Soapbox science is a unique platform for women scientists and postgraduate researchers to showcase and engage the public with their research. Organised at various cities in the UK and abroad, popular public places are converted to speaker arenas and each speaker gets about an hour to explain and interact with the public about what they research on. I applied to speak at the Bristol soapbox science event and was selected to be one among the twelve speakers from a competitive pool of applications. The title of my talk was “What connects sheep and a DJ? My research is all about finding an answer to that question!”. My research focuses on integrating sustainability into the current chemical processing methodology. I am trying to achieve this by using wool as a catalyst support and using these catalysts cloth in a Spinning Mesh Disc Reactor (or a DJ-disc like reactor!) to improve process efficiency. Before the event, there was a training workshop to familiarise the speakers about the format of the event and to come up with a rough outline for the talk. We were also allocated some funds for any props we were going to use.
Parimala on her Science Soapbox!
Being an avid science communicator, I have spoken about my research in events like science show-off, pint of science, 3 minute thesis and even busked about my research last summer at the Bristol and Bath Festival of Nature. However, the format for soapbox science is both exciting and challenging. In Bristol, the arena was set-up in the Broadmead area. This meant we had to get the public on high street enthused to listen to what we had to say.
So the possibility of not having anyone around your stall is also quite high and a bit scary! Luckily that was not the case and I was able to get a good number of public as an audience even with a lurking threat of a downpour. Each speaker also got a volunteer who did a great job of helping us with our props and also facilitating with the crowd around us. Post event, we had a small celebration with the organisers and the volunteers at a pub near-by.
I enjoyed being a part of the event in Bristol this year, though I was a bit apprehensive initially about the challenges of the format! This is a fantastic platform for women scientists to involve the public with their research in a more informal setting. I would highly recommend other women postgraduate researchers to be a part of this amazing initiative.
You can find out more about Soapbox Science at http://soapboxscience.org/ and read my pre-event blog here
Kirsten Bodley, CEO of WES
Being recently elected as the Co-Chairs of WESBath alongside with Leen Jabban, I was invited to attend the WES Student Groups Meeting held at UCL on 28th June, 2017.
The day commenced with an introduction given by the Chief Executive of WES, Kirsten Bodley. It was then followed by a short update regarding the Young Members Board (YMB) presented by the Student Groups and Universities Liaison, Dr. Jo Douglas (Ex-chair of WESBath). After that, Abbie Robison from Loughborough and Christie Sherlock from Glasgow shared their inspiring achievements on the career fair held in Loughborough and FEMENG partnership initiative in Rwanda respectively. Subsequent to the networking opportunity during lunch, we had an open forum to discuss issues and ideas about student groups.
The meeting was very uplifting no only because I had the opportunity to meet other passionate individuals, but I was also truly amazed by the good work delivered by other student groups. It was good speak to the President of WES, Benita Mehra, to learn more about what WES has to offer as well. In addition, having discussed with representatives from other universities, we will look into organizing inter-uni events in the future (Very exciting indeed! We will keep you updated!).
Massive thanks to WES for organizing this event and I look forward to working closely with other student groups.
Do you know? YMB is currently recruiting for 3 new members (deadline of application: 30th June, 2017). Should you get elected, you are required to attend meetings quarterly. To apply, you will need a supporting statement from the University (contact WESBath@bath.ac.uk). If interested, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yui Yan WONG (Yannis)
On Friday, 23 June 2017, WESBath celebrated INWED 2017 by hosting a group of female school students onto Campus to take part in a morning of engineering.
We welcomed girls from Sheldon School in Chippenham and the IKB Academy in Keynsham and started off with a short introduction from Professor Semali Perera and Past Chair of WESBath Jemma Rowlandson. Following that the girls were offered a variety of activities including a water filtration challenge (Chemical Engineering), making a 'steady-hand' game (Electrical & Electronic Engineering) and attempting to save an egg by designing a parachute (Aerospace Engineering)!
The girls learnt how we encounter engineering in every day life and how engineering is very much for girls.
Perfecting the steady hand game
Making a parachute
On a wet and windy day on campus, Cat Savage, Technical Director of BMT Defence Services, came to talk to students about her educational and career path to her current role as Technical Director.
Cat gave a fascinating insight into how important it is to take opportunities when they arise and the value of having the advice and guidance of mentors along the way.
Despite some minor technical glitches, it was a great to hear Cat talk and she was kept busy for some time with students queuing up to chat to her after the talk had finished! Thank you so much to Cat for giving up her time.
Parimala Shivaprasad thanks Cat Savage at the end of the seminar
June 23rd 2016, important not only for a defining referendum, but also National Women in Engineering Day (NWED). NWED is an international campaign aiming to raise the profile of women in engineering and showcase career opportunities available to girls in the industry and WESBath welcomed 50 year 7 and 8 girls from local schools to enjoy a taste of what it is like to be an engineer.
A morning of hands-on activities ensued, with the girls dividing their time between building straw towers (hopefully!) able to hold a beaker of water, and donning lab coats and goggles to purify water in the chemical engineering labs. It was great to see the girl’s teamwork and competitive spirits coming together in the quest to get the purest water or strongest tower. And if you’re wondering how to get a 45cm tower of just paper straws and sellotape to hold a beaker of water I’ll give you a hint, triangles!
