New robotics centre in Bristol to tackle problems of autonomous refuelling

March 31, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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Robots will be used to help solve the problem of autonomous engagement for in-flight refuelling through new research at the University of Bristol that could pave the way for civil or military unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flights to last days or even weeks.

A multi-million pound relative motion robotics centre of excellence will open at the University in the autumn to research and develop an autonomous engagement solution for in-flight refuelling.  Cobham Mission Equipment has commissioned the centre, as part of the ASTRAEA Autonomy and Decision Making project. The South West RDA is providing significant support to this aspect of the programme.

A team of engineers from the University’s Department of Aerospace Engineering and Cobham are working together to investigate and solve the challenges surrounding the “hook-up problem space”, where technology will have to replicate the skills of a pilot in this challenging evolution.

This will involve the installation of two industrial robots, one track mounted, linked to a synthetic environment, to imitate the positional relationship between a tanker and receiver utilising the hose, drogue and probe refuelling system.

Dr Tom Richardson, Lecturer in Flight Mechanics in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Bristol University, said: “Autonomous refuelling is a key component of future UAV operations, where flights for coastal and border surveillance might be required to last days or even weeks.”

Alongside this research, an advanced composite manufacturing capability using the same robotic facility will be established.  The provision of such a robotics facility has been identified as a key factor for the University to advance its research on automating composites processing.

It is envisaged that this research will be performed in collaboration with its industrial partners and the wider industrial community in the South West in addition to the newly established National Composites Centre.

The Relative Motion Robotics will be situated within the new Advanced Composites Centre for Innovation and Science (ACCIS), part of the University’s Faculty of Engineering.  The centre will be fully operational by this Autumn and in due course, will be available to the wider academic and industrial community for research within sectors such as maritime or manufacturing.

The ASTRAEA programme is jointly funded by UK industry and the public sector.  Its objective is to enable the routine use of Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) in all classes of airspace without the need for restrictive or specialised conditions of operation.  The aim is the development and demonstration of key technologies and operating procedures required to open up the airspace.

Mr Richard Bourne, Programme Manager Research and Technology at Cobham Mission Equipment, said: “The development of this capability at Bristol University is crucial for addressing a significant issue within the evolving UAV market.  It has already established stronger ties between the Company and the University which we hope to develop further and it will also deliver a flexible capability for further broad utilisation by industry and academia.”


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Report highlights aerospace issues for SouthWest

March 30, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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Over the next 10 years, the large emerging markets of China and India will drive global civil aerospace growth says a new report from UK Trade and Investment (report here). This is increasingly important for the SouthWest with many of the key players – Airbus, Rolls Royce, GKN and AgustaWestland – on the Science Park and Airbus building  £70m Technology Park in Filton in North Bristol.

The opportunities in these markets for UK aerospace companies will principally focus around the formation of partnerships and technology collaboration and it is key that the UK positions itself as a long-term strategy partner with these markets, asys teh report.  The principal opportunities in the next 10-year period are likely to be on new Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier, COMAC and Embraer programmes due to their sheer volume and the fact that there will be options for new supplier entries.

There are also significant opportunities for UK suppliers to win international business on new rotorcraft,business aircraft and Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) programmes, which will also drive the need for innovation in microelectronics and electronic system integration

The globalisation of the supply chain and current market conditions require that UK aerospace companies and UK Government co-operate even more closely than before to maintain and expand their share of this important part of the advanced engineering sector.

Successive UK Governments have recognised the importance of aerospace as a strategic sector and have been supportive in helping it to develop and grow its international civil and defence aerospace business. Advanced manufacturing sectors such as aerospace and defence also continue to be seen as important to maintaining a balanced economy in the UK.

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Bristol wins £6 million project to develop a new generation of composites

March 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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A collaboration between Bristol University and Imperial College London has been awarded a £6m grant to develop a new generation of high performance, fibre reinforced polymer composites.

