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Spring 2009

Inside: Study medicine in Grenada

Courses and careers in science and engineering

IT’s Alive!

Engineering the next wave of intelligent robots

Mobile music

What’s behind Shazam’s phone magic?

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Making it better

Where virtual reality and medicine meet

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St. George’s University’s student body represents some of the world’s most passionate medical scholars. Here students gain unique insight into a variety of cultures, ways of thinking and an understanding of how medicine evolves on a global scale. s3TUDENTSANDFACULTYHAVECOMEFROMOVERCOUNTRIES s#LINICALTRAININGINTHE5NITED+INGDOMANDTHE5NITED3TATES s/NEOFTHEWORLDSMOSTACCREDITEDANDAPPROVEDMEDICALPROGRAMS s MILLIONTECHNOLOGICALLYADVANCEDCAMPUS

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www.sgu.edu/som 0800 1699061 ext. 280

07/05/2009 17:46:46


SPRING 2009

INSIDE: Study medicine in Grenada

Courses and careers in science and engineering

IT’S ALIVE!

Engineering the next wave of intelligent robots

It’s electric!

THE

This issue is a buzz with all careers pointing to electronics and IT where you can be forever in demand, because where would the world be without our electronic gadgets, circuits and know-how? We’ve found out how your career in electronics could help you reach the stars, build robots or help power the planet

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NEWS

What’s been happening in the big, wide world?

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GLOBAL OUTLOOK

Study medicine in Grenada

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THERAPEUTIC TECHNOLOGY How the virtual world can help cancer patients

NAME THAT SONG

IC

ILE MUS SLU MOBG

Behind the magic of Shazam

ELECTRIC CAREERS Have you got the right stuff for the UK’s space program?

SKILLING UP

We take a look at the Diploma in Engineering

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CLEAN, GREEN MACHINES

Are electric cars the future?

ASK THE EXPERTS Your questions answered

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SHINE A LIGHT The future of lasers

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The first UK Young Scientists’ and Engineers’ Fair

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FUTU

ROBOTICS

The next step for intelligent machines

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IN PROFILE

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GAME ON

Former apprentice of the year

The life of a coder

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OUT AND ABOUT

Top tips for an electric day out

EDITOR: MICHELLE MANNING - WAREHAM• MANAGING EDITOR • DERMOT WATSON bescenta is published by Educate Ltd, 91-93 Southwark Street, London SE1 OHX, 020-7902 1200. The opinions in the articles are those of the individual writer and not necessarily of Educate Ltd or any associated personnel. Educate Ltd, the Editor and Publishers of bescenta do not necessarily agree with the views expressed in this publication and do not accept responsibility for any personal opinions therein. All right reserved. The paper used for bescenta is made from sustainable wood pulp. To register for free copies of bescenta, please logon to www.bescenta.co.uk For advertising enquiries, please contact Educate on 020 7902 1200 bescenta is a product of scenta limited and supported by The Engineering and Technology Board

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11/05/2009 16:44:46


news

What’s happening? Bringing you the latest news from the worlds of science, engineering and technology

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news

Project launched to help females get to the forefront of astronomy A new initiative, called ‘She is an Astronomer’, has been launched to ensure that women are aware of all the opportunities that could await them as part of a career in astronomy. Part of the Year of Astronomy 2009, the aim is to address the gender imbalance in the subject and to make careers an option for everyone talented enough, irrespective of gender. Commenting on the initiative Dr Helen Walker, the Chair of the project, said: “Approximately a quarter of all professional astronomers are women, although there is wide geographical diversity, with some countries having none and other countries having more than 50 per cent female professional astronomers. However, in all countries, these numbers drop towards more senior levels, suggesting that scientific careers are heavily affected by social and cultural factors, and are not determined solely by ability.” Figures from the UK show that even though the number of female astronomy postgraduates had jumped from 5 per cent in 1992 to 35 per cent in 2003, the percentage of professors had increased by only one percent from 2 to 3 in the same period. UK Minister for Science and Innovation Lord Drayson, who attended the launch event, said: “I thoroughly support the ‘She is an Astronomer’ project. We need to ensure there are no limits to the boundaries of space research and that there are opportunities for all working in this exciting field.” Find out more at www.astronomy2009.org

