Thursday, 28 February 2013

Girls into Physics and Engineering – Northamptonshire

The following is reposted from The Royal Aeronautical Society - news blog:

Radio 4 has just released a list of the 100 most powerful women in the UK . However, the list highlights gaps, for example in the military, and it also seemed lacking in the fields of physics and engineering. This under-representation is not new and the fact that it is reflected across the aviation and aerospace sectors, at all levels, has been recognised by the RAeS for some time. So in 2009, the RAeS Women in Aerospace Committee (WAAC) was formed, with a remit to start looking at and addressing this issue.
Women offer a wealth of skills that would help address the major challenges that the aviation and aerospace sectors face and so, increasing female representation in aviation and aerospace would not only be good for women, but for business. Hence part of the RAeS WAAC’s Mission is ‘To work to increase the number of women choosing a career in all sectors of aviation and aerospace…’  The difficulty in attracting women into aviation and aerospace is a complex issue which begins early in life, with girls’ perception of their role . This influences which subjects they choose to pursue at school, which in-turn influences the career paths they eventually take. So when the WAAC were approached to help at an event titled ‘Physics and Engineering – A New Perspective’, it seemed an ideal opportunity to help encourage more young women to consider the worthwhile and exciting careers available within aviation and aerospace.

This event was created and organised by Tricia Goodchild who is STEM Diversity Coordinator/Placement Manager, Northants Engineering Training Group. It was in response to concerns raised by teachers in Northamptonshire about the lack of girls choosing to take A level Physics. The decision of many girls to drop physics has been attributed to the image of the subject and misconstrued perceptions of limited or unattractive opportunities that would follow. The event aimed to inspire, enthuse and challenge these perceptions; to make these girls think twice before dismissing physics and engineering as too hard, or boring, or just for boys.

The WAAC contacted Squadron Leader Christine Matthews BEng (Hons) MRAeS , hoping that as a female engineer, she would be able help to do this job! Christine presented a ‘personal perspective’ on physics and engineering, based on the opportunities that her physics A level had provided: From working on numerous RAF aircraft, from locations all over the UK and abroad, to setting up local radio station networks in Afghanistan, to indulging in adventurous expeditions and sports. Along with the other presenters drawn from a range of physics and engineering based careers, Christine certainly seemed to get the girls attention. The day also included practical workshops and concluded with a Q&A plenary, during which the girls, all aged 13 to 14, had plenty to ask. They appeared to have got a lot from the event and Tricia reported much positive feedback from both students and staff. Who knows, maybe one of those girls will make a future top 100 list as a top ranking military engineer, groundbreaking physicist or CEO of a major aviation company! But if at least one or two are inspired to continue to study physics and consider a career in aerospace or engineering, then that would be another small step towards addressing the imbalance of women working in aviation and aerospace.

Find out more about WAAC’s research:
To read the 2009 WAAC Specialist Paper click here

Friday, 22 February 2013

Rubbish – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle into toys!

Taken directly from  Rubbish – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle into toys!  Lab13 at Irchester (@Lab_13Irchester)

Waleed and Jacob searching for goodies!
Waleed and Jacob searching for goodies!
Year 5 students at Irchester have been working on a very exciting project with the Dept. of Waste Management, University of Northampton. Dr. Waleed Montasser and Louise Maxwell, and Bianca, Evie and Livia (Brazilian visiting students) work alongside our Year 5s to design, plan, resource and make different Science Takeaways all using reusable and recycled materials.
Science Takeaways will be a set of four science kits with different experiments for children to borrow for the weekend and try at home. They will collect data or test hypotheses and add to the kit if they think of some new way of using it.
However, we wanted to keep these takeaways as reusable and “green” as possible and didn’t want to spend a lot of money making them! Waleed had the great idea of using Phoenix Resource Centre in Raunds.
They collect clean usable waste (including off-cuts of material, wood, card),  surplus stocks, end of lines and unwanted goods / returns from industry and local businesses. Anything that can be re-used then gets put onto shelves for people to reuse. As you can see we did a great job of finding just the right things we needed!
Today, we have visited the site for the first time to collect and resource our projects. It was a  freezing but really cool place and John on of the trustees helped us fill our trolleys! What they are doing there is very good for the environment even the actor who plays Ron Weasly think so and have visited them!
Aimee and Livia are happy with what they have found!
Aimee and Livia are happy with what they have found!
Aimee, age 9, says “I think that this is a good place because it stops all the materials from going into landfill. It makes people reduce waste and reuse things so that we can have a nice county instead of a big smelly dump in the ground!

Monday, 18 February 2013

updated: what is open Northampton?

The aim is for Northampton to feature prominently on the global OER map within two years lead by Professor+Alejandro Armellini with support from Professor Megan Quentin-Baxter.

