Bristol’s Young Engineers Show Their Skills

From pet-tracking devices to fridge-door alarms, just some of the invention of local Bristol children at our Digimakers Engineering Summer School. 

The brief: design a product to solve a problem in your own home. The team: 20 budding engineers, children from Bristol’s Barton Hill Settlement and the surrounding area, who took up the challenge as part of a summer school run by the Faculty of Engineering’s Outreach team.

The children all identified a problem, worked out how it could be solved and then designed, built and presented their invention, using their digital savvy and electronic-engineering skills to bring their ideas and designs to life.

Downloading completed code onto a microbit

Here are just a few of the amazing array of products they came up with:

  • A collar to keep tabs on their pet
  • Motion-sensitive light switches
  • A fridge alarm
  • Electronic dice
  • A bedroom-door alarm

For the latter project, the children made an ingenious prototype product out of cardboard and wired it up using a circuit and a microbit. “The problem my product is solving is people invading my privacy,” said the door-alarm team’s project manager, echoing the sentiments of kids everywhere.

The course gave the students the freedom to innovate and the Outreach team were delighted to see them rise to the challenge, using their imaginations and experimenting with technology. Pupils don’t always have the opportunity to engage in this kind of activity, but Outreach programmes hopefully help to convince them that anyone can be an engineer.

Roisin Quinn, the Faculty Engagement Officer who ran the summer school, explains: “a strong partnership between the University of Bristol and Barton Hill Settlement is very important. It’s a neighbourhood where very few young people go on to higher education. We want to raise aspirations, inspire children to take up science and technology and get the message across that university is for everyone. This kind of project is a brilliant way for them to develop skills in teamwork, creativity, entrepreneurship, design and communication. It’s also great fun!”

A fridge-alarm prototype

The initiative is an opportunity for current Bristol students to share their enthusiasm for STEM subjects with their young counterparts, too. Sarah Taylor Knight (Engineering Maths) and Emma Brown (Computer Science and Innovation) were part of the Outreach team, alongside Joe Brown from the Faculty’s teaching staff.

Barton Hill has recently seen the development of a new micro settlement – a social enterprise that encourages entrepreneurship. The University of Bristol Engineering Outreach team are looking forward to bringing more projects like this to the new micro settlement in the coming years and will be renting three containers in the development to work alongside refugee and community-focused businesses.

By connecting with a diverse community of people, the University hopes its Outreach projects and presence in the community will help inspire entrepreneurs and engineers from all backgrounds.

The University of Bristol is building links with the community around its new Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus. The campus will be a focus for business and digital research when it opens in 2022, with a digital innovation centre, a business school and a student residential village.