Students build a straw tower
The Water Challenge group activity, held in the Department of Chemical Engineering, engaged the participants in the use of natural materials for the purification of water. For the lab-based activity, the students were divided into small working groups and, as ‘Water Detectives’, they trialled the use of activated carbon in water treatment. Following the instructions, each group built their own set-up and pumped ‘contaminated water’ (coloured with food dye) through an activated-carbon column-also constructed by them. The teams who managed to produce and collect the “cleanest” water won our WES prizes!
Students purify water
The girls thoroughly enjoyed their morning, and hopefully we helped spark an interest in engineering that may shape their studies to come.
Chrysoula Papacharalampou Bethan Charles
Mechanical Enginering Chemical Engineering
An overcast, windy day in March didn’t stop school children, teachers and parents from local schools enjoying Bath Taps into Science 2016. This week long event is aimed at encouraging young children to take active interest in STEM subjects.
WESBath students prepared for students to arrive
Our public engagement reps have been working hard to produce simple and exciting working models and experiments like paper cup boomerangs (demonstrating the magnus effect), rubber band cars (explaining energy storage and conversion), membranes for safe drinking water and a sword in the sand demonstration (showing the effect of soil compaction)
Students enjoying engineering!
It was great that so many children were excited to be educated about engineering and they were able to take handouts for some of the experiments.
WESBath students were on the stand for the whole day and everyone enjoyed interacting with enthusiastic students and teachers. It is great to be able to do outreach work to support and encourage students to consider engineering as a great career path.
Working together with the Somerset & West Wilts IET Network, WESBath welcomed Naomi Climer, President of the IET, to the Univerisity of Bath on Tuesday, 8 March.
Roger Whorrod chats to some WESBath students.
The evening was a great success with over 150 guests coming along to celebrate International Women's Day. The event started with a display of WESBath's work over the past year including examples of activities we use when visiting local schools. A mixture of engineers, students and staff then listened to Naomi, the first female president of the IET, who spoke about how engineering and technology will shape the future and how important it is ensure diversity within engineering. The lecture was inspirational and thought provoking.
Some of the WESBath committee display an outreach activity
Students enjoying Naomi Climer's talk
Afterwards, there was a networking reception at The Edge. What better way to celebrate International Women's Day!
The WESBath Committee received a deserved nomination for Volunteer Team of the Year at the BANES Chairman’s Community Awards 2015/16.
The nomination was for the committee's work helping to inspire school girls in the local area to consider engineering as a career as well as providing support for current female engineering students through regular seminars, networking opportunities as well as working together at outreach events.
We attended the awards ceremony and had a great night – the worthy winners were The Bath Soup Run.
Sarah, Student Experience Officer
Corsham School held at STEM day on the 8th January 2016 and three members of WESBath (Jemma Rowlandson, Leen Jabban and myself) were invited to organise a hands-on workshop for year 9 students with the object to create awareness and generate interest about engineering. The task for the day was to build a tower at least 45cm tall with paper straws and balance a beaker of water on top of it.
The main objective of this task was to get the students to think which shape was strong enough to withstand the force and most of the teams figured out that triangles offered better resistance.We worked with two separate groups of 20 students – in the first session an all girls’ team won the task and were able to balance 950g of water on their tower. In the second session a team of boys were successful in balancing 1.10kg of water, which was the highest capacity for that day as well. There were prizes for the winning teams and a prize for the best team name which was Ninjaneers!
The half-day session also helped us to educate the students about various branches of engineering and it was not all about just ‘fixing things’. The students were excited that there was more to engineering and some of them even expressed interest in taking up engineering in the future.
As a team, we hope to have changed the perception of engineering and STEM to these students!
PhD Research Programme in Chemical Engineering, Dept of Chemical Engineering
Attending the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) Student Conference at Aston University in November was inspirational and amazing. On arrival we had companies such as Selex, Dialog, Instron, Altera, UTC Aerospace, Mars, BP and Proctor and Gamble (P&G) both at stands in the foyer to greet us and then in speeches given by female engineers from the industries who spoke about pursuing their dreams and getting involved in everything they could. The achievements and experiences they’ve gained were fascinating. We had various activities and teambuilding icebreakers to do. (Ours was to design a farm; originally an easy task however, as more challenges were added, we got surprisingly into it.) A lovely four course meal with the companies and other engineers from other universities was lovely. It was nice to get to know other women from other universities who were surprisingly like you. At the meal, Naomi Climer (president of the IET) gave a speech - she was inspirational.
On the second day, activities included speeches and quite a lot of food! I was particularly taken by one lady who throughout her life had a love for the sea and for ice. She used engineering to take her right across the world, fighting seals, visiting amazing tourist attractions and exploring the world. She’s been a lecturer, in the army, in various forms of the Royal Marines, working on royal navy ships, designing, building and testing various boats and ships including those going to aid other countries in need. She’s even been to Antarctica. I love how her interests and passions could be intertwined into her perfect job, doing breath-taking things. She’s even tested boats to the breaking point and coped with high voltage engine rooms fill with water while being 6 months pregnant. All the women who gave talks and the students attending were inspirational!
I didn't know what to expect going to the conference. However, after attending the conference, I have so many memories and inspirational stories to hold onto, giving me something to aspire and work towards. A brilliant experience which only increases my love of engineering. Fantastic. I would certainly recommend joining WES to gain valuable information about women in engineering.
1st Year - Electrical and Electronic Engineering