Next generation should not fear careers in science and engineering, according to leading robotics academic as major event returns
March 15, 2023

Next generation should not fear careers in science and engineering, according to leading robotics academic as major event returns

Please note: This article was published on March 15, 2023 and may contain information that is no longer current or up to date.
Driving simulator

A leading robotics academic is hoping the return of a free event will help to dispel myths over ‘intimidating’ STEAM careers.

Helge Wurdemann, Professor and Chair of Robotics at University College London (UCL), has claimed young people are unnecessarily intimidated by ‘challenging but enjoyable’ careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) ahead of Robot Day – a major free event showcasing robotics to young people.

Wurdemann, along with UCL colleagues, will be among dozens of leading innovators displaying cutting-edge technology and thought-provoking activities at Robot Day – which is returning to Coventry after a four-year break on Saturday, March 18 to inspire the next generation of engineers, researchers and creators.

The event, which is being held at Coventry College and supported by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and Imagineering Foundation, will take place during British Science Week, and is Robot Day’s first flagship exhibition since 2019.

The roboticist’s research focuses on soft robotics – robots made of soft flexible materials such as textiles or silicone materials. He insisted that, while there are many challenges, the enjoyability, creativity and job-satisfaction of STEAM careers often goes overlooked.

He said:

“Robot Day is a fantastic opportunity to bring young people closer to the incredible things that people across the UK and the world are achieving in robotics, and we are looking forward to seeing some of these things ourselves while meeting future engineers and academics.”

“By seeing these innovations close up and meeting the people behind them, we have a great opportunity to challenge some of the myths around technology and engineering – including that it’s unsuitable for creative people or that it’s all about numbers and data.

“In robotics, we have a chance to directly impact lives across the world through the application of robotic technology – but it’s qualities like teamwork, creativity and determination that are crucial to the industry, and these are things that everyone is capable of.”

Wurdemann will demonstrate a haptic feedback system that explores how humans perceive the environment through their fingertips. One of the applications is minimally invasive surgery during which the surgeon is not able to examine organs and other soft tissue by touch with their fingertips.

The haptic system can be used to feedback crucial information to the surgeon to distinguish healthy from cancerous tissue – ultimately allowing doctors to maintain the sensation in their hands and interpret the structure and behaviour of tissue without actually touching it.

There will also be an intelligent mobility driving simulator which allows participants to experience how to engage with future autonomous vehicles – or take a challenge to drive in an eco-friendly way, completing a circuit using the least amount of energy.

Young drivers can experience how to control a vehicle with simulated impairment effects through beer and drug goggles.

Also, Intelligent Mobility at UCL will show collaborative work with the Pathfinder Initiative around high-risk Virtual Reality scenarios, which is supporting research into driverless vehicles.

This work results from the Intelligent Mobility at UCL lab, where scientists have been looking into traffic models in cities and how to inform drivers to choose eco-friendly driving behaviour.

Stephen Powley, founder of Robot Day and PhD candidate at Coventry University, said:

“We are delighted to have Helge and the UCL team joining us for the return of Robot Day as our wide-ranging line-up of exhibits and activities takes shape.

“His research is a true representation of how robotics can benefit society as a whole, and we are sure his activities will not only fascinate visitors, but inspire them to pursue a STEAM career.”

Robot Day is free to attend. Pre-booking is strongly recommended on the Robot Day website to avoid disappointment.

You can also volunteer at Robot Day 2023 by signing up on the website.

Notes to editors

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