european projects

Using Virtual Reality in the Classroom

Virtual Reality or VR as it’s known is taking the world by storm. Along with augmented reality it can make the classroom a much more interesting place. With the Escola project in mind we were keen to find out how this would help engineering students.

Dr Jacqueline Thomas, a humanitarian engineering lecturer at University of Sydney, said Virtual Reality is especially useful for disciplines where, due to safety concerns or practicality reasons, it’s hard to give students hands-on experience.

“Construction engineers are using VR to do site inspections. Chemical engineers can use it to conduct experiments and observe chemical reactions at a much closer range than they would normally be able to.”

We looked at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota to find out more about their use of virtual reality. The university embraced technology and feel that this helps faculty and students stay ahead of the curve.

STELAR: the St. Thomas eLearning and Research Center, is digitally connected, and technically-outfitted with interactive touch screens, video conferencing, etc. The center supports the movement toward online and blended degrees, while aiding faculty in their research. In STELAR’s Emerging Technology Showcase, faculty can start envisioning – and using – the classrooms of the future.

Students at the university use Virtual Reality by capturing 360⁰ images on site, and of their projects, that can be stitched together into a VR experience. 

STELAR’s Active Learning Classroom includes monitors and whiteboards on every wall, group seating rather than rows of desks. This makes learning much more interactive and encourages a collaborative way of education.

To find out more about the Escola Project and to take the free online course please visit the website.

Empowering female entrepreneurs and graduates in engineering

EMERGE is an EU Erasmus+ project bringing together project partners and experts from Poland, Denmark, Norway, Turkey and Ireland.

This project aims to increase the number of female entrepreneurs in engineering by transforming their access to and the quality of the training they receive from Entrepreneurship, VET & HEI institutions. Our online community, learning resources and training events will connect you to expert knowledge and advice. Ready to get started? The first step is to join on our online community of engineers, lecturers, business advisors and education providers.

Increasing the number of female entrepreneurs is a key priority in the EU for reasons linked to economic and social development. The lack of female entrepreneurs is particularly evident in the field of Engineering. Despite high profile role models, overall female innovativeness and participation in the engineering sector has decreased and ”an unconscious bias” still prevails.

Poland, Denmark, Ireland, and Turkey are among the countries that have introduced measures to improve the institutional framework for female enterprise, but more needs to be done to overcome individual barriers, making sure that sure the small but growing number of females studying/working in Engineering are helped to identify entrepreneurial opportunities and build their business skills. The problem is that our VET and HEI institutions are ill-equipped to do so: most are unspecialized in the specific strategies that are shown to work best with female entrepreneurs; their staff are trained in generic/traditional business models (not Engineering specific) and they are not connected to universities/HE institutions to recruit graduate females emerging from Engineering subjects.

In this context, EMERGE has a clear goal: increase the number of female entrepreneurs in engineering by transforming their access to and the quality of the training they receive from Entrepreneurship, VET & HEI institutions.

To do so, we will:

  1. Establish 3 sustainable, cross-sector partnerships between stakeholders working in Engineering and Entrepreneurship – creating a Roadmap for other regions to follow our example.
  2. Create and publish the EMERGE Roadmap to facilitate the replication of Regional Partnerships across Europe.
  3. Develop, implement and publish a suite of multilingual educational resources entitled Female Start up in Engineering for Teachers and Trainers working in entrepreneurship to update their knowledge and skills.
  4. Design and implement innovative learning placements for 40 young Female Engineers with start up potential in high growth Engineering enterprises (preferably female led).

The project methodology is highly participative at all stages, involving our three main target groups (training providers such as enterprise centres, colleges and incubators, HEIs; female entrepreneurs and wider stakeholders) in the following ways:

  • High-level representatives of organizations from VET, HEI, entrepreneurship education, and wider economic development will participate in 3 Regional Partnerships.
  • Professional entrepreneurship teachers and trainers will be trained using the “Female Start up in Engineering” open educational resources, benefiting approximately 600 female students.
  • Representatives of stakeholder organizations will participate in multiplier events.
  • Individuals will engage with the interactive online platform with OER.

