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”!
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!
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
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!