More details of the bid can be found at:

"Proposal / Executive Summary
The aim is for [The University of] Northampton to feature prominently on the global OER-OEP map within the next 24 months.
This presence will be achieved by:
Stakeholder engagement with OER and OEP across the institution -enabled by top-down and bottom-up approaches, dissemination of evidence and good practice and exemplar OER-enhanced courses.
Practice. (a) Promotion and facilitation of course design and development through the use of open resources, adapted or repurposed as appropriate. (b) Materials produced by Northampton academics to undergo a peer-review, copyright and quality assurance process, then licensed under an appropriate CC licence and released into suitable repositories (both institutional and external ones). By default, all materials will be open.
Support and guidance will be provided to students and staff to generate a culture shift towards openness and open practices, to include pedagogical, technical, legal (eg copyright and IPR) and good practice elements, in conjunction with colleagues in schools and, in particular, Library and Learning Services.
External funding to enable the university to conduct and disseminate the results of research and development initiatives into OER and OEP, matched by institutional funding for smaller projects.
Marketing and positioning. The university will capitalise on its growing presence on the global OER-OEP map for marketing and positioning purposes via various channels.
Evidence to enhance the student and staff experience. In parallel with all initiatives and projects, ongoing research and evaluation of the impact of OER and OEP on the student and staff experience will inform subsequent actions." University of Northampton (2012a)

"Openness for enhancement – Northampton’s innovative approach to enhancing learners’ experiences manifests itself in many ways, including its strategic focus on the quality of learning and teaching, institutional capacity building in learning design, research to practice, social enterprise, employability, and the use of evidence to shift relevant innovations to the mainstream. However, the absence of a strategic approach to openness has reduced the visibility of Northampton’s excellent work and limited its benefits to the community.
Staff engagement with OER and OEP – OER and OEP have been areas of limited prominence at Northampton so far. The University was the lead partner in TIGER, an OER Phase II project funded by JISC and the HE Academy (, which focused on the School of Health. Lessons from the TIGER project have been learned, but the need to engage Northampton staff at all levels with the openness agenda remains – both as users and producers of open content. Colleagues at the University’s associate FE colleges need additional engagement with OER or OEP as well.
Awareness of good practice and the legal aspects of using third party content - The prevailing culture at Northampton is one where academics and course teams keep all or most of their content locked down behind the virtual learning environment (VLE). It is often difficult for academics to see each other’s materials. A review of materials currently available on Northampton’s VLE reveals a significant need for increased awareness of good practice in the use of third party material, including copyright, licensing and IPR."

What are OERs

OERS are "digitised materials offered freely and openly for educators, students and self-learners to use and reuse for teaching, learning and research" Hylén (2007) p. 30
teaching, learning and research materials in any medium, digital or otherwise, that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions. Open licensing is built within the existing framework of intellectual property rights as defined by relevant international conventions and respects the authorship of the work” UNESCO (2012) 
Examples of OER
Open Learn from the Open University. A copy of the final report (McAndrew et al, 2009) for the project can be found at Interestingly for the School of Science and Technology one of the authors Tina Wilson is one of the school's recent visting research fellows. 

The University's own, growing, open journal Enhancing the Learner Experience in Higher Education (ELEHE) which seeks to "seeks to galvanise interest in the field of HE learning, and act as a catalyst and stimulus for further research and dissemination." and has authors and editorial review board drawn from both the UK and Internationally.

More details of Open Northampton can be found at:
Towards a more open Northampton
Open Northampton gaining Momentum
Open Northampton gathers pace
Enhancing the Learner Experience in Higher Education (ELEHE)


Saturday, 9 February 2013

Enhancing STEM Public Engagement Skills

Ed Drewitt, know for his involvement with the Bristol Dinosaur Project, University of Bristol ( and Nicholas Garrick from Director of Lighting up Learning Limited ( ) facilitated a lively, interactive and very fun CPD session on Public Engagement with Primary schools at the school of Science and Technology, University of Northampton, UK on 8th February 2013.

The audience was made of undergraduates, research students and staff from across the The University of Northampton (and also a colleague from the Open University). All came together to look at how they could offer their ideas for activities or outcomes of their research (not matter what their research area) to schools in general . Feedback from talking to participants was very positive; with a great number of student-lead potential activities being discussed in groups and some staff considering how some of their research may be used as outreach activities.

For me the take home messages from the session was - 

  • be aware of what is happening in schools and some of their needs; but do something you are interested in; 
  • think about how that could be delivered in schools (possibly across a whole range of age groups);
  • but DO NOT tell teachers how to use it in their curriculum, they can work that out for their own particular case.

Last year The University of Northampton (TUoN) took part in Ed and Nick's Enhancing STEM Academics' Public Engagement Skills adopter programme sponsored by HE STEM South West Spoke to take concepts from their earlier work and for these to be applied in the outreach activity of other Universities.  This involvement lead to Ed and Nick offering this half day session to the The University of Northampton and other Universities involved with the earlier adopter programme.  Details of TUoN's outputs from the adopter programme and links to activities can be found at

Monday, 4 February 2013

STEM networking event

Our next University STEM networking event will be a lively, interactive session given by Ed Drewitt, famous for his Bristol Dinosaur Project ( and Nicholas Garrick from Lighting up Learning Limited ( )

Both are trained practitioners and highly regarded in their field of expertise.

