Zoe George was voted the winner of the the Food Zone in June 2014. She used the money to facilitate workshops in the Chemical Engineering department at the University of Birmingham for 100 school students.
Zoe spent £200 on a microscope and camera that allows the students to take their own images of different substances in the workshops. Zoe said ‘My main aim was to get across the role a food engineer plays in the development of everyday products that you eat, which you probably don’t even think about.‘ The rest of the funds were used for workshop supplies and travel expenses.
“My microscope and a camera that I bought which connects the microscope to the computer. The picture on the computer is of a sample taken of skin cream.”
If you’re an engineer who’d like funding to support your own STEM outreach activities, apply now for I’m an Engineer, Get me out of here at imanengineer.org.uk/engineers
I had done quite a lot of science outreach within schools before I took part in the Space for All Zone last March, so I had a good idea of the issues I wanted to try and address with the prize money – namely being 1) under representation of women in science, and 2) misrepresentation of what science and engineering is.
My first idea was to create leaflets to send to widening participation schools, one a very illustrative one showing the different types of science and engineering jobs which affect everyday life, and the second would focus on women in science, to give role models to female students interested in STEM. Throughout the I’m an Engineer process, and with the feedback of the young people I speaking to, I decided to focus solely on the issues around women in science.
Now, creating 2 leaflets wouldn’t have been too much work – my husband is a graphic designer and my dad works in printing press – I couldn’t have been better placed.
The explosive main page of the Women of Science website.
However, I wanted to do more than just print a leaflet and send it to schools. I wanted to create something multi-layered, that would engage with people and give a chance for people to interact with it. Something that can evolve and develop, rather than just a static piece of paper. So instead, I used the money to start my own campaign, Women of Science, sharing stories of women in STEM.
The premise of the idea is based on Humans of New York – simple portrait photos, with short quotes about the person’s life. I find this method so engaging, personally, but I have also been following the impact of this method and its various sister campaigns – and it has been phenomenal. Also, it brings together several things I am passionate about – Science, equality, outreach, and photography!
My main aim with Women of Science is to engage people about the lives of female scientists – to show them as relatable people, to give young people some real attainable role models, to truly show how diverse and how multidisciplinary the sciences are – and to tell a scientist’s story which is more than a fact file of qualifications and day to day duties.
These scientists might like fashion like you do, they might like football, they might enjoy cooking. Science may not (and probably isn’t) the be all and end all of their existence, they are not geniuses – they are regular people, who do science, and happen to be female.
This is what I wanted to showcase through a website, social media sites, and leaflets in the form of collectable postcards to send to schools. Featuring one woman a fortnight, and exploring her life and interests through 3-4 simple photographs and quotes, with a blog post attached with more information – making female scientist role models truly attainable, and trying to break any of the stereotypes that are out there.
Neha’s is the first story on the website. Click to see what she says about being a materials scientist
Although showcasing the stories of these women to young females interested in science is my main aim through Women of Science, I am also using the platform to talk about other issues around diversity in the sciences, and to present research in the form of clear infographics. I also hope to be able to boost the recognition of the women I speak to – to promote their own blogs and social media sites, to promote their research papers and published work, and to also create a resource not just for young people, but for all women working in the sciences.
So far the prize funds have been spent on setting up the website – www.womenofsci.com, purchasing interview equipment, and the rest will go on postcards business cards and stickers for events.
When I put the call out in March for women to be involved – I got a staggering 40 women from all across the UK and EU wanting to be involved – passionately wanting to be involved! That’s many months of stories to get out there and I can’t wait for all of you to read them.
I am really humbled to have some really fantastic women doing some really exciting things who have offered not just their time but also their support and encouragement to me and this campaign. The website will continue to be updated week on week as well as the social media streams. I will use the blog part of the website to showcase my own story as a women/communicator/human in STEM, and I will send an annual round of postcards to schools (funding permitting).
And that’s not it! I have a habit of dreaming big – and I want to push this campaign to be something different, something new. I have ideas for a photography exhibition type event with talks on women of science, talks to schools, creating a installation wall of anecdotes and advice from women of science at schools and universities, and perhaps one day a magazine, showcasing wonderful ordinary women in stem, telling their stories, sharing their research, giving them all a voice, discussing the most recent research on the area. So if anybody has any free time and a whole bunch of money – you know where I am!
