UWE student engineers visit Leaders Award winner’s school

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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. Miriam Cristofoletti tells us more about their visit to the school of designer Phillipa Griffiths in this blog post.

Earlier this month we had the incredible opportunity to go and visit Philippa in her school, run a series of STEM activities with her classmates and to discuss her idea about the RLBS project! We were so excited! 

After about an hour of traveling, we reached Hugh Sexey CE Middle School, in the quiet Somerset countryside, and we met Ms Latti (Philippa’s teacher), who took us to the DT classroom and introduced us to the pupils. It was a great surprise to see the majority of them to be girls! 

We started with a brief introduction about who we are, what we do at UWE and we had a chat with them about their career plans after school. The students were very interested and it was nice to see them interacting with us and sharing their opinions, without feeling shy. We then had a couple of quizzes. First, we wanted the children to explore the different areas of Engineering, so we gave them a few job descriptions and they had to guess the job title. We picked the latest job adverts from real websites, in the Engineering sections, like Drone Pilot, App Developer, Machine Learning Engineer, Virtual Reality Designer,… to show them that all these jobs weren’t there a few years ago, but they are now possible because of the new technological advancement. When we said: “Think about the fact that you all will have jobs that are not there yet, because you haven’t invented them yet!”, a girl from the back went like “Oh my God, THAT-IS-SO-COOL!” 

And it’s for real, “SO COOL”! 

Another activity was to see whether they knew some of the most important past and present figures in the Engineering industry and research environment, like Elon Musk and Steve Jobs, but also Mary Jackson and Katherine Johnson, telling them that they all started from nothing, from a garage or from a little desk, and they all built their way up with determination and strength, never giving up. 

We showed them some of our work and projects at university, and we also brought a Mekamon (the spider-like robot produced by Reach Robotics). They were all so excited to see a real robot in front of them, but also interested by the fact that Silas Adekunle, was just an undergraduate student when he came up with the idea of building it and set up his own company. 

Then, it was time to discuss the Leaders Award competition and Philippa’s design. We presented her our work from the very first tests and the current progress. She shared with us the reasons behind her idea and she told us her thoughts about what we’ve done so far. It was a great experience for both sides – she managed to see her drawing slowly coming true and give her input about the next steps, and we got the opportunity to have our customer review, avoiding future errors and/or disappointment! 

The last hour was spent with our final activity, a practical one! We split the class in 4 groups and each group was further divided in 2 teams: a Hardware team and a Software team. We brought laptops, microcontroller boards, wires, sensors and LEDs, to allow the pupils to build their own circuit and program their own code, and make an easier version of Philippa’s RLBS: an LED would lit up based on how much a sensor was pressed. 

To create a more real life scenario, we supplied the 4 groups with slightly different materials and they had to share some components, because that’s what an Engineer project sometimes looks like, especially when you start with the first tests. You don’t always have everything as expected, you need to adapt and improvise with what you have or what you’re given, sometimes you have constraints in terms of money, resources, time… but you keep on trying, persistent and confident that eventually you can make it! 

The children worked hard and followed our instruction perfectly! They soon found out that nothing works fine on the first attempt, it’s not like in movies, when you just type on a keyboard and magically you get all the results you want! It takes time and team work. It was amazing seeing the members of the HW team agreeing with the ones in the SW team for the number of pins, and cooperating to get the whole system working! This is exactly what we do in our projects at university – no Engineer works alone! 

At the end, some children managed to lit up an LED, and the sense of achievement in their eyes was priceless! 

With the bell’s ring, we packed our things, and came back to UWE, happy to have lit up the first sparkle of inspiration for our future Engineers! 

Leaders Award prototype team ready to visit designer’s school

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Our team of engineers, including our Women Like Me engineer Katy, are busy building one of the winning designs from last year’s Leaders Award. 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. The team are due to visit Philippa’s school tomorrow, as Miriam Cristofoletti of the build team tells us here.

Today we had a very productive meeting, preparing our 2-hour session to Philippa’s school. We’ll have about 20-25 KS3 pupils and we will run a series of very interactive activities. We want to inspire them, and show them what the Engineering World looks like, through quizzes, games and a final practical session, building circuits and writing code! 

Philippa’s design is an incredible idea, and the Engineering principle behind it is actually quite straightforward: a pressure sensor and many LED strips lit up depending on the intensity of the force applied on it. We want her to fully experience her own design and with our practical session next Wednesday, she’ll be able to do so. We’ll also have a chat with her, and see whether we’re all on the same page for the project and what are her suggestions. It’s gonna be fun!

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. 

Apply now for Royal Academy of Engineering Symposium: Inclusivity and Wellbeing in the First 2000 Days of Life

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The Royal Academy of Engineering (funders of our Curiosity ConnectionsWomen Like Me project) are to host their third Frontiers of Development symposium, Monday 11th – Wednesday 13th March 2019 at the Wellcome Genome Campus, outside of Cambridge, UK.

