Staff gathered with their young families for a fun-filled day of science discovery and engineering at last week's Bring Your Child to Work Day.
The return of the Faculty of Engineering’s annual event saw children joining their parents and guardians in the Queens Tower Rooms for a morning packed full of activities delivered by Mad Science, including their popular ‘Mega Mixtures’ and ‘Watts Up’ shows and hands-on ‘Slime Time’ workshop.
“My daughter asked how much it costs me to come to here every day. She loved it so much she thought I must pay to come to work and have fun!”
The EEE families’ busy day continued with an afternoon visit to our department. For many of the children it was their first time seeing the place where their parents work.
Workshop laboratory technician Amine showed the children how some of the machinery we use for work every day can be put to more fun use, and demonstrated our laser cutting machine’s artistic side, with brilliant laser etched images of the children, their pets, or favourite photographs to take home.
The children also learned that 3D printing is not just an invaluable tool for prototyping designs and manufacturing parts, but with the right instructions it could be set to work printing toys and name badges for their goodie bags as well.
Wiggle-Bots are lively little “robots” brought to life by an electric motor and a bit of imagination.
Our electronics lab technicians May and Vic were on hand to help the children build a circuit using a DC motor, wires, and a battery, then attach it to a paper cup, slightly off balanced, to make a simple robot that jiggles around. With marker pens for legs, you can set these characters running on a piece of paper and they’ll create their own unique abstract art for you.
“My son told us that he had more fun than in the nursery. He really enjoyed building a small robot together with me, and today he brought the robot to his nursery to share with his friends.”
Eyes, ears and arms
In the Personal Robotics Lab, we’re researching intelligent robotic devices that can interact with their users, and learn from this interaction.
Two of our researchers from the lab, Mohammed and Xingchen, showcased some of the technology for our young guests, who had a lot of fun interacting with a voice activated robot arm, and seemed never to tire of instructing it to deliver them drinks.
The children also explored some unusual cameras our researchers are using to develop autonomous navigation, for example in a robotic wheelchair that can help users detect pedestrians. They really enjoyed seeing live images of themselves on a thermal camera and an event camera that can see movement.
“I had to drag my eldest away from the motion-sensing camera which he found utterly captivating. Having seen what I really do over lockdown — basically emails and spreadsheets — they’re now back to thinking that dad works somewhere cool and exciting.”
Tea with Robots
“The small robots in the tea room encouraged so much enthusiastic discussion from the children on what robots may be able to do now and in the future!”
Afternoon tea was very welcome at the end of the day, especially for the grown-ups who had raced from one activity to the next without stopping to feed themselves.
The fun for our visitors didn’t stop however, as Ad Spiers brought along some of his third year undergraduates’ Robotic Manipulation coursework projects for the children to see in action while they had their tea. In this module our students learn how to design, model, and control robotic arms and gripping 'hands' to perform tasks involving manipulating objects and drawing.
Reflecting on the event, one parent said: ”I enjoyed showing them the academic environment without stepping into a lecture theatre.. to show them a university is somewhere where things are hands-on and actual stuff gets made that’s used in the real world, and that university is an accessible place for everyone.”
Another commented: “I was impressed by how rich and stimulating all the EEE activities were, even for adults let alone for the children, and how many unique presents the children got to take home. My appreciation to event co-ordinator Susan Brace, and all the colleagues who made this possible.”
“I have introduced my research to many people, but as a father, I really enjoyed the moment when my son was one of my audience.”
A gallery of images from the event:
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