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The money was used to buy a LEGO EV3 Mindstorms Educational set to take part in an educational outreach program run by some colleagues at Diamond Light Source. We’ve developed designs for a fully working diffraction interferometer made from the Mindstorms kit, but we needed the newest version of the LEGO to help test the current designs and develop them further.
Here are some pictures of the current model and a few of its immediate predecessor in various states of completion and use.
We’ve already been able to take the model out and about to show the public, including open days at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and even to the Natural History Museum.
We also plan to produce a fully illustrated booklet for schools which will include instructions on how to build their own version of the beamline model, as well as information about its real-life counterpart at Diamond, and the part it plays in synchrotron science and the modern world.
The booklet is, however, currently proving a challenge; Whilst the free software provided by Lego for modelling builds is good as far as it goes, its system for producing instructions falls over somewhat when faced with something as complex as the beamline. I’m hard at work on ways to make everything simple and clear without having to hand draw every stage in crayon!
The site aims to make energy advice simple and easy to understand, and also run energy workshops and support lessons in local schools.
Screen shot of a messy bedroom from Energy Explorer
Nicola’s prize money was used to develop an interactive game on the site, ‘Energy Explorer’. In it you can explore the different rooms of a house, interacting with different objects and reading about how to save energy.
Taking part in and winning the Health Zone of I’m an Engineer was such an amazing experience! It was wonderful to talk to so many enthusiastic students and share my love of engineering and the research I do.
I spent my £500 prize money on developing a new workshop for secondary school students called the Accident and Emergency Engineering Challenge. The students work in teams to design, build and test a device for holding a broken bone in place whilst it heals.
How would you fix this faulty femur?
Each team is given a model of a “broken” femur bone, a design specification, and a budget for buying materials from a shop. They have to come up with four concept designs and work out how much each design will cost before choosing their final design. They can only visit the shop once to buy materials, which is a bit harsh, but demonstrates the constraints engineers sometimes have to work under.
After building their design each team has to present their device, before testing it to see if it can withstand the required loads. This is always a tense moment as the students see if their designs are going to break or pass the test!
I have delivered the workshop at local schools and events here at the University of Birmingham and each time it gets a really good response from students and teachers. I have also trained up a few colleagues to run the workshop so the equipment I bought is being well used.
Students work in teams to get to grips with their new devices
As well as the materials for the workshop I bought a couple of anatomical models to help demonstrate the need for my research. One of the models shows how intervertebral discs degenerate over time and how that affects the spinal cord and nerves nearby. Another model shows how arthritis in the hip progresses and what a hip replacement looks like.
My favourite is a section of the spine, which when you compresses it causes the inside of the intervertebral disc to bulge outwards, showing what happens when someone “slips a disc”. It is really realistic and everyone loves playing with it!
I am so pleased I won IAEGMOOH. It has given me the confidence to develop my outreach skills and take part in other events and activities. I now help to run BrumSciComm a network of science communicators in Birmingham, who all support each other to get out there and tell people how amazing science and engineering is.
I’ve also recently applied for funding for a public engagement grant which will combine my research with my love of singing. If we get the funding we will produce a new choral piece about the experience of having a joint replacement, which will be performed with visuals in the local planetarium. It sounds mad but I have faith it will be brilliant!
As I bask in the glory of my victory just over a year ago; I stop and take stock. I reflect on all the ideas I had, promises and pledges made to invest the winning money wisely; and now today I reveal unto you the fruits of said labour!
Let’s get real here, big projects don’t always go as planned. Plans change, tasks that seemed simple at first turn out to be gargantuan in nature and some ideas just don’t pan out. But luckily, my plans didn’t go ENTIRELY terribly, some good progress was made and I have some cool stuff to show for it. Without further ado, here is what I have been up to (well, the relevant stuff anyway) since winning “I’m an Engineer; get me out of here”!
Me and my happy Code Clubbers
I have spent the prize money on whatever will help me with my outreach activities. Upon hearing of its existence I have purchased a Raspberry Pi 3 for me to produce workshops on. The entire code base for the games development project below was prepared and tested on that Raspberry Pi to ensure it would work with the school’s Raspberry Pi’s. I have also managed to snag myself a Raspberry Pi Zero for me to experiment with some new workshop ideas on that.