Thanks to improved exposure/availability and improved quality of entrepreneurship education opportunities, EMERGE will generate an increase in the overall number of potential and existing female entrepreneurs engaged in continuing VET and it is more likely that early stage female engineering entrepreneurs grow their ideas into successful engineering enterprises in the short term.

As a result of the Regional Partnerships and “Female Start up in Engineering” educational resources, managers, teachers and trainers in VET & HEI institutions will overcome existing bias, update their own skills and modify service provision in their institutions to be more inclusive and better support high growth engineering enterprises.

At regional level, the project will create a more enabling environment for female entrepreneurs and generate the knowledge sharing and feedback loops which will contribute to ongoing improvement and the development of further initiatives.

Engineering is a particularly important area of focus across Europe, not only because of the scale of the gender gap, but because of its ability to generate high growth businesses which drive innovation and economic development forward in Europe. For this reason, we believe EMERGE will not only generate significant impact at local level through the Regional Partnerships, but will capture the attention of policy makers and actors further up the ladder nationally and across Europe. In addition, the project has been designed to respond to a genuine need experienced by partner organizations and their counterparts in the vocational & Higher education, entrepreneurship support and economic development, all of whom have a vested interest in using the outputs and sustaining the impacts in the long term.

http://www.emergeengineers.eu

Visit the project Facebook page.

5 Interesting Apps and Tools for Engineering Students

With the Escola Project in mind we’ve been researching apps and websites designed for engineering students. Instead of having to carry bulky books, engineering students can now take advantage of the multiple apps and tools available. 

We’ve taken a look at some of the apps and tools that might be of interest :

Engineering Unit Converter
This is a comprehensive engineering unit converter with an intuitive spinning wheel interface. There is no ad, no hidden code, no need for a network connection, and the total size is about half a megabyte. 

Instructables
Not an app but a really cool website. Instructables is a community for people who like to make things. You can explore, share, and make your next project with them. You will be inspired by this one.

Wolfram Alpha
A very user friendly app, this one has been compared to Wikipedia for engineering students. Students input questions relevant to their field of study and the Alpha gives you the answer.

Electrodroid
This app is designed specifically for use by Electrical engineering and electronics student. The app serves as a database for electronic tools and references which can be used by students looking to learn or practicing engineers searching for immediate information when solving problems.

RealCalc Plus
RealCalc Plus is designed to look and operate exactly like a real hand-held calculator. It has all the standard scientific functions plus fractions, degrees/minutes/seconds, history, memories, unit conversions and constants. You can choose from a number of display styles and formats. It also supports binary, octal and hexadecimal calculations and has an optional RPN mode. 

If you have any suggestions for great apps or tools for engineers just let us know.

To find out more about the Escola Project and take the free, online course please visit the website.

Summer School with an Italian Twist

Note: This post was originally published on the Pixel Dust website on July 15th 2019.

It’s summer and everyone is thinking about their next holiday destination. Should it be Spain, Portugal, Greece or Italy? If you want to get some sun, enjoy a good meal and some great wine, any of these might do the trick. They might be the perfect place even when you’re planning to mix together learning, knowledge and fun. At least that’s what I did last week when I got to enjoy some Tuscan sun, eat the best pasta and shoot photos of some lovely people, all while learning how to write a research summary.

Earlier this year, I started collaborating with Momentum [Educate + Innovate] on various projects, one of them being the 2025Skills RSVP Project in Città della Pieve in Italy. RSVP stands for Read Summarise Verify and Publish and it’s an European Project aimed at young people, in order to encourage them to research and publish mini research papers on the top 10 skills that employers will be watching out for when taking on new employees in 2025, as identified by a report of the World Economic Forum called “The Future of Jobs” (January 2016). The 10 skills are Complex Problem Solving, Critical Thinking, Creativity, People Management, Coordinating with Others, Emotional Intelligence, Cognitive Flexibility, Service Orientation, Negotiation, Judgement and Decision Making.

