As part of the Team Bath Biodevices without Borders (TBB), Alexz Farrall, Alexa Mesham, and I attended the International VIP Student Assembly, which was held in Riga, Latvia. This was a two-day conference for members of VIPs (Vertically Integrated Projects) and was attended by people from all over Europe and North America.
On the first day we were split into our work groups. I was in a group of three, with a mature woman from Latvia and a man from the US. I enjoyed having the opportunity to work with a diverse team from different cultures, focusing on different studies, and with different experiences.
In our teams, we looked at sustainability goals, as provided by the UN. Our focus was on ocean sustainability, which as a Cornish girl who loves to swim and surf is something I am already very passionate about! Working together, we had to identify a key issue that we wanted to address, and then start to think about potential solutions. We then had a workshop on idea fitness and a prototyping workshop to expand on the solutions we had considered. These were my favourite sessions, where we were afforded time to be creative, to discuss interesting ideas and to make use of limited resources in a short time frame. It was interesting to see how the ideas changed and evolved, and how quickly this process can transform the initial blueprint to something different and how potential issues can arise and alter the course of the solution.
We also had the opportunity to have a mentoring session, where we could choose from a range of potential mentors such as academics and business experts. My group decided to have a session with an individual with expertise in business to discuss how we would fund our project and make profits.
In the evening we were taken out for a networking dinner, which was really good! It was in an underground restaurant and platters of food were brought out like a buffet, which fostered a sense of community within the group and allowed us to try a lot of different foods, such as Latvian cheeses, fried rye bread, and potato pancakes with sour cream (all delicious!). This was followed by drinks and ‘speed-dating’ style networking so that we could have a chance to meet others who were not in our immediate vicinity or our working groups.
The next day had more workshops and a pitch competition for the final designs. A lot of hard work went into these projects and it was great to see my colleagues from Bath presenting their work!
The next day they hosted a sight-seeing tour, but unfortunately, we had to fly back to Bristol. We did manage to see some sights on our first day in Riga, before the conference began.
I loved having the opportunity to travel and meet so many people from so many different backgrounds, all working towards different goals for their VIPs but all trying to make a difference using their skills and resources. Before this, I didn’t know that VIPs were international, so I would definitely enjoy having similar opportunities in the future, to continue to network, learn, and improve.
Written by Melissa Mitchell, PhD Research Programme in Electronic and Electrical Engineering.