My latest purchase was two huge boxes of sensors, components etc. to inspire future workshops. Among these are heart rate sensors, motors, microphones among other things to be use in the upcoming “Engineering for Health” workshops, more details below. I’m very excited to see how this latest round of workshops goes down; as engineering in healthcare has been the last three years of my life, and a crazy mix of stress, boredom, frustration and elation all in equal measure.
The rest of the money that was kindly given to me was spent on camera equipment to start up a YouTube channel; such as the camera itself for capturing my dazzling good looks, tripod, vocal microphone, microphone stand and audio interface for recording my silky smooth voice.
Here’s some more on the projects my equipment has helped to support…
Teaching Teachers About Teaching Technology
As the school curriculum is adapting to incorporate Computing and Computer Science into them; it is important that teachers are prepared for this. The unfortunate fact is that most existing IT teachers are not adequately trained to delivery a completely comprehensive computing curriculum. This is where I and the department of Widening Participation and Outreach at the University of Surrey come in. We have been doing our best to support schools in their delivery of Computer Science and ensuring that their pupils our engaged. To do this we’ve been tackling this problem from two different angles:
Teaching Coding Days: School teachers come to us at the University for two days of intensive Coding. We set them up with Raspberry Pi’s and give them a stack of tasks and challenges to complete. We even occasionally let them have something to eat or go to the bathroom! The point of these exercises is to give them two working days of uninterrupted programming. This way they can see first hand what it is to program for a length of time, encounter the kinds of problems students run into so they can be better prepared for delivering lessons on these subjects.
Coding Hubs: This is where we deliver the programming lessons straight to students; they either visit us at the University or we visit them at their own schools. We give them a wide variety of workshops and challenges to help them learn programming. The intention here is not to replace the role of the teacher, but to engage students and get them interested in engineering and computer sciences as a career.
Because we are doing this within the department of Widening Participation and Outreach; the students we reach are guaranteed to be from a background where the participation in University level education is low. We’ve reached hundreds of students with these activities and hopefully inspired many of them to tackle STEM subjects at a University level. Our latest project involves games development in Python! We’ve prepared a long running project, where students are to develop their own version of Brick Breaker/Breakout; it is up to them to write the code that handles the on screen graphics, the physics and collision detection.
Inspiring Young Engineers summer schools
Every year, the University of Surrey runs several summer schools; two of which I have always been involved in. The Young Person’s University, and HeadStart. The former of these two is organised and run by the Department of Widening Participation and Outreach and aims to attract students from demographics where University applications are low. This is our chance to inspire them to go to University and study STEM subjects when they might not have tried. The kinds of workshops I run for these are electronics and programming workshops using Arduino as a platform. The students are given the kits and some worksheets to work through. In that time they should learn a little about what it is working in a modern electronics environment and what they can expected to do if they study Electronic Engineering at University.
The latter of the two schools is aimed at high achieving students who have just finished their AS levels are looking for Universities to apply for in their UCAS applications. We run very similar workshops to those as in the Young Person’s University; they are merely targeted at a separate student demographic.
What is different this year is that the University is in the middle of constructing it’s “Engineering for Health” teaching laboratories. In these labs, students will be learning skills to tackle problems related to health and health care with engineering skills and disciplines. Naturally, we’ve adapted our workshops to fit this theme. This year, thanks to equipment bought with the I’m an Engineer prize money, we have some interesting health related challenges for students to tackle!
(Dreaming of) Becoming a Youtube Sensation
One of the things I REALLY wanted to do with the prize money was to invest in the equipment to start up a Youtube channel; where I can make videos and demonstrations of cool projects. I toyed with this idea merely months before competing in “I’m an Engineer” and produced three very short and snappy tutorials to supplement my Coding Hub endeavours: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLH_HFKBhWFZpU2fsF78XPEaGMglZKd52P
After winning, one of the first things I did was purchase the equipment necessary to give it a go and experiment with the idea of producing bigger, more ambitious and more engaging videos. That’s when I quickly realised how much of a gargantuan effort video production is… The other challenge was making videos both useful and interesting to someone who’d like to get into engineering. What I had concluded was that I should make DIY types of videos, perhaps supplemented with a website of written instructions to complete these projects. I also concluded that I would probably need some help; as video production involves script writing, filming and editing. Producing a 20 minute video could take just as many hours to do!
