20 August 2017
Article by Cohort 2 researcher Rhys Comissiong
Since my Undergraduate studies I have worked for Exscitec, a STEM education outreach company based in Petersfield. During the summers, I would work as an academic mentor assisting in the delivery of fun based scientific activities in physics, maths, engineering and robotics for students aged 9 to 17 years old. This summer I had the opportunity to deliver a summer school at Uppingham School for the week of 17th to 21st July. The subject of the week was Engineering Intelligence which involved using the power of modern computing to create innovative solutions for engineering projects.
Traditionally, we focussed on mechanical engineering projects using a robotics kit called Assemblr (produced by Richard Palfrey, Business Development Officer for Exscitec). For this week, we integrated Arduino-based sensors with the mechanical actuation. We taught subjects including basic C programming, electronics, microcontrollers and basic principles of computer architecture. The students then had an opportunity to put these ideas together to build robots including autonomous vehicles with obstacle avoidance.
Another element of the week was using my experiences of CDT EI to explain how the digital economy is shaping the world of tomorrow and what kind of challenges we have to face in the work place and in society. Talks on future technologies, internet of things and industry 4.0 underpinned the relevance of why it’s important to learn the skills of the week and what potential careers are out there. At the end of the week the students presented their work to the rest of the summer school students on the other subject strands and their parents. It was great to see how much they learned.
It was particularly rewarding to see how the students took the knowledge and turned it into creative ideas. The fact they were able to gain keen insight into what you can do with STEM subjects led to many students stating that they were now keen to work on their own projects. I personally got to learn how to tailor technical information to range of abilities, a skill I will apply when explaining my own work to my company sponsor and at presentations. I also got to work on my teaching abilities which I will put into practice in the tutorials I assist with the Automotive and Aeronautical Engineering undergraduates.