The team from Bristol’s Advanced Composites Centre for Innovation and Science and The Composites Centre at Imperial College London have been awarded the six-year programme grant by EPSRC.  The aim of the project is to create a new generation of high performance, ductile fibre reinforced polymer composites capable of sustaining large deformations without breaking.

The team is led by Professor Michael Wisnom at the University of Bristol and Professor Alexander Bismarck at Imperial College London, and supported by partners including BAE SystemsdstlHalliburtonHexcelMouchelRolls-Royce andVestas.

Advanced composites, based on carbon, glass and aramid fibres, are a vital low weight material technology that also offer operational savings and extended service lifetimes.  These materials are being implemented in rapidly increasing volumes, with the UK supply of advanced composite systems currently around £1.6 billion per year and growing rapidly.

Professor Wisnom, Director of ACCIS, said: “Conventional polymer matrix composites offer high strength and stiffness, low weight, and low susceptibility to fatigue and corrosion, and we are witnessing a rapid expansion of their use in aerospace and other applications, such as wind turbine blades, sporting goods and civil engineering.

“Despite this progress, a fundamental limitation of current composites is their inherent brittleness.  Failure can be sudden and catastrophic, with little warning or residual load carrying capacity.”

Professor Bismarck added: “High performance ductile composites will enable robust panels, which dent without significant loss in performance, and super-light, complex structures which indicate an overload by significant deformation but continue to support load without catastrophic failure.

“Such materials will provide greater reliability and safety, together with reduced design and maintenance requirements, and longer service life”.

Ensuring materials are ductile will overcome reticence for their use in safety critical or damage vulnerable applications, thereby significantly increasing their attractiveness for mass-market applications.  Also, the widespread use of high performance ductile composites could achieve a very significant reduction of up to 15 per cent in the overall greenhouse gas contribution of transport.

To achieve such an ambitious outcome will require a concerted effort by the team to develop new constituents and exploit novel architectures, in order to obtain fracture toughness and ductility comparable to that of metals, and with considerably superior strength, stiffness and density.  This programme grant will scope, prioritise, develop, and combine these approaches, to achieve High Performance Ductile Composite Technology (HiPerDuCT).

The research programme team are the University of Bristol: Professor Michael Wisnom, Professor Ian Bond, Professor Kevin Potter and Professor Paul Weaver and Imperial College London: Professor Alexander Bismarck, Professor Milo Shaffer, Dr Paul Robinson and Dr Joachim Steinke.


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Bristol frees up its IP for innovators

March 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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In a dramatic move, Bristol University is to open up its research and give away the rights to patented technology for free. The University has world leading research in many areas, including microelectronics, materials science and biotech, and is looking to use its intellectual property to build collaboration with industry, says Dr Neil Bradshaw, Director of Enterprise and the man responsible for commercialising the university’s innovation

Interview here

The Western Way signed to drive science and technology innovation in the region

March 24, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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The leaders of the councils for Bristol, Swindon and Cardiff met yesterday to sign an agreement to support and promote the ‘Western Way’, the western end of the M4 corridor, particularly with a focus on silicon and digital technologies. The memorandum mirrors the strengths of the region as highlighted in SW Innovation News, as well as the importance of working across the Severn in Wales.

The details are here


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University of Bath researchers convert PC network to DC power

March 24, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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Moving PC networks to DC power


Researchers at the University of Bath have converted a network of PCs to DC power, taking them off the power grid to cut noise and save money and power. The move, the first time this has been done in the UK,  also allows the network to be powered directly by micro-power systems such as wind turbines


Details here

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Bristol’s first Health Innovation Showcase

March 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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A unique exhibition, the first of its kind to be held in Bristol, will showcase the outstanding health innovation achievements in the city and offer a glimpse into the future at what new developments might bring.

The Bristol Health Innovation Showcase is the first exhibition from BRIG-H (Bristol Research and Innovation Group for Health), a partnership of  universities and NHS Trusts committed to improving the health of people in Bristol and beyond through research, innovation and closer collaboration.