For now the idea has remained dormant until after I finish my PhD and I should (hopefully) have some spare time going for me! Given that I’m down to less than 6 months remaining; watch this space!
I had an amazing two weeks competing in “I’m an Engineer”; I was asked all kinds of interesting questions. In that time I learned a lot about what students are striving for these days; but I was also amazed by how much I’d learned about myself in that time. I can’t thank everyone enough for giving me the opportunity to chase up ideas I would never have had the chance to otherwise, and I very much look forward to seeing how much further I can take my ideas in the future.
Last year, Neil was voted the winner of the Safety Zone. Here he tells us what he’s been able to do with his £500 prize money since then…
It’s now been a year since I took part in the March 2015 I’m an Engineer Safety Zone. Participating in the event was great fun, and it was a privilege to promote science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) alongside Philippa, Pete, Paula and Matthew. I also learned a great deal from the experience, so a big thank you again to all involved.
Here’s how I’ve used the £500 prize money over the past year:
The Mysterious Coded Object
I’ve brought together a team of 5 engineers from my company to design, create, and deliver a new, fun, STEM-based activity idea for students — a Puzzle Room. The activity is designed to take around 30-45 minutes for a team of 5 students to complete, and features a series of puzzles and challenges requiring logic, teamwork, and problem solving to beat (think of a game like ClueQuest/Hinthunt, or Crystal Maze challenges, with a STEM influence). The game aims to develop the skills mentioned above in a practical setting, and provide an environment in which learning from the classroom can be applied.
After spending a lot of time brainstorming about themes and concepts, we developed a game with the following theme:
“Professor Stephanie Emerson had secretly been investigating the meaning of life in her research laboratory, but recently went missing under mysterious circumstances. An initial inspection of her laboratory, however, suggests that she had prepared for such a scenario, as she appears to have left behind a series of clues.
Interested STEM adventurers are needed to search the Professor’s laboratory for these clues, and to solve puzzles to investigate her disappearance – and perhaps find out what the she was spending so much of her time researching!
The Professor’s research seems to have been focused on a locked box in the centre of her laboratory. It is thought that entry to this box is in some way connected to mastering the puzzles in the four elemental zones in the room – Fire, Water, Earth, and Wind.
This is all we know… the rest is up to a team of STEM investigators to find out…”
We’ve used the money to buy/create the props necessary for the game. These range from simple items (e.g., locks, boxes, posters), to more complex objects that we have crafted out of wood, plastic, and paint.
The Intriguing Volcano and the Marble Waterfall are just a couple of the puzzles we’ve created.
How exactly these props are used and related to each other is up to the STEM team to discover – I’m not going to reveal that information here! What I will say is that the game makes use of gravity, magnetism, heat conduction, and the electromagnetic spectrum (amongst other things) along the way…
When the props are put together, they form the themed element zones. The Fire Zone and the Earth Zone are pictured below.
The Fire Zone awaits your problem solving skills…
The Earth Zone assembled.
We recently delivered the activity to our local STEM hub, Dundee Science Centre, and are now ready to run the activity with schools in our local area.
I’d like to say a huge thanks to the team that have helped deliver this project: Hollie Struthers, Graham Holden, Sophie Wiehl, and Tom Pepper. It has been a challenging, exciting project to design and deliver, and an opportunity that we have all learned a great deal from.
And finally, it is only due to the prize money from I’m an Engineer that creating this new activity has been possible, so thank you once again for the opportunity. Hopefully the “Puzzle Room” activity we have created will be able to engage many more students in STEM in the near future!
On the 15th October 2015, I invited Year 8’s from the Cavendish School to participate in an engineering-based activity day. The day was split into 2 halves, 60 students participating in the morning session, and 60 students participating in the afternoon session.
The activity programme was called Making Knexions, created by Young Engineers. It is a STEM programme that enables students of all abilities to explore and engage through hands on design and build activities. The particular session I chose to run was based on Wind Turbines. The aim of the session was to encourage students to work together to create a solution to a problem, to learn new skills and to learn about potential future careers in engineering.
