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!

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

Alumni listed on 2020 Future List by Northern Power Women

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Krystina Pearson-Rampeearee graduated in 2010 from the MEng Aerospace Engineering programme and now works as a Flight Systems Engineer at BAE Systems. She’s worked hard to change perceptions of STEM careers, and has been officially recognised on the 2020 Future List by Northern Power Women.

Northern Power Women have added 52 amazing individuals to the Future List, all who have contributed to making a difference in their communities and organisations, as well as raising awareness of gender equality across the North of England. 
 
The Future List recognises the leaders and change makers of the future who are already making a difference in their environments and communities. 

“I feel very passionate about inspiring more young girls to consider STEM careers, especially after my own experiences of studying and working in an environment in which the majority of people are male.
Volunteering to talk to young people has taken me out of my comfort zone but seeing the excitement and wonder on their faces when I talk about my career gives me personal fulfilment. I aspire to help change perceptions of what an Engineer looks like and to be the role model I wish I’d had when I was growing up.”

Krystina Pearson-Rampeearee

The winners of the Northern Power Women Awards will be announced on 16 March at a gala awards night and dinner at the Manchester Central Convention Complex. The winners will continue to be showcased throughout the year, to ensure ongoing visibility for the role models and to use their presence to inspire.

Read the full announcement.

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.

EDM’s Lisa Brodie inspires at Women in Engineering Conference

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Head of EDM, Lisa Brodie was guest of honour at the 2020 South West’s Women in Engineering  conference. held at the beginning of February.

Lisa delivered a keynote speech to an audience of female engineering professionals wishing to develop their skills and roles within the industry.
Delegates were inspired as Lisa spoke of her journey from graduating with a manufacturing system engineering degree, to becoming a chartered engineer and to her current role leading over 100 academics. Lisa also spoke of her passion for truly inclusive and diverse STEM education and how UWE Bristol’s multi-million pound new school of engineering will drive this forward when it opens later this year.

Lots of delegates listed Lisa’s talk as the highlight of the day!

“What a lady. Very inspiring to hear such an honest account and experiences. Normalising challenges is hugely comforting :)”

“Really good and made me realise I’m not a failure for coming up against obstacles. I just need to persevere and challenge myself.”

“Amazing. One of the most inspirational talks I have ever listened to. Made me excited for the career journey.”

“So relatable in so many ways! Engaging and supportive and something we all need to hear :)”

Organiser’s of the conference, Business4Life, express their thanks to Lisa and other speakers on the day for making the event a success and for helping them to raise £3,862 for WaterAid to install 8 bio-digesting toilets in Monrovia, Liberia – where 8/10 people do not currently have access to a decent toilet.

All photos courtesy of B4L’s photographer – Dominick Mortier.

Aerospace students visit Airbus Factory in Bremen

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Programme leader, Jerzy Bakunowicz, reports on the recent trip to Germany

On January 20th, a group of 29 Aerospace and Aerospace with Pilot Studies students along with five members of staff, visited the Airbus factory in Bremen, Germany.

Bremen is the second-largest Airbus site in Germany and is responsible for the design, manufacture, integration and testing of high-lift systems for the wings of all Airbus programmes. Its origins date back to the famous Focke-Wulf design and manufacturing site.

However, on this trip the focus was on the centre of competence for space transportation, manned space flight and space robotics.

The standard factory guided trip allowed seeing historical and more current projects, such as the Automated Transfer Vehicle, the Ariane 5 space launcher and the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. As well as spending a couple of minutes on-board the International Space Station (ISS) and inside mission room.

It was a rare opportunity for the students to enhance their knowledge in space technology, a core part of the Aerospace course.

And of course, after the fruitful engineering part of the day, one could admire the beauty of the renowned German Hanseatic city.

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.

Students visit VW factory

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Rohitha Weerasinghe reports on a recent student trip.

54 students and 5 staff members went to Bratislava to visit the VW production facility, the second largest in Europe last week. Students had the opportunity to see how a few car models are being mass produced, so enhancing their engineering experience beyond the class room.