Eyes wide shut A researcher from Tel Aviv University, Israel, working in partnership with University of Rochester, has conducted tests on two groups of teenagers to compare the effects of playing action videogames with other games. One group played action games while the other played The Sims 2, a non-action alternative. After 50-hours of game time, the researchers found a 43 per cent (on average) improvement in the eye sight of the action video game group. The group had an enhanced ability to discern between subtle differences in shades of grey. “As scientists and clinicians, we’d normally think about improving this aspect of vision by changing something in the optics of the eye, through surgery for example. But we were able to show that action-oriented video games can improve the brain’s ability to process visual information. The effects seem to last months after the game playing has stopped,” said Dr. Uri Polat of Tel Aviv University’s Goldschlager Eye Institute, who also explores the visual systems of patients at Tel Ha Shomer Hospital’s Chaim Sheba Medical Center in Israel.

Running on sunshine A team of engineers from Cambridge University have designed ‘Bethany’ - a solar powered car capable of up to 60 mph. The vehicle is being prepared for the World Solar Challenge which takes place in Australia in October. The event involves a 3,000km sprint across the Australian Outback. When finished, the car will weigh only 170kg and will require the power equivalent of a

50th of a normal vehicle. The team hope that elements of their design will one day make it into standard, production line vehicles. Find out more at www.cuer.co.uk

New technology reshapes the search for alien life A team from the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has pioneered a new technique to look for alien life. The team has developed a method, which doesn’t look for alien life directly, but instead looks at planet landscapes and tries to identify signs of influence from life forms. Focusing on the idea of ‘chirality’ or handedness, NIST believes that – as substances critical to life favour a particular handedness – it may be able to detect the influence of this chirality from a great distance. Commenting on the technique T.A. Germer, a physicist from NIST, commented: “You don’t want to limit yourself to looking for specific materials like oxygen that Earth creatures use, because that makes assumptions about what life is…But amino acids, sugars, DNA — each of these substances is either right- or left-handed in every living thing.” The team plan to refine the technique on Earth, before gazing at faraway planets: “We need to be sure we get a signal from our own planet before we can look at others,” he says. “But what’s neat about the concept is that it is sensitive to something that comes from the process behind organic self-assembly, but not necessarily life as we know it,” concluded Germer.

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11/05/2009 16:13:46


NEWS

Come join us It’s never been easier to meet new friends, find help with homework or share your love of all things science and engineering.

Have you started using bescenta groups yet? If not, why not? Chances are that you’ve already used Bebo, Facebook and Myspace? Well, bescenta groups are similar, You can talk to friends about hobbies, homework or just chat – plus you can find new people to join the discussion or ask about careers too. It’s your space to use how you like.

Find people just like you You can look for friends or people to join your groups. Or maybe you just want to find another bescenta user who shares your interests, so you can view their homepage, leave a message on their board or read and comment on their blog?

Meet the groupies Need some help getting on your way with groups? Or maybe you just want to share your bescenta group experience? If so, you need to talk to a groupie. Lucky for you we have our very own, dedicated bescenta groupies on hand to listen and advise. Grab a groupie today at www.bescenta.co.uk/groupies Find out more and come play at www.bescenta.co.uk/groups

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© Rolmat | Dreamstime.com 06/05/2009 12:50:26


SKILLING UP

International focus

S

t. George’s University is an international centre of education located in Grenada, West Indies. Founded over 30 years ago, St. George’s gives students a global educational experience unlike that from any other university.