The Showcase will take place at UWE’s Exhibition and Conference Centre on Wednesday 30 March from 5.30 to 8.30 pm.

The event will provide an opportunity for professionals and members of the public to see first hand 30 exciting innovations on display which have been developed by members of the partnership.  Clinicians, researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs behind the latest developments and innovations will be on hand to answer questions and explain their inventions, new procedures and advances in health services.

The BRIG-H partners are: the University of Bristol, University of the West of EnglandAvon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS TrustNorth Bristol NHS TrustUniversity Hospitals Bristol NHS Trust, in association with Bristol City CouncilNHS North Somerset, and NHS South Gloucestershire.

Scientists, clinicians, and health executives from these organisations have worked together to create new innovations and processes that have benefited health in Bristol.

Deborah Evans, Chief Executive NHS Bristol and Chair of the Bristol Health Leadership Executive, said: “We know that Bristol is regarded as a beacon of innovation.  Innovation in health is changing the lives of patients and the city: inventions, research, new companies, treatments, devices and tools are transforming the care and quality of the lives of patients. This event is an ideal opportunity to be inspired by examples of Bristol innovations that have changed people’s lives and talk to the people who have made it happen.”

Professor Richard Luxton, Director Institute of Bio-Sensing Technology, UWE, said: “This event demonstrates how the partners working together can make huge gains.  We want to encourage other researchers and clinicians to get involved in innovation and applications for their research.  There are many projects which would not have happened without the expertise and innovation of both universities, and the support of the NHS Trusts.  We hope this event will show just how much we have achieved together, and the enormous potential there is in the city for further innovation and health improvement in the city in the future.”

The innovations on display range from medical innovations, through to novel improvements to service delivery and community health initiatives. Innovations on display include:

The TOBY trial: – A new treatment pioneered by Professor Marianne Thoresen (University of Bristol) with partners North Bristol Trust and funded by the Medical Research Council, Olympic Medical and SPARKS aims to prevent brain damage caused by lack of oxygen (Asphyxia) at birth by giving cooling treatment within the first six hours of life.  The novel treatment lowers the affected babies’ body temperature to 33.5°C and induces hypothermia for 72 hours before gradually rewarming the baby in intensive care.  After clinical trials the treatment was introduced in Bristol’s two neonatal intensive care units in 2006 and 60 per cent of babies now survive without significant injury compared to 30 per cent previously in Bristol.  In May 2010 the treatment was recommended by NICE for asphyxiated babies.  Professor Thoresen is now working with Professor John Dingley (Swansea University) and University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust to improve the prognosis for these babies even further by adding inhaled Xenon gas to the cooling regime.

Adults with Asperger Syndrome: plugging the service gap – The Bristol Autism Spectrum Service (BASS) was established to fill the service vacuum for adults with Asperger Syndrome who are unable to access support from mainstream services.   It has received national recognition as an example of best practice and contributed to the government’s strategy for adults with autism. The service model is being replicated in other UK regions.  BASS facilitates assessment and diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome for adults, provides a programme of post-diagnostic support and provides training for mainstream providers. By plugging the service gap for adults with Asperger Syndrome the new service helps to improve mental wellbeing and life outcomes for individuals. Training has been delivered to 500 health and social care professionals, employment agencies and JobCentre Plus staff.  The project leaders from Bristol Autism Spectrum Service, AWP are: Dr Ian Ensum, Matt Trerise, Annie Alexander, Amy Baddeley, Dr Rona Aldridge, Dr Peter Carpenter, Simon Allen and Gemma Allen.