Friday 8 February 2013
Newton  Avenue Campus, University of Northampton, UK
  • 1.15pm Tea and Coffee
  • 1.30 start
  • 5.00pm finish

The session builds on recognition that many scientists do not have the skills to interact effectively with school students (especially Key Stage 1 - 3 pupils). The aim of the session is: students, PhD students and STEM academics to be more involved with public engagement activities and to create and share a range of materials for workshops in primary schools.

This is a must for all STEM Ambassadors or those interested in improving their skills and techniques in public engagement and we encourage to you come to this free workshop.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Call for papers: The future of learning and teaching in Higher Education

Enhancing the Learner Experience in Higher Education (ELEHE)

Call for papers:The future of learning and teaching in Higher Education

ELEHE is an open-access international peer-reviewed online journal, enthusiastically addressing the challenge of enhancing learning in Higher Education. The journal seeks to explore innovations which impact on student learning, and to share effective practice across different contexts. It aims to enhance the student experience of learning by an engaged commitment to the student voice.

The deadline for submissions for the next edition under the theme of 'The future of learning and teaching in Higher Education' is 1st March 2013.

However, we welcome papers at all times.
Details about the journal focus and scope, along with author guidelines can be found here

ISSN: 2041-3122

Journal and submission details can be found at

How do students use technology after graduating ?

Introduction and Overview
Transition Out (TO?) was a six month intensive investigation (Jan – June 2012) funded as part of the URB@N project looking at how students want to use (or are already using) technology which will assist as they look towards completing their course and moving into employment or other future opportunities. This could be any type of technology ranging from mobile devices, social networking and cloud services. Students may not realise that the activities they are doing will assist with their transitions – they might be actively collaborating with peers (Ellison et al, 2007), using time management or planning tools, or generally enhancing their skills and experience using a range of technology. The work builds from the LLIDA (JISC, 2009) and SLiDA (JISC, 2010) investigation of supporting learners in a digital age.
Key Results (n=214)
•Word processing (85%) and email (88%) are the most popular technologies to support students as they leave the institution.
•Students under the age of 30 are more likely to use technology than those over this age (sig < 0.05)
•Males are tending to use technology to find future opportunities more than females (sig <0 .05="" div="">
•66% had suffered from a lack of knowledge / confidence with the use of technology, however 22% would not seek out resources supplied by the University to help them improve their skills
5 Key Messages For Students
1.Lock down your Facebook and Twitter accounts! Employers will search for you, make sure they can only see what you want them to – privacy settings are a must!
2.Get into Social Media – Open a LinkedIn Account and professionalise your Facebook! This is the ‘new’ job search, and it works!
3.Use the support services whilst you are here, have a problem with psychometric testing or need help on time management / planning ? Go and see Careers
4.Consider which email address you use to contact employers – is not going to give the best first impression!
5.Make use of MyPad or alternative portfolio system! Employers want evidence of your experience, and this is a great way to document what you do, as you do it, to then include in your CV.  If you go on a placement this is a tool which could help you to make the most of your experience.
From the data which has been gathered so far, teams which support students (e.g. Careers and Library) will be able to refine their support, engagement and provision. Those involved in the development and running of courses will be provided with further guidance and support to consider how development of the digital literacy of the cohort will impact on their ability to gain future opportunities on leaving. Provision should be integrated into the student experience rather than being seen as a bolt-on.
Resource Links
PDF of presentation made at Employer Engagement in a Digital Age – 4th July 2012 (University of Greenwich)
Ellison, N. B., Steinfield, C., Lampe, C. (2007), The Benefits of Facebook “Friends:” Social Capital and College Students’ Use of Online Social Network Sites. Available from: [Accessed 30th March, 2012]
JISC (2009),  Learning Literacies in a Digital Age [online].  Available from: [Accessed 30th March, 2012]
JISC (2009),  Study of how UK FE and HE institutions are supporting effective learners in a digital age [online].  Available from: [Accessed 30th March, 2012]
Rossi, N. (2011), Social Networking: Professional standards and boundaries must be maintained when you are online.  Available from: Page 8. [Accessed 30th March, 2012].
Project Team:
Rob Howe and Penelope Stanton
Further details:

Using A Wiki to select undergraduate projects

This case study talks about a Wiki in NILE which was used to help podiatry students select their undergraduate dissertation project.
The main aims of this pilot were to see if there was a more efficient way to allocate dissertation topics.
“Easiest thing I have ever used ! Didn’t even have to think twice about how to use it” Student Comment
Full Case study detail (case study, PDF 495KB)
All Student Comments (case study, PDF 324KB)
Tagged with:  •  • 

Using Skype for undergraduate dissertation tutorials

taken from:

This case study describes using Skype in undergraduate dissertation tutorials
The main aim of this pilot was to allow students attending a University based undergraduate degree course (BSc( Hons) podiatry) the option of either face to face contact or the use of Skype for a tutorial on their undergraduate dissertation.

What do students thinks of exam?

Ajit, S.  (2017)  Exam as an assessment instrument in computer programming courses: student perceptions.  Poster presented to:  6th Internat...