Student Women's Engineering Society (WESBath)

Women In Engineering Society (WES) - newly-found at the University of Bath

Topic: Outreach

BP Women in Engineering Award - ACE to Zambia

📥  News, Outreach

As a group of 6 civil engineering students, we spent 6 weeks working with the organisation Sport in Action in Lusaka, Zambia. Sport in Action aid the development of young people through sport.


We were heavily involved with two main projects, with the intention to see these from start to finish, from negotiating with contractors to overseeing all stages of the construction.

One project was the construction of a netball court at a high school, for use by the school and community. As well as project management, we were involved with the design, where we used previous knowledge from university as well as learning and adapting to local methods used by the contractors.

The other project was the renovation of changing rooms which were in a state of disrepair, including a degrading asbestos roof, for which there had been plans to remove parts and patch it up. This obviously was a severe hazard, and we found that awareness of the health implications of asbestos was much less than that in the UK. Therefore, a main focus was to implement suitable health and safety measures for the handling and total removal of the asbestos, and we hope to have raised awareness for all involved.

We also had the opportunity to visit a rural site outside of Lusaka, where Sport in Action were involved in the construction of some latrines for an elementary school and asked for us to advise on these. Visiting the site was a great experience, with already existing latrines, to see things that we had learnt about at university in practice. We were able to give advice and produce drawings and required quantities for the project. Throughout, we were able to experience the Zambian culture and way of life; living with locals in a typical residential area of Lusaka, buying from the local markets and taking the public buses.

 

Overall, the projects have been successful and greatly beneficial; we have produced quality constructions which should last for years to come, increasing sporting opportunities and benefiting the local communities. As students, by being so heavily involved, we were able to apply and develop knowledge gained at university, whilst also gaining many new skills, and the added adaptation to a new culture.

Lana Harding, Final year Civil and Architectural Engineering

 

Reflections from Soapbox Science Bristol 2017

📥  Event, Outreach

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

Parimala Shivaprasad

 

International Women's Engineering Day 2017

📥  Event, Outreach

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


Parachute launch

 

Who needs pancakes when you can go to Guides?

📥  Outreach

While many of us were making pancakes on the 28th February, myself and 3 other undergraduate engineers visited the Bath Rush Hill Guides to tell them all about engineering and how exciting a career in the sector can be.

Marble run_2 Marble run_1

We then asked the girls to get into three teams and create a marble run out of the materials they had been given. More points were awarded to teams whose run contained the most turns and whose marble took the longest to finish the run. All the girls completed their marble runs and had a lot of fun in the process!

Rachel Hayden

Civil Engineering

 

 

Marble runs at Corsham School

📥  Outreach

An early start in early January as four members of WES headed to our first outreach event of 2017, Corsham School STEM day. Jemma, Beth, Elizabeth and Emma left the Bath Campus equipped with all you need to build marble runs with 60  Year 9 teenagers; card, straws, sticks and plenty of chocolate!

The idea was to build a marble run in teams using only the materials provided and a table leg for support. Points were awarded according to the number of turns in the run, the time the marble spent in the run and if the marble completed the whole course. The winning team got dibs on the packets of chocolate we’d brought with us.

It was great to see the competitive spirit come out as teams designed and built their runs to outscore those of their classmates. Once time was called, and the last cheeky bit of Sellotape added, the WES team came round to score the courses. There were some great designs with ingenious ways to slow the marble down. Some worked fantastically, some … didn’t.

At the end of each session there was even time to have a quick chat with the students. We put about to challenge any misconceptions they had about what engineers do as well as describing a little about what we do in our daily work.
One of the highlights of the day was reading the comments on our post-it comment wall, lots of positive comments and often a very funny read!

Huge thanks to Corsham School for having us and of course for the great lunch!

Beth Charles

 

The GREEN Program- Iceland

📥  Outreach

My time in Iceland on the Green Programme was truly eye opening, providing me with an increased technical understanding of different renewable energy systems and inspiration to work towards a greener future. The programme consisted of several different components; classroom lectures, the Capstone Project, industry access to power plants and outdoor activities showcasing Iceland’s scenic landscapes due to its unique geographical location. The programme’s main focus was on renewable energy and sustainability as the country is a prime example of successful integration of renewable energy, namely geothermal, hydro-electric and bio fuels.

gyser

The lectures were very informative and covered the following topics; an introduction to Iceland’s geography, geothermal power, hydro-electric power and energy economics. These were led by lecturers from Reykjavik University in which all mentioned how these energy systems were applied in Iceland to generate electricity and/or hot water. It was interesting to study economics as it was my first time covering this topic, learning about supply and demand to society. The material on geothermal and hydro power built on my basic knowledge, furthering definitions, equations and different types of systems. I was surprised at the statistics for the amount of undeveloped hydropower available worldwide, with a predicted 42% of undeveloped hydropower in Europe. This emphasised to me that there is a big global market for the development of renewable energy power plants.