International Perspective St. George’s University actively explores and initiates worldwide partnerships, and has drawn faculty and students from more than 140 countries. With this international focus, students are given the opportunity to develop the distinctive social and professional skills they need to practice medicine on a global scale.

diploma or GCSE credentials are placed into the appropriate term based on their individual qualifications. Medical students may earn dual degrees within the School of Medicine, such as the MD/ MSc programme and the MD/MPH programme. Students have access to the on-campus Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation which draws researchers from around the world and collaborates with prestigious North American, European, Caribbean and African institutions.

Grenada Campus

More than 7,300 graduates have pursued careers in all specialties and sub-specialties across the globe.

The wireless-enhanced, state-of-the-art True Blue Campus is an architectural masterpiece on the southwestern corner of Grenada, on a peninsula overlooking the Caribbean Sea. The diverse campus has recently seen the construction of more than 50 new buildings, including a library, anatomy labs, dormitories, lecture halls and a research institute.

Curriculum

SGU Faculty

St. George’s University provides a range of entry options and an extensive, firm foundation to students with varied academic qualifications in the four- to seven-year programmes that lead to the Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree. Students presenting Advanced Level, IB

Medical students benefit from a low student-tofaculty ratio in the Basic Sciences years. St. George’s University boasts a strong and experienced faculty. In the Basic Sciences years, students learn from more than 150 fulltime faculty members augmented by at least

Successful Graduates

150 Visiting Scholars each term. In the Clinical Sciences, students are taught by over 600 clinical faculty members in over 52 affiliated clinical centres. Nobel Prize winners sit on the University’s academic board, and professors and visiting scholars hail from esteemed institutions worldwide, including Harvard University and the Rockefeller Institute.

Support Services Student Support Services are deeply ingrained into the culture of the St. George’s University community. The Student Success Division helps students adapt their learning styles to various teaching methods with course tutorials, personal evaluations, and seminars in time management, study skills and note taking. For more information on St. George’s University, visit www.sgu.edu.

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SLUG virtual care

Therapeutic Technology

New technology is at the forefront of medical advancement and training. Radiotherapy, for example, has benefitted from the development of virtual environments, making for better – and cheaper – care

O

ne of the best and most rewarding things we can do is to cure people or make them feel better. Technology – in the hands of the right people – can help with this.

Radiotherapy Take radiotherapy, for example. Although it’s been with us for a hundred years, developments in electronics have moved the field so far along, that it’s not just incredibly important, it’s also right at the forefront on new technologies. We spoke to Caroline Doolin, a radiotherapy lecturer based at the Faculty of Health and Social Care Sciences which is run jointly by Kingston University and St George’s University, London, to find out more. Kingston and St Georges’s Universities are numbered amongst some of the leading centres of radiotherapy training. With funding

from the Department of Health, the university plays host to VERT (virtual environment for radiotherapy training), a simulated environment which introduces students to radiotherapy without having to go ‘hands on’ into the real world. The Therapeutic Radiography degree course BSc (Hons) is fully accredited by the College of Radiographers, which means that successful completion means that you are on your way to registration with the Health Professions Council. So what exactly does therapeutic radiography involve? “Radiotherapy is the use of high energy x-rays to treat cancer cells. Therapeutic radiographers are responsible for the preparation and delivery of radiotherapy to patients who have cancer,” explained Caroline. Students attending the course come from a wide variety of backgrounds, but generally have at least one science subject. Caroline herself is a prime example: “I took physics, biology, AS maths and political studies.

Typically a student will come in with a mixture of A-levels but generally there will be a science subject in there,” she explains. Those on the therapeutic radiography course are at the forefront of using the latest technology in the fight against cancer, but also have a large degree of patient contact. Directly looking after patients’ physical and emotional needs is a large part of the job.