And while they were there, students and staff took the most of their opportunity to visit the historic Bratislava city and embrace Slovak culture.

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. 

Robots. What could possibly go wrong?

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A new project studies how to investigate accidents with social robots, Alan Winfield explains why this is needed…

Originally posted on September 17th, 2019 by Alan Winfield on his blog.

Imagine that your elderly mother, or grandmother, has an assisted living robot to help her live independently at home. The robot is capable of fetching her drinks, reminding her to take her medicine and keeping in touch with family. Then one afternoon you get a call from a neighbour who has called round and sees your grandmother collapsed on the floor. When the paramedics arrive they find the robot wandering around apparently aimlessly. One of its functions is to call for help if your grandmother stops moving, but it seems that the robot failed to do this. 

Fortunately your grandmother recovers but the doctors find bruising on her legs, consistent with the robot running into them. Not surprisingly you want to know what happened: did the robot cause the accident? Or maybe it didn’t but made matters worse, and why did it fail to raise the alarm?

Although this is a fictional scenario it could happen today. If it did you would be totally reliant on the goodwill of the robot manufacturer to discover what went wrong. Even then you might not get the answers you seek; it’s entirely possible the robot and the company that made it are just not equipped with the tools and processes to undertake an investigation.

Right now there are no established processes for robot accident investigation. 

Of course accidents happen, and that’s just as true for robots as any other machinery [1].

Finding statistics is tough. But this web page shows serious accidents with industrial robots in the US since the mid 1980s. Driverless car fatalities of course make the headlines. There have been five (that we know about) since 2016. But we have next to no data on accidents in human robot interaction (HRI); that is for robots designed to interact directly with humans. Here is one – a security robot – that happened to be reported.

But a Responsible Roboticist must be interested in all accidents, whether serious or not. We should also be very interested in near misses; these are taken very seriously in aviation [2], and there is good evidence that reporting near misses improves safety.

So I am very excited to introduce our 5-year EPSRC funded project RoboTIPS – responsible robots for the digital economy. Led by Professor Marina Jirotka at the University of Oxford, we believe RoboTIPS to be the first project with the aim of systematically studying the question of how to investigate accidents with social robots.

So what are we doing in RoboTIPS..?

First we will look at the technology needed to support accident investigation.

In a paper published 2 years ago Marina and I argued the case for an Ethical Black Box (EBB) [3]. Our proposition is very simple: that all robots (and some AIs) should be equipped by law with a standard device which continuously records a time stamped log of the internal state of the system, key decisions, and sampled input or sensor data (in effect the robot equivalent of an aircraft flight data recorder). Without such a device finding out what the robot was doing, and why, in the moments leading up to an accident is more or less impossible. In RoboTIPS we will be developing and testing a model EBB for social robots.

But accident investigation is a human process of discovery and reconstruction. So in this project we will be designing and running three staged (mock) accidents, each covering a different application domain: 
assisted living robots, educational (toy) robots, and driverless cars.
In these scenarios we will be using real robots and will be seeking human volunteers to act in three roles, as the subject(s) of the accident, witnesses to the accident, and as members of the accident investigation team.
Thus we aim to develop and demonstrate both technologies and processes (and ultimately policy recommendations) for robot accident investigation. And the whole project will be conducted within the framework of Responsible Research and Innovation; it will, in effect, be a case study in Responsible Robotics.

References:

[1] Dhillon BS (1991) Robot Accidents. In: Robot Reliability and Safety. Springer, New York, NY
[2] Macrae C (2014) Close Calls: Managing risk and resilience in Airline flight safety, Palgrave macmillan.
[3] Winfield AFT and Jirotka M (2017) The Case for an Ethical Black Box. In: Gao Y, Fallah S, Jin Y, Lekakou C (eds) Towards Autonomous Robotic Systems. TAROS 2017. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 10454. Springer, Cham.