Ensuring good health and well-being, providing quality education and advocating for gender eqality are a few of the Sustainable Development Goals that will be explored, as the symposium looks at factors affecting (approximately) the first five years of life. Participants will look at actions to help future generations to survive and thrive, in a transformed environment, drawing on the UN Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health (2016-2030) as a framework.

The sub-themes for the symposium will be:

  • Survive: Reducing child mortality – learning from the past and lessons for the future
  • Thrive: Reaching full developmental potential
  • Transform: Realising an environment for sustainable, prosperous childhood development

The event is being held with support from Wellcome. For further details and to apply to attend by the deadline of 11th February 2019, please see the Royal Academy of Engineering upcoming symposia page.

Women Like Me engineer Eleanor Davies reaches another 1000 pupils for the Leaders Award

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Back in November, our Women Like Me participant Eleanor Davies presented to over 1300 children in on online ‘Meet an Engineer‘ session for the Leaders Award.

Her talk was so successful and engaging that she was invited back, and presented again on 31st January. This time Eleanor reached 1042 children in six primary and one secondary school, across the UK. Eleanor is a Chartered Structural Engineer at BuroHappold Engineering; you out more about her and her career in engineering so far here.

The Leaders Award is supported by UWE Bristol and asks children “If you were an engineer, what would you do?”. This free competition asks students to find a problem, invent a solution, draw it, explain and send it in. Pupils are encouraged to both interview engineers and watch the online interviews. If you’d like to take part in the Leaders Award as an engineer or school, please get in touch with the team.

Connected by Curiosity

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Our Curiosity Connections Conference took place at UWE Bristol on Saturday 2nd February 2019. We’ve already updated on our Women Like Me engineering outreach surgery that was embedded into the day; now you can find out how the rest of the packed event went in this conference report by Curiosity’s Project Coordinator Louisa Cockbill and Project Lead Laura Fogg-Rogers (originally posted by Louisa on the Curiosity Connections blog).

Despite all the snow falling in Bristol on the day before the conference, we were much relieved that roads were cleared in time for delegates to arrive on Saturday morning.

Looking at the feedback forms this morning we’re happy to find that everyone found the day a valuable collaborative opportunity as well as being informative, motivational and fun to boot.

In her introductory keynote, Louise Stubberfield who leads the Explorify project as Programme Manager of Primary Science Education at the Wellcome Trust, highlighted data gathered by the Trust showing how little science makes its way into the primary school classroom. One statistic that stood out, was how the UK  have longer school hours than other countries, yet spend less time on science.

Louise Stubberfield presents her keynote address

Louise applauded the teachers present for taking the time to do science education training, while also noting that this was on their own unpaid time. She also highlighted statistics that indicate training such as this significantly pushes science contact time up in their schools.

The keynote painted the uphill battle that science has to climb in primary schools. But Louise finished on a positive note by engaging everyone in a couple of Explorify activities, clearly demonstrating the ease by which these online resources can be deployed in the primary classroom.

The day then went into full swing with workshops and expo entertainment galore.

Matthew Tosh leads a workshop on confidence in presenting science in the classroom

One workshop inspired delegates in easy ways to incorporate science content into English and Maths lessons, while another built confidence in presenting science in the classroom, and still a third looked into how ideas around science capital can be built into lessons.

Becky Holmes from Science Made Simple gets some help in showcasing her activities

The Expo Showcase, which followed on from a lush lunch, was a highlight of the day, with representatives from Medical MavericksScience Made SimplePractical Action and Kids against Plastic, showcasing their activities.

The day finished with a little magic from Matthew Tosh, who showed us how a science “wow” can be very simple. And he also gave us a sneaky preview from a new demonstration he’s whipping together for a new show premiering at St. George’s Bristol on Sunday 17th Feb.

We wish to say a massive thank you to all of the speakers who took part in making the day so relevant, and of course thank you for delegates for taking part!

Stay tuned in to the blog in the next couple of weeks to see more photos from the event and to hear more about what some of our science communicator attendees are up to…

Female engineers come together for outreach surgery at Curiosity Connections 2019

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Curiosity ConnectionsWomen Like Me is a Royal Academy of Engineering Ingenious funded project. Curiosity Connections is a Bristol-based network for primary Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) teachers and science communicators, while Women Like Me pairs senior engineers with junior engineers for mentoring, with the junior engineers undertaking outreach activities with children and young people.

The Curiosity Connections Conference 2019 took place at UWE Bristol on 2nd February – more to follow about that! As well as the three fantastic workshop rotations on offer, we also provided an outreach surgery for our female engineers to come along, try out some outreach activities, talk through any thoughts they have about outreach and catch up with each other.

Run by Dr Laura Hobbs, research fellow in science communication at UWE Bristol and coordinator of Women Like Me, and Dr Debbie Lewis, technical team leader for molecular biology at UWE and experienced outreach leader, the session saw our engineers trying to cut A5 pieces of paper so that they could step through them (a fantastic resource provided by the Year of Engineering) and build towers out of spaghetti and marshmallows. We were also joined by our WISE Women Like Me partner Sarah Behenna, who was recently involved with the development of the new WISE resource My Skills My Life.

