Public Engagement

Large Grants 2017 Successful Projects

The Centre for Public Engagement (CPE) has awarded funding to seven projects in this annual Large Grant funding round, offering grants up to £10,000 to enable staff and students to engage the public with university research and learning through public engagement projects.


A lot of "A bit of CS4FN" 
Prof Paul Curzon and Ms Jo Brodie, School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science

Building on a pilot funded by the CPE Large Grants in 2016-17, the project aims to help primary school teachers enthuse their pupils about computing through an exciting research-themed print magazine. This will contain interdisciplinary research stories and computational thinking puzzles.

A successful pipeline of future computer scientists begins at primary school when the most important impressions are made and this project hopes to fill this gap by engaging both teachers and the pupils with the topic in a fun and creative way.

Bridging the Gap: story retelling across the generations in the London Bangladeshi community

Dr Kathleen McCarthy, School of Language, Linguistics and Film
Mr Nurull Islam, Mile End Community Projects and Dr Mahera Ruby, Tower Hamlets Parenting Service

‘Bridging the Gap’ will create a series of short films and illustrated narratives that aim to promote heritage language use, as well as reconnect and increase cultural awareness across generations within the London Bangladeshi community.

A major motivation for this project comes from research and teaching experience that has shown a decline in heritage language use by young children in the community, and in turn reduced engagement with elder members who primarily speak Sylheti. This is in part due to changes in the immediate family network i.e., less traditional intergenerational living, and also local government cuts to mother tongue language classes. This language gap results in a communication breakdown between the youngest and eldest members of the community.

The films created in this project will be based on intergenerational workshops, where a ‘barrier free’ communication platform will be created for the transfer of narratives. The grandparents will be asked to tell stories based on historical events and folk tales that are considered to be a key part of Bangladeshi heritage, identity and cultural history; the children will then retell these narratives in English and/or Sylheti. Films will capture these stories and preserve them for generations to come.

Changing Climates? Women in Arctic Science
Dr Sarah Harpenslager, School of Biological and Chemical Science

As a biologist, Dr Harpenslager is lucky enough to spend a lot of her time outdoors, studying biological processes in the natural world. During the summers of 2016 and 2017, she was part of a female-dominated team of biologists working in different Arctic locations. During these trips, she realised that what she took for granted - a group of young women working in a harsh environment like the Arctic - was quite special. More than once, well-meaning (male) boat captains tried to help us with our heavy equipment, while astonished (male) bear guards asked us why we choose to work with mud every day. She then realised that most people still associate science and fieldwork with men, not women.

To challenge persistent unconscious bias and provide people with a clear picture of what scientists, both male and female, actually do, Dr Harpenslager has organised Changing Climates: a photographic exhibition showcasing images and personal stories of 30 female researchers in Arctic science. Furthermore, scientists will be invited to give talks on topics related to Arctic fieldwork, women working in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) and climate change. These exhibition events will be held in London, but the same images and stories will travel the world to be put on display in Reykjavik (Iceland) and Minnesota (USA).

Engaging students and artists in engineering using digital musical instruments 
Dr Andrew McPherson and Dr Becky Stewart, School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science

This project will create materials which use music to teach principles of electronic engineering and computer science, with particular focus on reaching secondary school students and artists without a technical background. Several public workshops will be held and tutorial videos will be released online to reach a wider community. This project is designed to create an expanding legacy, reaching progressively larger numbers of students in the 2 years following the project through collaborations with TeenTech, which runs dozens of school STEM events around the UK, and the IET Faraday Challenge, a high-profile student competition held over 150 times per year.

The activities will let participants build digital musical instruments which reach a high level of artistic richness without requiring prior experience in coding or engineering. This approach contrasts with many music technology workshops, some of which target higher levels of technical proficiency and others of which produce relatively basic musical outputs such as rudimentary keyboards or theremin-like instruments.

The workshop materials will use Bela, the open-source embedded audio platform created in Queen Mary's Centre for Digital Music. QMUL researchers will create high-quality sound modules to which participants can attach sensors and simple electronic circuits, and even build their own sensors using materials such conductive paint and e-textiles. Researchers will also create an intuitive, accessible interface for participants to edit the code in the modules.

Think you're Immune to Trauma?
Dr Scarlett Gillespie, Ms Claire Rourke, Prof Karim Brohi and Dr Tom Simpson, Centre for Neuroscience and Trauma, Blizard Institute

The Neuroscience and Trauma team will create an interactive exhibit to be presented at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition 2018 (if accepted), and other Festival opportunities. They will develop novel engagement activities to involve participants in hands-on simulations of the exciting research and trials that the team conducts in the fast-paced trauma research environment.

Researches will demonstrate how the blood samples taken from patients in the emergency department at the Royal London Hospital allow them to perform research at QMUL that pushes the boundaries of their knowledge. Participants will run a series of experiments on a ‘blood sample’ taken from a ‘patient’. By making apparent some of the current novel findings they have generated from these blood samples, they will show how the science generated leads to a better understanding of how injury affects the body, and how this feeds back in to optimising patient care, saving lives and improving patient outcomes.

Visual Reflections of Mental Health: Realities of severe mental illness for ethnic minority people and those involved in their care
Dr Kristoffer Halvorsrud, Centre for Psychiatry, Wolfson Institute of Preventative Medicine

The newly established Synergi Collaborative Centre situated at the Centre for Psychiatry at QMUL, via four workshops, will co-curate an open-access photographic collection and a short video showcasing the realities of severe mental illness, specifically focusing on ethnic minority people. This will provide a unique insight into the personal lived experiences of severe mental illness as well as embody the experiences of carers and mental health professionals.

The workshop activities will be turned into a short video and uploaded on multiple media platforms. By placing these unique stories at centre stage via radio broadcasts, podcasts, media releases, leaflets, social media, seminars and a series of photographic exhibitions, we hope to challenge prevailing thinking and disrupt the single narrative dominating the media, scientific community and policy circles in order to raise awareness of the particular issues pertaining to severe mental illness and ethnic inequalities and potentially inspiring positive systems change and further encouraging development of new networks and community action.

Women's Voices in Parliament
Dr Ella Finer and Dr Maggie Inchley, School of English and Drama

As part of the Vote100 celebrations and launching the publication of Amending Speech: Women’s Voices in Parliament, 1918-2018, edited by John Vice and Dr Maggie Inchley, the Women’s Voices in Parliament project encompasses a performative symposium and an interactive online resource, both mapping contemporary and historical issues of gender and representation in politics.

The symposium will take the form of an interactive walking tour through the hidden and overlooked spaces of The Houses of Parliament engaging Tower Hamlets A-level Politics students. Spaces rarely accessible to the public, such as the cupboard in Westminster’s crypt in which suffragette Emily Davison secreted herself in 1911, the Smoking Room, traditionally for men’s use only, and the Robing Room, where the Sovereign ceremoniously dresses will be reanimated with female voices.