The University of Southampton

University wins Best Engineering Event accolade for 2009

Published: 26 March 2009

A new award from the Engineering and Technology Board for the UK's 'Best Engineering Event' during National Science and Engineering Week has been won by the University of Southampton.

As always the School of Electronics and Computer Science played a significant part in the success of the Science and Engineering Day, which was held this year at Garden Court on the Highfield Campus.

A large number of ECS students, led by Dr Denis Nicole, organized activities that enabled visiting children and their parents to explore robots, make an enhanced reality model, use electronic kits to build radios, make solar-power boats, or design their own computer games. All these activities were popular throughout the day and enabled the children to really try their hand at the activities on offer.

Probably the most imaginative and innovative event held during the day was ‘Blood on the Kitchen Floor’, a murder mystery event devised by ECS PhD student Reena Pau. This was a completely new kind of event for the University’s Science and Engineering Day in which children and their families watched the reconstruction of the murder of a famous chef, scripted and acted by the Nuffield Theatre, before visiting labs in many different University Schools to solve clues to the murderer’s identity using lasers, lie detection, GPS, robots, and DNA analysis.

Postgraduate students in the Faculty of Engineering, Science and Mathematics took part at each of the locations and had been specially trained in how to engage the children and present the activities in the context of the narrative.

Blood on the Kitchen Floor was one of the most popular events on the day, with all three sessions fully booked at an early stage. Around 300 people took part and were very enthusiastic about the staging of the event, and the chance to see real engineering and science in action in the University’s labs.

'The murder mystery is a way of putting science into context,’ says Reena Pau. ‘By making kids real investigators in their own drama, they and their families begin to understand how science can be used in day-to-day life.

‘Our own group in ECS demonstrated robotics, where participants had to navigate a robot round a room to pick up a contaminated phone. It’s all about taking science out of the classroom and into real life - which is where it belongs.’

Other engineering activities were provided by the School of Engineering Sciences, the School of Civil Engineering and the Environment, and the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research.

The national award is intended to encourage imaginative and inspiring activities and entries were judged according to the following criteria: their effective communication of engineering principles; their innovative and engaging presentation of science and engineering; and their effective self evaluation.

Paul Jackson, Chief Executive of the Engineering and Technology Board, said: "The ETB is delighted to award the University of Southampton the National Science and Engineering Week (NSEW) prize for Best Engineering Event. We congratulate them for entertaining and informing children, students and parents alike in the wonders of engineering.’

ECS has had a long commitment to the UK’s national week of science celebrations, beginning in 1992 when the event was first held on the University campus. Dennis Nicole said: ‘For me, the excitement of these events is seeing children experience the same joy of making things that work---from computer games to "lie detectors" via solar-powered boats and seeing robots---that inspired me into a career in engineering.’

For further information contact Joyce Lewis, tel.023 8059 5453

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