrastructure).

Encouraging diversity and inclusivity, DETI will initiate a comprehensive ‘Skills’ and workforce development programme to ensure the current and future workforce is digital-ready, inspiring future generations.

To express your interest in joining the DETI programme, visit www.deti.uk or contact the team at deti@nccuk.com

An alternative route into engineering

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UWE engineering students, alumni and staff have recorded home-videos to inspire children into engineering. This is the third post sharing some of these videos – you can catch up on two Aerospace Engineering students enthusiasm for engineering in the first post and two amazing women in engineering in the second.

Here we’re sharing a video of Mechanical Engineering student Thomas Brown, who speaks about his alternative route into engineering, emphasising the practical applicability of engineering creative solutions to everyday challenges. Speaking of challenges, Thomas struggled with maths, but has found ways to work through that and now looks with anticipation towards the worldwide potential open to him and his multidisciplinary skillset.

Thomas Brown

Are you a UWE engineering student, alumni or staff and have a story you’d like to share? Please get in touch with me at louisa.cockbill@uwe.ac.uk to get your own home-video featured and shared to inspire the next generation of engineers!

More inspiration into engineering!

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UWE engineering students, alumni and staff have recorded home-videos to inspire children into engineering. This is the second post sharing some of these videos – you can catch up on two Aerospace Engineering students enthusiasm for engineering in the first post.

Here we’re sharing the insight and enthusiasm of two amazing female engineers:

  • UWE alumni – Krystina Pearson-Rampeearee
  • UWE lecturer and PhD researcher – Maryam Lamere

Krystina Pearson-Rampeearee

Krystina gives a little insight into her job at BAE Systems, alongside sharing some top tips, how she’s overcome challenges and why she’s excited for the future of engineering.

Maryam Lamere

Maryam loves engineering and speaks a little about her research into pee-powered electricity. Most of all, she emphasises that a good engineer never gives up!

Are you a UWE engineering student, alumni or staff and have a story you’d like to share? Please get in touch with me at louisa.cockbill@uwe.ac.uk to get your own home-video featured and shared to inspire the next generation of engineers!

Inspired into Engineering!

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UWE engineering students, alumni and staff have recorded home-videos to inspire children into engineering. We’ll be sharing some of these videos in the next couple of weeks, and first up are two Aerospace Engineering students – Hannah and Timothy – who share their enthusiasm for the profession as well as what first sparked their interest in engineering.

Hannah Gray

Hannah just graduated (2020) with a degree in Aeronautical Engineering from UWE Bristol and explains for a young audience what engineering is and how she got into it. She gives insight into how creativity lends itself to designing solutions to problems – the essence of engineering! Listen to find out why Hannah thinks anyone can be an engineer and how she thinks engineers can help tackle the climate crisis.

Timothy Hampl

Inspired by space flight as a child, Tim shares how he considered becoming a pilot but decided that being an engineer gave him scope to do something even cooler – contribute to the evolution of flight technology! He explains how he’s using computers to design and test out aircraft components and advises kids to pursue what they love. 

Are you a UWE engineering student, alumni or staff and have a story you’d like to share? Please get in touch with me at louisa.cockbill@uwe.ac.uk to get your own home-video featured and shared to inspire the next generation of engineers!

Sign up to mentor girls into STEM – online!

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Cajigo is a mobile learning platform that empowers girls and women to reach their full potential through focused mentoring and support. And they’re on the lookout for new mentors!

Read on to find out more about the platform and how you could get involved…

Addressing the Gender Imbalance

In STEM industries female representation remains under 20% worldwide, and with many schools lacking girls taking STEM subjects at A level, this gender imbalance shows no sign of changing soon. With predictions that the next decade will see 80% of jobs requiring STEM skills, new solutions are badly needed to encourage women into STEM.

Cajigo School’s Programme works with education and businesses to signpost STEM industry careers to girls early on. This can have a huge positive effect on girls – inspiring, motivating and empowering them with the belief that they can reach their highest potential in these fields.

Cajigo aims to demystify STEM and digital careers to capture young minds, connecting careers to passions to get young girls excited about working within STEM and digital fields.

“Cajigo is a practical way, not only to increase diversity but also to make it a strategic imperative within the business”

Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, President techUK, Chair of Digital Leaders

Online Mentoring

During the current lockdown, many girls would benefit from developing STEM skills whilst at home. And with evidence suggesting those from disadvantaged backgrounds and underrepresented groups are likely to be left behind during this time, Cajigo is running as an online solution to keep these populations engaged and motivated in STEM.

The Cajigo Schools programme mentors and supports girls (aged 13 years and upwards) on option choices and their career development using a blended learning approach. This involves a 3-hour workshop, in addition to online learning through Cajigo (an App), and guidance and support from role models and industry mentors.

And that’s where you could come in!

Mentoring gives students access to visible and relatable female role models who help to inspire, motivate and signpost careers.

Cajigo also offers support to women in the workplace, career changers, returners and University students.

If you are keen to offer support in mentoring the next generation of female engineers and digital technologists, please contact Rav Bumbra, who’ll talk you through the process – team@cajigo.com

Cajigo is the social learning and development arm of Structur3dpeople, a company that helps organisations attract and retain diverse talent and focuses on supporting more women into STEM, digital and leadership careers.