UWE student engineers bring children’s designs to life!

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“If you were an Engineer, what would you do?”

This is the question asked to over 49,000 children throughout the UK each year as part of the Primary Engineer Leaders Award.

The Leaders Award is an annual competition which encourages pupils from primary and secondary schools across the UK to look at the world around them and find engineered solutions to common problems. Each year the children’s designs are graded by engineering professionals and the winners for each region are announced and celebrated at regional events.

The Engineering Design and Mathematics Department (EDM) at UWE Bristol have supported the awards and hosted celebration events for schools in the South West for the past four years, but this year the celebrations had to move online.

To make sure everyone could still view and enjoy the children’s designs, Primary Engineer created online virtual galleries for each region.

You can view the gallery for the South West entries of 2020 here.

EDM further support the Awards each year, by bringing the children’s designs to life. UWE student engineers are tasked to build prototypes of the winning designs, which are then showcased at the following year’s celebration event. This year a team of student engineers have been busy bringing an electric blanket design to life!

The solar electric heated blanket was designed by Mary, a local Year 5 pupil who aimed to provide warmth for the homeless. The team of UWE Masters students tasked with building a functional prototype of the blanket include student electronic engineers Oliver Németh, Eimantas Medziunas and Kieran Easdale, and student mechanical engineer Ahmed Nor (aka The Prototeam!).

The original design by Mary, Yr5

The challenge was to produce a blanket that would meet the needs of the end user – one that was suitable for outdoor use, durable, portable, low cost, easy to maintain, hygienic and able to provide heat for an appropriate length of time.

An interesting challenge with the technology currently available, and one that the Prototeam worked hard to solve together, using electronic simulations, schematic diagrams and 3D models. From this a prototype was built for testing and analysis, the results of which revealed the design was a success!

The prototype used for testing and analysis

Projects such as this have huge potential to inspire the next generation of innovators into a future in engineering. Encouraging children to tackle real-world problems that affect their everyday life helps widen the appeal of engineering to children from a variety of backgrounds, and will hopefully lead to a more diverse workforce in the future.

If you are a current student, alumni or professional and would like to know more about the Leaders Award or other engineering outreach opportunities currently available, please get in touch with the team at engineeringourfuture@uwe.ac.uk

If you are a school or young person interested in taking part in the Leaders Award this year, you can find more info and register for free here.

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