Engagement Champions to inspire the public with impact of engineering

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Five new Engineering Engagement Champions will be supported to inspire the public and introduce more members of underrepresented groups to engineering.

The champions funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) will undertake a variety of public engagement activities, ranging from developing podcasts and writing children’s storybooks to engaging with community groups.

The initiative aims to enhance the public understanding and appreciation of the importance of investment in engineering research, with activities helping to ensure that EPSRC-funded research and innovation is informed by public concerns and values.

EPSRC Head of Engineering Dr Andy Lawrence said: “Public engagement and furthering equality, diversity and inclusion are key priorities for EPSRC and UK Research and Innovation.

“The five Engineering Engagement Champions demonstrate a wide range of innovative approaches to public engagement that can raise awareness of the importance of engineering, particularly to diverse and often under-represented groups across our society.”

EPSRC’s Engineering Engagement Champions are:

Professor Trevor Cox, University of Salford - Inventive: A podcast of Engineering Stories with associated live events and career resources

The Inventive Podcast will use storytelling to overcome barriers to public appreciation and understanding posed by engineering’s technical depth and complexity. Professor Cox will create a podcast that showcases engineering to inspire society about its contribution and will utilise live events as a method to conduct dialogues with the public and develop media-rich resources for careers advice in schools. The podcast will explore different narrative approaches, interweaving factual interviews with engineers who have great stories to tell with fiction.

Dr Helen Bridle, Heriot-Watt University - Engineering Science Capital: co-creating resources to showcase diversity of engineering careers to 3-7 year olds and families

The overall aim of the project is to ultimately attract a more diverse range of young people to consider engineering careers. Engineers will work together with film makers, illustrators, storybook writers, musicians, teachers, public engagement specialists and children to create sets of resources, including hands-on experimental activities, for use in a variety of settings. The developed materials will be piloted in different schools and nurseries, with children and their families, and subsequently, incorporating learning from initial delivery, rolled out to reach a wider audience.

Professor Sarah Bell, UCL – The People’s Industrial Strategy

The People's Industrial Strategy is an engineering engagement programme that will bring together engineering researchers and grassroots community groups in London to identify community priorities for research in the Industrial Strategy Grand Challenges, and to test new ways for engineering researchers and with local communities to work together.

Professor Lorna Dougan, University of Leeds - Exploring creativity and creative thinking as an effective tool in STEM public engagement.

Professor Dougan will create public engagement activities which embrace creativity to allow young people and families to explore and discover innovation in materials design. Through the Bragg Centre for Materials Research and the Cultural Institute Creative Labs at the University of Leeds, she will build a culture of creative STEM public engagement, support two cohorts of ambassadors and develop a framework to embed creative-led public engagement within STEM research.

Dr Emiliano Renzi, Loughborough University - PLACINGS: Partnership for LAunching Careers in engineerING and Sciences.

To address the nation’s skill shortage in engineering, Dr Renzi will design activities to demonstrate the breadth and importance of engineering research, to attract underrepresented groups to careers in engineering, and to facilitate stronger connections between schools and industry. The project will involve close engagement with schools and policymakers and aims to inform future policies to address the engineering skills gap.