Credit: David Marshall (University of Bristol/Virtual Natural History Museum)

Such was the concentration and enthusiasm for the tasks – and encouraging and supportive atmosphere – that we decided to extend our scheduled 50 minute session to more than two hours, only stopping for lunch. Our endeavours with technical paper-cutting also caught the attention of exhibitors at the conference expo; the Virtual Natural History Museum stand soon became adorned with a perfectly-executed paper ring!

UWE student engineers promote Leaders Award at Curiosity Connections 2019

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Our Curiosity Connections Conference, bringing together teachers and science communicators to discuss and progress the future of primary STEM, took place today and the packed expo featured two of the student engineers building a prototype of one of the winning designs from last year’s Leaders Award competition.

UWE Bristol student engineers Miriam Cristofoletti (Bristol Robotics Laboratory) and Georgina Packham (Mechanical Engineering) attended the conference to report on the work they are doing for the Leaders Award, and raise awareness of the competition with more than 50 conference attendees.

Along with Olesya Klyuchenkova and our Women Like Me engineer
Katy O’Hara Nash, Miriam and Georgina are building a prototype of a graded braking light designed by Philippa Griffiths, a Year 7 student at Hugh Sexey CE Middle School in Somerset. Philippa designed the RLBS (Red Line Braking System) to display 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. The team will be visiting Philippa’s school later this month.

The Leaders Award is supported by UWE Bristol and asks children “If you were an engineer, what would you do?”. This free competition asks students to find a problem, invent a solution, draw it, explain and send it in. Pupils are encouraged to both interview engineers and watch the online interviews. If you’d like to take part in the Leaders Award as an engineer or school, please get in touch with the team.

Female engineers engaged in women’s networks invited to participate in new research

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Dr Vanda Papafilippou, lecturer in Human Resource Management at UWE Bristol, is undertaking new research into engagement of female engineers with women’s networks and how this relates to their career identities. Please see below for details and get in touch with Vanda on
Vanda.Papafilippou@uwe.ac.uk if you’d like to take part, or for further information.

If you are a female engineer and relatively active in women’s networks (e.g. your company’s women’s network, WISE, WES, Bristol Geek Dinners, etc.), you are being invited to participate in a research project conducted by Dr Vanda Papafilippou (Lecturer in HRM at UWE Bristol.)

The study, aims at exploring how female engineers develop, enter, maintain and engage with women’s networks and the extent to which these networks contribute to their career identities. The findings of the study will enable engineering companies to (re)design their women-only networks in order to make sure that they empower and retain women engineers.

If you agree to participate, you will be invited for a one-to-one interview with Vanda (wherever works better for you). The interview will last approximately one hour and can be conducted any day and time between February and April 2019. The interview questions will be around: (i) your career history (background information); (ii) the range and nature of women-only networks you are currently participating in and (iii) if, and if yes how, your participation in women-only networks has impacted on the way you see yourself as an engineer (i.e. your career identity).

If you are interested in participating or if you require further information, contact directly Vanda (Vanda.Papafilippou@uwe.ac.uk)

UWE engineering students visit Hannah More Primary School

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Yesterday, our team of student engineers who are turning one of the winning 2018 Leaders Award designs into reality, Miriam Cristofoletti, Katy O’Hara Nash, Olesya Klyuchenkova and Georgina Packham, visited Hannah More Primary School in Bristol to introduce Year 1 pupils to engineering. Find out how they got on in this guest post by the team.

Yesterday we went to Hannah More Primary School to deliver our Engineering activity and we had so much fun with the children! 

They were Year 1 pupils (age 5 and 6), and we were really happy to see their interest and passion in getting involved in all the activities. We had a slideshow with many pictures, videos about Engineering and questions to make the session more interactive and entertaining.

“I want that robot at home!”

Most of the children said things like “I want that robot at home!” “I want to fly that plane!”. We got them thinking about what they want to do when they grow up, guess what course we study, draw what an engineer would look like and what they do in their job.

We introduced them to the Leaders Award competition and they were so impressed by the fact that we are actually building one of last year’s winners, designed by a pupil like them!

Then, we gave the children two problems to choose from (pollution and unhealthy eating) and in groups they had to find a solution. It was great to see the amazing ideas they came up with, such as robots that only buy/serve healthy food and devices to clean the “dirty gases” coming out of the cars.

Credit: Hannah More Primary School on Twitter.

At the end they proudly presented their work in front of the rest of the class and all said they now want to become engineers! Such a successful day! 

The Leaders Award is supported by UWE Bristol and asks children “If you were an engineer, what would you do?”. This free competition asks students to find a problem, invent a solution, draw it, explain and send it in. Pupils are encouraged to both interview engineers and watch the online interviews. If you’d like to take part in the Leaders Award as an engineer or school, please get in touch with the team.