Imperial College London

Drones, data science and student design: Department for Education tours Imperial

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Provost Ian Walmsley and Education Secretary Damian Hinds walk through Beit Quad

Provost Ian Walmsley welcomed Education Secretary Damian Hinds to the College's South Kensington Campus

The Department for Education’s leadership team were given an insight into the College’s pioneering research, education and innovation.

On Thursday 11 October Provost Ian Walmsley and President Alice Gast welcomed the Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds MP, to the College for the Department for Education board’s away day.

Before the board meeting began, Anne Milton MP, Minister of State for Apprenticeships and Skills, a number of senior civil servants and non-executive directors from the Department for Education met Provost Ian Walmsley, Vice-Provost (Education) Professor Simone Buitendijk and a number of students and academics from across the College.

The visit included tours and demonstrations at the Aerial Robotics Lab, the Carbon Capture Pilot Plant and the Dyson School of Design Engineering.

Flying start

Dr Mirko Kovac and Dr Chang Liu welcomes Provost Ian Walmsley and Skills Minister Anne Milton to the Aerial Robotics Lab
Dr Mirko Kovac and Dr Chang Liu welcomes Provost Ian Walmsley and Skills Minister Anne Milton to the Aerial Robotics Lab

Director Dr Mirko Kovac gave a presentation on the work of the Aerial Robotics Lab at Imperial’s Department of Aeronautics. PhD students then put talk into action, giving a demonstration of how the drones might be used to repair pipes in extreme environments, such as on oil rigs. Dr Kovac spoke of how students and researchers learned from each other and told the guests how undergraduate students had contributed towards cutting-edge new drone designs.

Student simulation

Dr Colin Hale explains the Carbon Capture Pilot Plant to Skills Minister Anne Milton
Dr Colin Hale explained how the students were responding to a simulated emergency in the Carbon Capture Pilot Plant



The group were then taken to the Carbon Capture Pilot Plant, where they were met by Dr Colin Hale and ten chemical engineering students. They were shown the four-storey state-of-the-art facility, which represents a scaled-down chemical engineering plant. Dr Hale explained how the plant gives students real-world, hands-on industrial experience, and the group were given a demonstration of a simulated emergency which was then solved by the student volunteers.

Dr Petar Kormushev introduces Skills Minister Anne Milton to Robot DE NIRO
Dr Petar Kormushev introduces Skills Minister Anne Milton to Robot DE NIRO

Next stop was the Dyson School of Design Engineering, where the delegation were given a short introduction to the School and its pedagogy by Professor Peter Childs, Head of the School of Design Engineering. Dr Petar Kormushev, Director of the Robot Intelligence Lab, gave a live demo with Robot DE NIRO, demonstrating the robot’s physical skill learning capabilities.

Design engineering ingenuity

Design Engineering student Anna Bernbaum with Skills Minister Anne Millton
Design Engineering student Anna Bernbaum explains her chess-playing robot

The visitors were then given the chance to meet Dyson School of Design Engineering students and learn about their projects, including Anna Bernbaum’s chess-playing robot and Laerke Rasmussen’s Design 2 sustainability project, which looks to replace difficult-to-recycle toothpaste tubes with perfect dosage droplets using edible packaging. Michael Hofmann also exhibited a variety of work from the Engineering Design Project, a second year module where students are tasked with redesigning a powered hand tool for an underserved user group, such as the blind, elderly or children.

Fabulous... so many great ideas Skills Minister Anne Milton MP

The Rt Hon Anne Milton MP, Minister of State for Apprenticeships and Skills, described the students’ demonstrations as “fabulous” and full of “many great ideas”.

The Department for Education team were then taken to the Data Science Institute and given a demonstration by Dr Mark Kennedy in the Data Observatory, showing how employees in a bank moved between different departments within the company through several years as job roles changed. The ensuing discussion focused on how jobs would be changed by the fourth industrial revolution and automation, and what kind of roles have been automated in recent decades.

President Alice Gast met with Education Secretary Damian Hinds
President Alice Gast met with Education Secretary Damian Hinds



President Alice Gast later welcomed the delegation to 170 Queen’s Gate, where she spoke about the importance of embedding excellent teaching in a vibrant, research-led entrepreneurial environment.

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Tom Rutland

Tom Rutland
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Email: t.rutland@imperial.ac.uk

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George Hope

George Hope
Human Resources Division

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Strategy-decision-makers, Strategy-student-experience, Robots, Strategy-educational-experience, Student-experience, Education, Entrepreneurship
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