OdoReader – Diagnosing bacterial infections at the bedside – OdoReader  is a prototype device which accurately and rapidly identifies disease causing bacteria in diarrhoea such as the bacterium Clostridium difficile, which is highly infectious and causes a severe form of diarrhoea.  OdoReader captures and analyses the chemicals in the smell of the diarrhoea and is able to give an accurate diagnosis within 20 minutes.  This new prototype device is robust and reliable and can help prevent the spread of infection. There are plans to develop similar devices for other infections and this device is ideal for use in the developing world.  The project leaders are Professor Chris Probert, (University of Bristol) and Professor Norman Ratcliffe (UWE) collaborating with North Bristol NHS Trust and University Hospitals Bristol NHS Trust.  OdoReader is being developed with the support of the Wellcome Trust and will be ready for launch in 2013.

The BRIG-H consortium will also be hosting a Health Innovation Challenge during the afternoon before the exhibition, bringing together scientists, researchers, clinicians, patient representatives and others from Bristol, to generate new ideas and facilitate  collaborations and initiatives to improve health in the city.

Researchers look at using virtual antennas

March 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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Virtual antennas – using several antennas of equipment nearby – can improve the performance of wireless devices in some cases, say researchers at the University of Bristol’s Centre for Communications Research (CCR)

Details here

CCR has also launched a £10m Doctoral Centre opening next week

SW Microelectronics iNet


The Big M review – Future innovations in mobile technology

March 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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Over 200 mobile professionals and developers gathered in Bath for the Big M conference on Monday, looking at a range of key issues for the mobile industry.

David Simpson has written a great review here: and highlights Paul Golding’s presentation on future innovations.

Paul, the lead Innovation Architect and CEO of Wireless Wanders in Swindon, is a great example of the strength of the region – he has been on the leading edge of the mobile industry for 20 years, defining, designing and implementing many new products and services. He is the inventor of the first ever mobile internet portal (Zingo), designed for Lucent Technologies in 1997 and developed further for NTT DoCoMo in 1998. He was recently consulting as Motorola‘s Chief Applcations Architect and now resides at O2 as a founder member of “The Lab,” which is an “intrapreneurial” venture to exploit new business opportunities using Web start-up methodologies. He also founded the O2 Incubator. He is also a mentor in the Springboard Incubator program.

His presentation from the Big M is here and well worth a read:



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Martin McCourt, CEO of Dyson, interviewed at UWE

March 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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Martin McCourt, CEO of Dyson, on the challenges posed by the recession, Dyson’s model of investing in innovation and the need for great people coming through a great education system to drive business forward.

Martin McCourt, CEO of Dyson, interview at UWE

The film is part of the Distinguished Executive Address series of talks organised by the Bristol Business School at UWE Bristol.

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SELEX opens technology Centre of Excellence in Bristol

March 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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Italian multinational SELEX Systems Integration has opened a technology Centre of Excellence alongside the Ministry of Defence at Abbey Wood in Bristol.

More here

SW Microelectronics iNet


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University of Bath develops weather satellite

March 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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A micro-satellite project from the University of Bath has won a position to be sent into space as part of the UK’s first CubeSat mission.

More here


SW Microelectronics iNet

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Medical electronics spotlight in Bath

March 18, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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i-Med: How medical electronics will deliver patient power

Thursday, 24 March 2011 and Friday, 25 March 2011, Bath Ventures Innovation Centre, Broad Quay, Bath, BA1 1UD

Experts in medical electronic systems are gathering in Bath next week for the SiliconSouthWest iMed seminar. This looks at the increasingly important area of medical electronics and applications, particularly with the use of wireless networks. Speakers from the NHS, silicon and embedded systems companies and applications developers will explore the opportunities for developing the next generation of medical systems and their place in the healthcare ecosystem.

Confirmed Speakers:

Plus healthcare expert panel led by Dr Nigel Harris, Director, Bath Institute of Medical Engineering

  • Stephen Hope, Docobo
  • Angus Donald, NHS Innovations South West
  • David Rogers, Ex President and Chief Executive, Lucent EMEA

Register Here





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Bristol physicists move closer to efficient single-photon sources

March 18, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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A team from Bristol has taken a big step toward efficient single-photon sources that could be used for completely secure optical communications.

