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.

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

Sarah Guppy show and women in STEM panel discussion recorded for schools

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Back in November, Show of Strength‘s production about Sarah Guppy – engineer, inventor, campaigner, designer, reformer, writer, environmentalist and business woman – opened to great reviews.

These included comments such as:

“You won’t look at Isambard Kingdom Brunel or the Clifton Suspension Bridge in quite the same way ever again after seeing this piece.”

and:

“An inspiring and witty homage to someone who deserves a far more central place in Bristol’s – and Britain’s – commercial and industrial history.”

and crucially:

“Please find a way of getting this into every school in Bristol.”

Which is what Show of Strength, in collaboration with UWE Bristol, Future Quest, Clifton Suspension Bridge and the SS Great Britain, did yesterday.

Girls from Bristol Brunel Academy and Bristol Metropolitan Academy, coordinated by Future Quest’s Gemma Adams, attended an exclusive showing of Sarah Guppy: The Bridge, The Bed, The Truth in UWE’s filming studio at the university’s Bower Ashton campus. The performance was filmed, thanks to UWE’s Abigail Davies, and followed by a panel discussion on women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) which was also recorded so that both elements of yesterday’s production can be shown in schools.

The panel discussion was chaired by UWE’s Dr Madge Dresser, an expert in social and cultural British history, who recently put Sarah Guppy forward for inclusion in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. On the panel were civil engineeer Trish Johnson (the first female Bridgemaster of Clifton Suspension Bridge), mechanical engineer Nicola Grahamslaw (Conservation Engineer for the SS Great Britain), mechanical engineer Rachel Gollin (who has extensive experience of engineering various sectors across the world), Dr Laura Fogg Rogers (Senior Research Fellow at UWE; Women Like Me), Dr Laura Hobbs (Research Fellow at UWE; Women Like Me) and Miriam Cristofoletti (Robotics student at UWE’s Bristol Robotics Laboratory.

“It’s still not great for women in STEM but at least we’re allowed to be engineers and scientists now!”

Dr Laura Fogg Rogers, UWE Bristol

Discussion ranged from why girls don’t choose STEM subjects to the best thing about an engineer and back again, via conversation about what engineers can expect to earn, how to get into engineering and more.

Feedback was positive – Future Quest described hearing from a panel of women in STEM and their thoughts and advice about their careers as

“both inspiring and thought provoking”

And it is hoped that the film will inspire many more school students in future.

Header image shows left to right: Trish Johnson (Clifton Suspension Bridge), Nicola Grahamslaw (SS Great Britain), Rachel Gollin, Kim Hicks as Sarah Guppy, Dr Laura Fogg Rogers (UWE Bristol), Dr Laura Hobbs (UWE Bristol), Miriam Cristofoletti (UWE Bristol), Sheila Hannon (Producer, Show of Strength), Dr Madge Dresser (UWE Bristol) and Gemma Adams (UWE Bristol/Future Quest).

ESRI publishes working paper on understanding gender differences in STEM

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ESRI have recently published a new working paper, “It’s not just for boys! Understanding gender differences in STEM”. The report, authored by Judith Delaney and Paul Devereux, relates to the STEM education landscape in Ireland. The synopsis reads:

While education levels of women have increased dramatically relative to men, women are still greatly underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) college programmes. We use unique data on preference rankings for all secondary school students who apply for college in Ireland and detailed information on school subjects and grades to decompose the sources of the gender gap in STEM. We find that, of the 22 percentage points raw gap, about 13 percentage points is explained by differential subject choices and grades in secondary school. Subject choices are more important than grades — we estimate male comparative advantage in STEM (as measured by subject grades) explains about 3 percentage points of the gender gap. Additionally, differences in overall achievement between girls and boys have a negligible effect. Strikingly, there remains a gender gap of 9 percentage points even for persons who have identical preparation at the end of secondary schooling (in terms of both subjects studied and grades achieved); however, this gap is only 4 percentage points for STEM-ready students. We find that gender gaps are smaller among high-achieving students and for students who go to school in more affluent areas. There is no gender gap in science (the large gaps are in engineering and technology), and we also find a smaller gender gap when we include nursing degrees in STEM, showing that the definition of STEM used is an important determinant of the conclusions reached.

