The College is excited to report that £30,000 of ‘Ingenious’ grant funding from the Royal Academy of Engineering has been awarded to deliver an exciting new outreach project called ‘Living laboratory: climate action’.

Ingenious is a Royal Academy of Engineering awards scheme that funds creative public engagement activities that reach out to diverse and underrepresented audiences including communities in the most deprived neighbourhoods in the UK.Funding from £3,000 to £30,000 is available.

This project is a collaboration between Dongfang Liang (Civil Engineering), Anna-Maria Kypraiou (sensors for monitoring building energy use) and Rachel Thorley, CORE fellow (Community Outreach and Recruitment In Engineering). We met with Rachel to find out more about the project and the impact they hope to have on those involved.

Tell us more about the project

How can we harness the power of engineering to build more sustainable communities?  For ‘Living laboratory: climate action’, pupils from widening participation backgrounds will carry out brand new research using real-time data from the sensor network in Cambridge University’s civil engineering department. This cutting-edge research facility monitors the building’s green roof and its own weather station. 

‘Living laboratory: climate action’ will encourage young talent from underrepresented groups, engaging Y9-10 pupils in authentic research. Pupils will be enabled to make engineering recommendations about sustainable urban infrastructure while building data analysis skills.

One great thing about this project is that it both engages young people in real-world research, as well as giving qualified engineers the opportunity to share their knowledge and skills. Helping all participating, to grow in confidence communicating about engineering and working together.

Who are the beneficiaries?

This funding will allow us to develop an engaging programme of interactive workshops that can be run in school science clubs. We will be inviting 40 pupils in Y9-10 to take part in the pilot programme. At the end of the programme, all participating pupils and teachers will be invited to attend a residential Cambridge University Experience, staying at Churchill College. This is an aspirational opportunity where they will meet current undergraduates, present their research and do hands-on practical experiments in the engineering laboratories.

What are the benefits for those taking part?

All participating students and teachers on the programme will be invited to a Cambridge University residential with hands-on practical experiments and to experience living in a Cambridge College and meet with current undergraduates.

We hope that there will be many benefits of this programme:

  • By engaging with the wider public in the Cambridgeshire area to improve scientific literacy on research, sustainable building and flood risk management.
  • By providing aspiration for pupils from widening participation backgrounds; and by enhancing participating schools’ ability to support their pupils in authentic research and connect this to the core maths and science curriculum.
  • Longer term, teachers will be able to give accurate advice to prepare pupils for studying at a highly selective university and prepare underrepresented cohorts for a future in engineering. Pupils will be able to make more informed choices about subject selection at secondary level, which will provide them with wider career opportunities

What would additional funding / support enable you to do?

The engineering profession is not representative of wider society, and it is widely acknowledged that this is problematic. There is much evidence to show that diverse teams and inclusive environments bring numerous benefits, including in company profitability, and that outreach and education are one way to address this lack of diversity! Despite this, there is still significant underrepresentation of many groups in engineering. For example, statistics from Cambridge University show only 25% female and 22% IMD* pupils get accepted to study Engineering undergraduate degrees here.

This grant will allow us to develop and test a pilot programme for authentic engineering research in widening participation schools, the first programme of its kind! These schools, due to their socio-economic demographic may not have access to appropriate role models who can provide input to super curricular STEM activities.

We would love to be able to make ‘Living Laboratory’ available beyond the end of this funding for future participating schools and would love to hear from you if you or your company would like to support this in any way.

We would love the support from engineers from all backgrounds to help us develop public understanding of sustainability in engineering and how your work contributes to that. Taking part as an engineer is a great opportunity to be a role model for young people, whilst building skills to work with a range of audiences by supporting teachers and pupils in authentic research.

What are your plans for the future?

If you are keen to see the Living Laboratory project in action, you are in luck!  We will be putting on a public event at Cambridge Festival next year. You are invited to visit the living laboratory and learn about sustainable urban engineering through hands-on experiments. We would particularly love local teachers and people with teenagers to visit, so please share this invitation.

*(Index of multiple deprivation – from a neighbourhood that is ranked within the most deprived 40% of areas within their UK region)