Iceland 2

The Capstone Project was group work in which we decided to develop a system to both improve the efficiency of steam geothermal plants and reduce the fuel emissions by retrofitting them to be a hybrid plant. I thoroughly enjoyed this task as it allowed us to be creative with our ideas and apply our knowledge to solve a real life problem. The project helped develop my research, innovation and public speaking skills as we had to present our business model to the student group and academics. Working alongside new people also meant I feel more confident putting my ideas across and improved my teamwork ability, taking hold of each person’s strongest skillset.

The site visits to working power plants gave me a first-hand insight into how these plants operate. I believe that by actually seeing the plants in operation, it seems more achievable to integrate these into future plans for energy generation. In addition, I hope that during my career I will be able to use my knowledge and experiences to increase the use of renewable energy sources into the design of infrastructure or use sustainable methods for construction. It has inspired me to strategically design and engineer to reduce fuel emissions, decrease energy consumption and work towards a greener future.

Site visit

Amongst these academic activities, we also had the chance to experience Iceland’s unique landscapes such as waterfalls, National Parks and glaciers. I was mesmerised by the outstanding beauty and it emphasised the importance to treasure these natural sites and minimise the effect due to global warming. The glaciers are already melting year on year and it is for this reason that I want to follow on from this programme with the mind set to protect our environment through the implementation of technology and engineering.

Top of mountain

As a student Ambassador for the GREEN programme I would like to share my positive experience and spread the ‘green’ message. I created a video to show just how amazing the GREEN Program was, click on the link below:

If you are interested in finding out more about my experience and the other study abroad trips The GREEN Program offers, please feel free to contact me. I would truly recommend this trip to enhance your global awareness.

Chloe Foster-Chambers (Civil Engineering MEng)

 

My first STEM Outreach experience

📥  Outreach

I was lucky enough to be invited to help at a STEM day at Blackfriars School in Newcastle-under-Lyme. Blackfriars is a school for children between 10 and 16 years old with wide range of special needs, including physical/mental disabilities, learning difficulties, and sight, hearing, and speech impairments.

The day was supported by many different professions who came to the school to share a little bit about the kind of careers that were available to someone who has studied STEM subjects at school. There were doctors, vets, construction workers and accountants who ran workshops and talks with the children, aimed at giving them a broader perspective of how the world works and the kind of jobs that people do.

I was there to represent engineering, and mostly to talk about my recent placement with Kellogg’s to help the children think about where all the food in the supermarket comes from and how it gets there, because most people don’t give it a second thought! I ran a variety of workshops and discussion groups depending on the ability and experience of the groups that I was with.

amy-ross-outreach-3

 

My first couple of classes were of a lower ability, so my main aim was to help them to understand what an engineer is and how they fit in to the world around us. I started with a picture quiz, asking the children to tell me whether a certain person ‘looked like an engineer’. They were surprised that someone sitting at a computer (programming) could be an engineer, and equally that an engineer could be wearing a lab coat rather than a hard hat! We then went on to make straw rockets which they thought was great fun. We made rockets with different nose shapes and talked a bit about aerodynamics, and then had a competition to see who’s could go furthest. Unsurprisingly they got very overexcited and we had rockets flying in all directions, but it was great to see them engaging with engineering and thinking about how these ideas might be useful in other things closer to home!

amy-ross-outreach-2
My next group were higher ability, and some of them had done the odd STEM GCSE. They knew a bit more about what an engineer was (so faired pretty well with the quiz!), but had no idea how food was made. I showed them a great video which I got from my placement about the entire Pringles process, and then we discussed each stage of the production line and the big range of engineering disciplines that would be involved with something like that. To be honest I think their favourite part was getting to eat the Pringles afterwards, but they did say they were excited to tell their friends that they knew how they were made! We then talked about some of the other big challenges facing other types of engineers around the world (clean water, sustainable building materials, electricity generation etc.) to really try and show that engineers can be anything!

amy-ross-outreach
My final couple of groups were girls only, and I was warned that they would be difficult to engage so I was almost expecting it when one of the girls sat down, saw the word ‘engineering’ on the board, and said for everyone to hear: “Oh great, I hate engineering”. I knew this was going to be a tough audience! I started by asking her why she had taken such a dislike to the subject, and she replied “My dad calls himself an engineer when he’s fixing the car and I don’t want to do that”. Fair enough, I said, but let’s think about all the other things that engineering could be. The group significantly perked up at the sight of Pringles, and again when we were discussing how engineers are more like superheroes than car mechanics – we make the impossible, possible!

All in all, it was a fantastic day to be a part of and the children were really inspiring – engaged, enthusiastic, and armed with plenty of questions! I think it achieved its aim of broadening both the minds and the opportunities of the pupils, and I could already see them starting to look at the world in a different way which was so rewarding. My first taste of outreach was definitely a challenge but I’m hoping it won’t be my last!

Amy Ross

MEng (hons) Chemical Engineering