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University of Bristol-Headstart Dragonfly Day

25 March 2010

Autonomous robots and vehicles have the potential to be incredibly useful by carrying out tasks in place of humans in hazardous areas and helping the elderly and disabled. Tomorrow [Wednesday 24 March] 64 year nine female students from schools across the region will be spending a day designing their own robots and energy efficient vehicles.

University of Bristol-Headstart Dragonfly Day

Autonomous robots and vehicles have the potential to be incredibly useful by carrying out tasks in place of humans in hazardous areas and helping the elderly and disabled.  Tomorrow [Wednesday 24 March] 64 year nine female students from schools across the region will be spending a day designing their own robots and energy efficient vehicles.

Working with academic staff and postgraduate students from Bristol University’s Faculty of Engineering the students, through hands-on challenges, will program a robot to find a light source (a torch) through a maze of obstacles.  They will also design and build their own model electric car and compete with other teams to see which car will travel the furthest on the same amount of energy.  At the end of the day, they will find out what the next steps are if they want to become an engineer or a computer scientist.

The aim of the event, run in partnership with Headstart, is to demonstrate that computer science and electrical and electronic engineering are interesting and stimulating subjects that have many valuable applications.  They will also learn how autonomous robots and vehicles can be designed to navigate independently and the importance of making them energy-efficient. 

The Dragonfly Day, for 12-15 year old girls, is part of Headstart’s diversity programme, targeting groups under-represented in higher education courses and careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).  Headstart is a well-established education programme that organises a range of courses to encourage school pupils interested in mathematics and science to consider technology-based careers. 

Professor Mark Beach, Head of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, said: “Electrical and electronic engineering is key to modern-day life and used in every day appliances from personal devices to the complex systems within an aircraft.

“A unique feature of our industry is the number of small companies based in the UK who are the power house behind the innovative design skills driving wealth generation and products to improve quality of life. We should make more of the fact that so much is designed here in the UK and expand our skill base in this sector.” 

Dr Wendy Daniell, Project Manager in the Engineering Faculty Office who has co-ordinated the day, said: “The proportion of girls studying computer science and electrical and electronic engineering degrees in the UK (about 13 per cent and seven per cent respectively) are relatively low compared to other physical sciences and have remained fairly static for a number of years.  Not only that, but the numbers of UK students applying for and accepting degrees in these two disciplines declined dramatically over the last decade. 

“The UK needs more graduates in these disciplines to support the engineering and technology sectors which are important to the country’s economic future and for overcoming the global technological challenges we face.  It is important to attract more school students to study degrees in these subjects now.”

Please contact Joanne Fryer for further information.

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