Above are some pictures of a few of the amazing wind turbines built on the day!
Awards were given to teams who had the fastest turbines, the best team communication, and the most interesting design. From this day, 12 students (6 boys and 6 girls) who stood out were selected for the top prize, being taken on the trip to the Shard!
The prize money from I’m an Engineer funded the trip into London on the 5th November. Not only did the students get to see the breath-taking views from the Shard, but many of the students experienced the underground for the first time and even got to see a Lamborghini up close (which distracted the majority of the students).
All of this was important, however, as the teachers and I explained to the students the engineering involved in all the things that they were looking at!
The students were full of excited descriptions: surreal; amazing; a special experience; breathtaking views. Stacey also chatted to the students about the excitement of working in construction and engineering and helping them understand that curiosity and ambition are key drivers to career success. Mrs Shaw, Careers Coordinator at Cavendish School
I would like to thank I’m an Engineer for offering me this opportunity. I have enjoyed the experience and I really believe that those 12 students, and others from the STEM day, have been positively influenced by gaining an understanding of engineering and will now consider it as a potential career in the future!
Mark won the Cities Zone in June 2014. We asked him to tell us what he’s got up to with his £500 prize and this is what he said…
I’m an Engineer — What a brilliant experience! It started as a bit of fun with the added benefit of speaking to a wide audience of young people. As the two weeks went on, I began thinking more about the skills required to be an engineer and it struck me… Communication skills are of the utmost importance! I had never thought of that before I had done I’m an Engineer. It’s great to see more and more I’m an Engineer events being run, the regular updates and twitter feed do genuinely bring a smile to my face 🙂
I wanted to use the prize money to design and build a demonstration rig which exhibits some aspects of mechanical engineering in the water industry. The demonstration rig can be used in classroom sessions with pupils between Year 9 -13 and at university career fairs.
Mark and the demonstration pumping station rig get pumped for a careers fair.
The demonstration rig gives the pupils a scaled down view of the work performed by mechanical engineers in the water industry. As well as introducing the idea of head and flow rates, the equipment helps demonstrate how these can be optimised. In addition to these more abstract ideas, the rig also demonstrates the more practical aspects of pumping station design, especially the choice between submersible and non-submersible pumps, and the special requirements of pump installations.
By using a manometer to measure the water pressure in the kinked pipe the pupils can see exactly how much lower it is than in the straighter pipe.
To construct the rig I bought six pumps in total, a couple of which were fully submersible in water, a power supply for the pumps, a tank to hold a water supply and lots of flexible transparent piping so that the water could be seen easily.
In July I took the rig to Altrincham Grammar School for Boys Careers Fair where it was a great success. The new rig proved to be very useful to show students how my work as a mechanical engineer translates into real life – being able to see the impacts of friction in action really does help explain it and how that translates into the field. Next up I am taking the rig to the Lymm High School Careers Fair in November.
The prize money helped to make this design a reality!
Graham won the Apprentice Zone in June 2014. Here he tells us how he decided to use his £500 prize money as donations to outreach programmes …
I know what you are thinking…. “ why choose a donation, and why those recipients? “
I hope the next 229 words will explain my thoughts. Having read the guidance notes for the event, I needed to get as much effect for the cash as I could, while providing a traceable paper trail at the same time. This favoured a donation, but to whom?
Science Oxford used the funds to buy some kit which their Engineering Ambassadors could use to run activities in schools. They also ran a training session for the Ambassadors, where they could become familiar with the kit and have a go at the activities themselves.
All these organisations regularly inspire people into STEM subjects, and have large audiences. Or was it that simple?…. each classroom contains some boys, some girls, and a teacher… did I pick recipients that appealed to my audience? …. Did I use Maths to help Engineer as many votes as possible? …. I’ll let you decide, once again.
A free online event where school students get to meet and interact with engineers. It’s a free X Factor-style competition between engineers, where the students are the judges.
Students challenge the engineers over fast-paced online live CHATs. They ASK the engineers anything they want, and VOTE for their favourite engineer to win a prize of £500 to communicate their work with the public.