Research is usually seen as an exclusive academic territory, but RSVP is planning to change that. Youth workers are encouraged to engage in research through small steps, read research in a more focused way and become better professionals by acquiring knowledge and engaging with stakeholders in a new way. So, we spent this past week learning about what it means to summarise a research study and what steps we need to take in order to publish a mini research paper.

The man behind all of this is Antoine Gambin from VisMedNet Association, who came up with the concept and structure of the RSVP project. He was joined by Dr Rabia Vezne from Associazione ValIda and an Assistant Professor at the Akdeniz University of Antalya, who designed most of the training content for research methods for the Community of Practice.

Antoine Gambin explaining what it feels like to immerse yourself in research.

Antoine Gambin explaining what it feels like to immerse yourself in research.

I attended the workshops both as participant and photographer. The sessions spanned five days and were structured to give us all the information needed for mining, research, reading and writing summaries and mini-papers. These mini-papers are called literature reviews and they compile at least 10 or 15 summaries of research studies, together with our own field research (questionnaires, interviews or focus groups).

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Participants from Malta, Italy, Germany, Turkey, Ireland, Poland, Bulgaria and Spain engaged in the workshops. We each had to choose one of the 10 skills mentioned above and write a mini-research paper about it, which needs to be submitted by the end of September. But everything starts with small steps, so during our training in Italy we first had to identify one research study worthy of reading, understanding, summarising and publishing on the Project platform. This was such an engaging task, because it allowed participants to familiarise with research articles, learn how to approach the subject and extract the main ideas from the paper.

We started every day with a short and fun morning energiser – consisting of mind & body exercises – followed by the training session headed by Dr. Rabia Vezne, and continued with a couple of hours dedicated to reading and writing.

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The skill I chose to write my mini-paper on is Creativity and I began with a summary for a small study conducted in Poland in 2015. I think the study is quite interesting, because it links employee creativity to overcoming role ambiguity in the hospitality business (hotel employees). Role ambiguity is a state of stress, confusion and uncertainty experienced by people working in hotels during service encounters with clients. The study concludes that the more creative you are in this business, the more immune you’ll be to role ambiguity, because you poses the skills to interact with each client in a unique way. So, hiring more creative people in guest-contact positions in hotels can have a better impact on the overall image of the organisation, considering the fact that these employees are often seen by clients as brand ambassadors, acting as the face of the company.

What I enjoyed about the whole RSVP experience was the perfect balance between learning and fun. Città della Pieve is a lovely small town in the province of Perugia, a stone throw away from Tuscany. Walking on the narrow old streets, tasting the heavenly wine and the delicious food will surely boost one’s creativity and good mood. The region is known for it’s saffron – which they use in a number of dishes -, Pecorino cheese and a great home made pasta called Pici. I can still remember the taste of an amazing Pecorino cheese & Saffron risotto I had at one of the local restaurants.

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Because we kept well to our writing schedules, on the fourth day of training we took a short trip to Tuscany. We went to see the hot springs of Bagno Vignoni, admire the great architecture of Pienza and taste the wine in Montepulciano. A few hours to see all these places is not enough, but I’m definitely planning a new trip here in the near future. It’s a place that needs to be experienced in a slow pace, with a piece of Pecorino cheese in one hand and a glass of wine in the other.

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By the end of the fifth day, everyone had their summaries published and peer-reviewed. Now, all we have to do is decide which direction each of the mini-papers will take and follow through with some more reading, summarising and actual field work. In my case, I might decide to follow with more research on the hospitality business, because it’s important to understand the meaning of creativity as a skill for employees working in this field.

These being said, I think this is the most beautiful place I ever travelled to in order to attend a workshop. A great combination of food, scenery, people and knowledge that I would repeat again in a heartbeat. Thank you, Antoine & Co.! Till next time! :)

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The New Data Set VET Guide to Data Skills Development

Context

In today’s digital, connected world, the savviness with which entrepreneurs employ information and communication technologies is essential to competitiveness. However, while digital communication skills have improved across the population generally, the ability to leverage information, especially data, is still underdeveloped. This is a lost opportunity: the volume of data that business owners have access to has grown exponentially and if “big” data is turned into actionable “smart” data, it can drive productivity, innovation and growth.