The working paper can be downloaded from the ESRI website.

Leaders Award online Engineering Extravaganza for British Science Week 2019

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The Leaders Awards are celebrating British Science Week 2019 by holding an Engineering Extravaganza in which they will hold two ‘Meet an Engineer’ interviews engineers every school day, starting from 8th March.

During British Science Week 2019 there will be two Live Online Engineer Events each day, available to all schools registered for the Scottish Engineering, Primary Engineer and Secondary Engineer Leaders Awards featuring:

  • Jenny Roberts a Mechatronic Engineer – Friday 8/3/19, 10.30 am-11.30 am
  • Gerry Ward – Manufacturing Engineer – Friday 8/3/19, 1.30 pm-2.30 pm
  • Iulia Motoc – Roboticist – Monday 11/3/19, 0.30 am-11.30 am
  • Mike Baldwin – Lead Mechanical Engineer – Monday 11/3/19, 1.30 pm-2.30 pm
  • Elaine Meskhi – Engineering Consultant – Tuesday 12/3/19, 10.30 am-11.30 am
  • Eleanor Davies – Structural Engineer and Women Like Me participant – Tuesday 12/3/19, 1.30 pm-2.30 pm
  • Yeff Karpuchenko – Mechanical Engineer – Wednesda 13/3/19, 10.30 am-11.30 am
  • Mike Jeschke – Materials Engineer – Wednesday 13/3/19, 1.30 pm-2.30 pm
  • Stephanie Alexander – Automotive Engineer – Thursday 14/3/19, 10.30 am-11.30 am
  • Lorna Bennet – Renewables Mechanical Engineer – Thursday 14/3/19, 1.30 pm-2.30 pm
  • Graeme Ralph – Manufacturing R&D Engineer – Friday 15/3/19, 10.30 am-11.30 am
  • Victoria Howells – Flight Simulation Engineer – Friday 15/3/19, 1.30 pm-2.30 pm

These events are expecting to very popular, so the Leaders Awards are recommending that schools who want to take part register their interest by emailing info@leadersaward.com as soon as possible citing the relevant engineer’s name and your school name in the subject line of the email.

Sign your Pupils up to the Great Science Share

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Children from Years 4 to 8 from across the region are invited to share their own science investigations at the Great Science Share for Schools.

Image result for great science share

The aim of the Great Science Share is to nurture kids’ natural curiosity by providing an opportunity for them to pose a scientific question, plan a way to investigate their question, and then share their investigation with new audiences.  This promotes child-centred learning as well as giving children a chance to communicate their projects in a non-competitive, inclusive environment.

You can read more about the Great Science Share, access the inspiration wall and find out how you can support your class’ project on the annual campaign website. So have a read and sign up your class to take part in the Bristol and Bath event on Tuesday 18th June 10-2 pm, hosted by UWE Bristol (Frenchay Campus, BS34 8QZ).

Scientists and engineers from STEM research and industry will also be attending the free event – there to be inspired by your children’s fantastic questions and ideas, as well as to display cutting-edge technology from their industries.

Entry: Each ticket admits up to eight children with two adults. Each class can apply for a ticket, so schools can bring different groups from multiple classes. Home educators are also welcome with group displays.

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.

Originally posted by Louisa Cockbill on the Curiosity Connections blog, 22nd February 2019.

Final Call to Enter Free Engineering Competition

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The Leaders Award is a free competition for children in which you can challenge your pupils to come up with engineering solutions to everyday problems. But the deadline (27th March) is fast approaching…

Kids taking part in the Leaders Award are encouraged to talk to local engineers, but also have the opportunity to tune into live interviews with scientists and pose their questions to these experts.

Get your school registered to take part in the Leaders Award.

If your school wants to be involved in any of the interviews please register your interest via email to info@leadersaward.com and they will  keep you posted on their schedule. And you can read more about it here: leadersaward 2019 flyer.