Fluorescent “defect centres” in diamond act like atomic-scale light sources at toom temperature but need to be etched to generate the best source, and this is a huge challenge.  them strong contenders for use as sources of single photons (the quantum light particle) in secure quantum cryptography schemes, says J. P. Hadden, a Ph.D. candidate in the Centre for Quantum Photonics at the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Bristol.

“Defect centres could also be used as building blocks for ‘solid-state quantum computers,’ which would use quantum effects to solve problems that are not efficiently solvable with current computer technology,” Hadden says.

“We managed to show an improvement in the brightness of these defect centres of up to ten times by etching hemispherical ‘solid immersion lenses’ into the diamond,” he said. “This is an important result, showing how nanofabrication techniques can complement and enhance quantum technologies, and opens the door to diamond-defect-center-based implementations of quantum cryptography and quantum computation.”

More recently, Hadden and colleagues developed a technique that allows them to reliably etch these structures over previously characterized defect centres to a precision of about 100 nanometers — another significant step toward a practical and repeatable combination of nanotechnology and quantum optics.

The team presented its findings in Applied Physics Letters, a journal published by the American Institute of Physics.

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Bristol to be part of high-value manufacturing Technology and Innovation Centre (TIC)

March 18, 2011 by · 1 Comment
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The National Composites Centre (NCC) at the University of Bristol has been named as a partner in the first of a UK-wide network of elite technology and innovation centres

Bristol’s NCC is one of seven highly capable and internationally recognised research centres around the country which will make up the new Technology and Innovation Centre (TIC) for high-value manufacturing which is distributed right across the UK.

The centre will be one of a network of about six in which the Government will invest a total of more than £200 million over the next four years with the aim of enabling British businesses to commercialise the results of world-class research in the UK and access major new high-tech markets.

“I am delighted for the NCC to be working with the five other centres – the Centre for Process Innovation in Wilton & Sedgefield, the Advanced Forming Research Centre at the University of Strathclyde, the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry, the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in Rotherham and the Warwick Manufacturing Group at the University of Warwick – in the formation of the high-value manufacturing TIC,” said Peter Chiver, Executive Director of the National Composites Centre (NCC),

“This is fantastic news for Bristol. Today’s announcement recognises the world-class expertise in advanced manufacturing in the South West and the fantastic potential of this industry to secure jobs and prosperity for decades to come.  On a more practical level, it will enable Bristol to solidify its position at the forefront of composites, an industry that is growing at eight per cent per year. This is a huge opportunity for the National Composites Centre.”

Guy Orpen, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise at the University of Bristol, said: “There is no doubt that composites will form a vital part of the UK’s manufacturing renaissance. This key part of the UK economy will be driven by closer collaboration between industry and the very best of academia and we are proud that the University of Bristol and the NCC’s initiating partners are playing such a significant role in this important part of the UK’s economy going forward. This is very good news for Bristol, the region and the UK.”

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Bristol hosts its first Wiki Academy

March 18, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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Image representing Wikimedia Foundation as dep...

Image via CrunchBase

When: Saturday 19 March 2011 from 10am

Where: Room 1.06, Merchant Venturers School of Engineering, Woodland Road, University of Bristol, BS8 1UB

The first Wiki Academy in Bristol is being held tomorrow at the Bristol University School of Engineering with a range of volunteer speakers, including Steve Virgin, a member of the Wikimedia UK board. The Academy is using a room with a networked Windows PC and Powerpoint and will make the slides available online afterwards. Use of slides isn’t mandatory: talk through the relevant WP pages if that’s more informative.

The Academy looks at the different ways to use Wikipedia and includes a discussion on microgrants. The agenda for the day is here



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XMOS pulls in chip veterans for advisory board

March 16, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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Company expands globally as it enters high growth phase

Bristol-based chip developer XMOS has appointed a new advisory board to provide it with valuable business and technical guidance from some of the semiconductor industry’s most experienced and successful members. A sales and business development office has been opened in Austin, Texas and XMOS is also establishing a new software product support and development center in Chennai, India.