The EU states that “data-driven business models are the engine of Europe’s growth, industrial transformation and job creation”, which is part of its commitment to the digitalization of the economy.

One of the benefits is that businesses responding to smart data can improve products and services, which would, in turn, generate economic growth while contributing to social progress. However, micro-enterprises and SMEs, which make up 99% of businesses, still lag in digital technologies. Micro-enterprises and SMEs must develop data skills or risk being uncompetitive if the European economy is to flourish.

Nevertheless, there is an obstacle: today’s entrepreneurship teachers and trainers also face a data skills deficit. The majority entered the workforce before big data existed and there is currently no reliable source of training to help them boost their own skills. Prior to the start of the Data set project, East Belfast Enterprise conducted a small survey across 28 Local Enterprise Agencies in the Enterprise NI Network which found that “52% of business advisors said they were completely unaware of the range of data that is available and 70% rated their own knowledge of data skills as poor.”

About the VET Guide

The objective of the Guide is to raise awareness regarding the value of data skills for current and future entrepreneurs and increase knowledge of what contemporary data skills are and how they can be taught.

The Guide presents a comprehensive introduction to the role of data skills in VET and includes the results of a data skills survey, outlining the current skills and skills deficits of business trainers and advisors in participating countries, a review of the policy environment regarding data skills for entrepreneurs and data skills education, at both EU and national and regional level and an introduction to strategies for teaching data skills to entrepreneurs, including best practice examples and testimonies.

Needs Analysis Assessment

The basis of the VET Guide is a needs assessment, which is a systematic process for determining and addressing needs, or “gaps” between current conditions and desired conditions or “wants” of a specific group. The chosen method for conducting the Data Skills Needs of Business Trainers and Advisors in Ireland, Northern Ireland/UK, Spain, Netherlands and Denmark was an Internet survey. This method was selected because it allows for a more diverse survey sample as survey link was widely shared online, it is a low-cost, fast and efficient method and the extensive networks of the partners allowed for a ready-made pool of participants.

The survey was made up of 12 short questions, it had a 100% completion rate and it was completed by 33 Business Advisors from 5 countries (Ireland, Northern Ireland/UK, Spain, Netherlands and Denmark).

Needs Analysis Survey Results

Data Skills proficiency is quite low among business advisors, with only 21% of those surveyed feeling their skills are proficient.

The acquisition of Data Skills is of great importance to business advisors. 81% of those surveyed indicated that they would be interested in receiving/accessing free training and/or practical resources that they could use to teach entrepreneurs and SME owners about applicable data skills to their businesses.

Business Advisors today favour a Hands-On approach to providing business support, therefore, our data set materials should be very practical in nature and be solution-oriented.

Five key areas were identified where business advisors need upskilling with regard to digital skills and also 5 key areas which are particularly relevant for SME’s  – these are ranked in order of importance in the table below:

Data Skills for Business Advisors Data Skills for SME’s and Business Owners
Data/Information Analysis Application of Data to solve problems/inform business ideas
Reporting Skills Communication Skills
Application of Data to solve problems/inform business ideas Data/Information Analysis
Data Collection Creative Thinking  
Technical/Digital Skills Technical/Digital Skills

The VET Guide also includes a section that goes in-depth with regard to the Policy Environment regarding Data Skills for Entrepreneurs and Data Skills Education in the UK, Ireland, Spain, the Netherlands and Denmark, as well as a section dedicated to Strategies for Teaching Data Skills to Entrepreneurs.

The main goals of the VET Guide to Data Skills Development are to raise awareness of the value of data skills for business advisors and entrepreneurs and approaches for the delivery of data skills training and to lay the foundation for the data set Open Education Resources, which will consist of a curriculum, trainers’ guide and suite of interactive online learning materials which will enable teachers and trainers to enhance entrepreneurs’ data skills in classroom and small group training as well as for the data set Online Course, which will consist of a multilingual, interactive learning course in which entrepreneurs at all stages of entrepreneurial activity can learn more and put data skills into practice.

More detailed information regarding the findings of the online survey is available in the VET Guide, which can be accessed in its entirety on the project website.