The awards are supported by the University of the West of England, Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S).

Originally posted by Louisa Cockbill on the Curiosity Connections blog, 24th February 2019.

Free Solar Circuits Curriculum Activity

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Practical Action have a new STEM Challenge for children aged 8-14 years.The Solar Challenge is a free resource that covers the circuits National Curriculumrequirements. All the materials you need are provided, including a PPT, teacher’s guide, pupil notes and a poster. Check it out here: https://practicalaction.org/solar-challenge.

The challenge is based on Practical Action’s work in southern Zimbabwe, so doubles up as a great way to raise pupils awareness of global issues.Pupils build circuits using solar cells, then make decisions on the use of electrical appliances for a community in Zimbabwe who have a limited supply of electricity.It’s perfect for STEM clubs, transition and enrichment days, as well as supporting pupils’ learning about Sustainable Development Goals.The Solar Challenge is also linked to the Off-Grid Design Competition, which challenges pupils to develop a solar powered solution to address one of a number of problems.

The STEM challenges that Practical Action run can be used to gain a CREST Award.

Learn more about the CREST Award and the challenges Practical Action offer, here:

Originally posted by Louisa Cockbill on the Curiosity Connections blog, 14th February 2o19.

First prototype complete in Leaders Award design build

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A team of engineers from UWE Bristol is bringing to life one of the winning designs from last year’s Leaders Awards. Designed by Philippa Griffiths of Hugh Sexey CE Middle School in Somerset, the Red Line Braking System (RLBS) displays red lights to alert other drivers of the severity of the braking and levels of attention needed, with the aim of reducing fatalities on our roads. Here Miriam Cristofoletti of the build team shares their latest prototype progress.

In this first prototype, we installed a pressure sensor inside what looks like a break pedal of a car (but instead is an old sewing machine’s pedal!), and we build and programmed a circuit to control a strip of LEDs. This is the basic principle behind the final design. We will then make it bigger and we’ll attach it to a frame to fit around the car’s back windshield. We’d also like to add a Bluetooth system in order not to have wires running from one side of the car to another. 

“The UK education system cannot produce enough engineers to support the economy”

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Apprenticeship Levy limitations and technical teacher shortages threaten economic growth, according to a report led by the Royal Academy of Engineering, which is currently funding our Curiosity Connections – Women Like Me project.

Engineering Skills for the Future – the 2013 Perkins review revisited was published on 30th January 2019 and produced by Education for Engineering. It reports numerous barriers to addressing the annual shortfall of 59,000 engineers and technicians in the UK workforce; including narrow post-16 education options, teacher shortages and an overly restrictive Apprenticeship Levy.

The 2013 Review of Engineering Skills was led by Professor John Perkins CBE FREng and commissioned by government. It was a landmark report reviewing engineering education. This newly published independent report revisits the challenges highlighted in the original Perkins Review, and makes a series of recommendations for addressing them:

  • Government should review the issues affecting recruitment and retention of teachers and go beyond plans announced this week by introducing a requirement for 40 hours of subject-specific continuing professional development for all teachers of STEM subjects, not just new recruits, every year.
  • An urgent review of post-16 academic education pathways for England is needed. Young people should have the opportunity to study mathematics, science and technology subjects along with arts and humanities up to the age of 18, to attract a broader range of young people into engineering.
  • Government must ensure engineering courses are adequately funded with increased top-up grants for engineering departments if tuition fees are to be reduced.
  • Government should give employers greater control and flexibility in how they spend the Apprenticeship Levy, including to support other high-quality training provision in the workplace, such as improving the digital skills of the workforce.
  • Professional engineering organisations and employers should address the need to up-skill engineers and technicians to prepare for the introduction of disruptive digital technologies into industry.
  • Employers should take an evidence-based and data driven approach to improve recruitment and increase retention and progression of underrepresented groups within organisations, including by introducing recruitment targets for underrepresented groups.

For more information and to view the report, please see the Royal Academy of Engineering’s news release.