More here

SW Microelectronics iNet

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Bristol wins funding for open-innovation universities and free intellectual property

March 15, 2011 by · 1 Comment
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Bristol and two other leading universities to have won funding from the Intellectual Property Office to pioneer easy access to its intellectual assets.

The Universities of Bristol, Glasgow and King’s College London have won £80,000 in funding from the Intellectual Property Office – the government body responsible for granting Intellectual Property (IP) rights in the United Kingdom – to pioneer easy access to their intellectual assets.

Earlier this year, Glasgow became the first UK university to offer Intellectual Property, including groundbreaking medical and scientific research, to business and entrepreneurs free of charge. The award will be used to fund a collaborative project to move the free IP concept on to create a consortium of open-innovation universities.

The project aims to collectively promote free IP opportunities to industry and increase awareness of the vital role universities have in stimulating innovation and economic competitiveness.

Dr Kevin Cullen, Director of Research and Enterprise at the University of Glasgow, who is leading the project, said: “We hope to run an open and accessible project which aims to embed and test a new approach to licensing whilst stimulating debate around the issues of university and company collaboration, and the role which universities have in encouraging innovation for the benefit of UK society and the economy.”

Dr Neil Bradshaw, Director of Enterprise at the University of Bristol, said: “This pioneering project will advance the use of IP created by our three Universities by innovative growth companies and offers a new way for Universities to contribute to the growth required in the UK economy.”

Dr Alison Campbell, Managing Director, King’s College London Business, said: “This project allows us to capitalise on our ethos of open innovation at King’s. Our ambition is that it enables more effective engagement with industry across the sector.”

Please contact for further information.


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Psychological issues vital after nuclear accidents says researcher

March 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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The psychological issues of nuclear accidents such as Fukushima Daiichi in Japan are just as important as the immediate health issues says a leading trauma expert speaking in Bristol. “Twenty five year on, we can safely say that the biggest problem of the Chernobyl accident was not cancer or ecological but psychological, and I think that will be the situation in Japan,” said Elena Bodnar, director of the Trauma Risk Management Research Institute at the University of Chicago. Her experiences with the Russian nuclear disaster led to the innovative design of a face mask.

Read more here

IgNoble Awards at HP Labs


Local student scoops Intel prize

March 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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Roxanne Pollard

Roxanne Pollard of Chipping Sodbury School

A student from Gloucestershire has won major engineering  award for her electronics design.

Roxanne Pollard (19) from Chipping Sodbury School designed a bicycle helmet incorporating special indicator safety features and has been invited to represent Great Britain at the 2012 Intel-sponsored International Science and Engineering Fair in the US with all expenses paid.

The award was part of the Young Engineer for Britain programme, whose sponsors include SW firms STMicroelectronics, Airbus and GKN.

Alan Egan (16), who attends King Edward VI Camp Hill Boys School in Birmingham, won The Duke of York’s Award for the creative application of electronics in the Young Engineer for Britain national final with a multimedia router, which provides quick and easy routing of multimedia content from various inputs to multiple output destinations using a simple and intuitive colour-based interface.

The Group 1 (16-18) winner was Aseem Nishra from Hymers College in Hull with jeans that react like a set of drums when the wearer taps their thighs. The Group 2 (14-16) winner was Hemang Rishi from Winchester College with a novel robotic vacuum cleaner. The Group 3 (12-14) winner was a group comprising Shea Quinn, Gavin Fox and Caolan MaGee from Abbey Grammar School, Newry with a Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation Assistant.

Entering the Young Engineer for Britain competition

Any secondary school students aged 12-19 can enter the 2012 Young Engineer for Britain Competition with enhanced exam projects, or, projects designed specifically as entries for the competition. More details can be found at

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