Practical and theoretical With a course of study split half and half between theory and practice, the course covers core ‘themes’ of biological sciences, physical sciences and radiographic science and practice. There is also a series of specialist modules which are specific to therapeutic radiography; oncology and cancer care, for example. Cutting edge technology plays a key part in this. VERT, for example, provides a key stepping stone in understanding how the

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virtual SLUG care

“One of the things I take away is that it’s an incredibly rewarding career. Every time we meet a patient we do something positive for them”

treatment works. “It’s a tool that we use to assist the students to better understand the principles of radiotherapy and also to gain practical skills before they go into clinical practice,” explains Caroline. “The programme at Kingston has always been designed so the students have two academic terms before they are faced with their first clinical experience. Before we had VERT, their first contact with a radiotherapy machine – which is called a linear accelerator – would have been with the real thing, which can be a bit daunting. VERT really helps them gain some of those practical skills in a safe environment,” she continued. Given that ‘real’ linear accelerators cost around £2 million, the fact that VERT is a fraction of the price is a big deal. Even better, it won’t become outdated quickly as can be the case with an actual machine. And it’s not just with training environments that technology comes to

play a part. It’s an integral part of the everchanging therapeutic radiography landscape. Caroline explains: “The technology has changed enormously, and continues to change. That’s one of the exciting things… you’re continually learning. Our practice is never static. It’s something which is really suited to people who have a good understanding of science and a real interest in technology. For instance, one of the things that have changed dramatically is the use of imaging, both at the preparation stage and at what we call verification (which confirms that the radiography is being delivered effectively) we can now use that to see that we’re delivering the best treatment.”

Caring for the sick Following completion of the three year degree course, most students go on to work in the NHS, providing vital care for cancer patients. There

are, however, other options: “There are one or two private centres in the UK and they tend to employ more experienced radiographers,” said Caroline. It’s also the case that it’s expanding, with experts predicting that by 2016 the number of radiotherapy treatments required by patients will almost double. But what exactly is the best thing about working in radiotherapy? We asked Caroline. “One of the things that I take away is that it’s an incredibly rewarding career. Every time we meet a patient we do something positive for them. That may mean that we know we can cure their disease. Or - in patients that we can’t cure because they’ve been diagnosed at a later stage – I know I’m going to improve their quality of life. One of the misconceptions about radiotherapy is that it’s depressing, but it’s not at all. The vast amount of patients we treat we are aiming to cure.” Find out more: www.kingston.ac.uk

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UN I V ER S IT Y O F WALE S INS T IT U T E , C A R D I FF ATHR O FA P R I FY S GO L C Y MR U, C A E RDYDD

Cardiff School of Art & Design I chose this course because UWIC has the best facilities for ceramics paired with an amazing city. It also has European status as one of the leading courses. Since graduating I have been travelling Europe, and displaying work in a few galleries. I’m also looking into jobs within the area of events management. Whilst studying I was given the opportunity to study in San Diego for six months as part of a foreign exchange programme - it was a once in a life time opportunity!

Cardiff School of Health Sciences I chose UWIC as it has an excellent reputation. It is in a good location and I’ve heard so many great things about the friendliness and support of all the staff who work at UWIC. I have always been interested in nutrition, and wanting to be a nutritionist I chose this course as it suited my needs and interests, it also has a good programme structure over the three years.

I think Cardiff is really an amazing, compact city; shopping, great nightlife, live music, intimate coffee bars and only a 20 minute drive to beautiful white sandy beaches!

Having grown up in Cardiff I think it is a great place to live, it’s full of opportunities and is expanding fast, and as a student it is all reasonably cheap to enjoy student living.

Kate Livesey - BA (Hons) Ceramics graduate 1st class honours

What I enjoy most about being a student is the new experiences, meeting new people and also being treated as an adult. My career ambition is to qualify as a nutritionist and open my own business, maybe move abroad and enjoy life. Hannah Cashin - BSc (Hons) Public Health Nutrition

Cardiff School of Education UWIC was my choice of university because it had the course that I was interested in teamed with excellent sports facilities. I am pursuing a career in teaching within primary school specialising in sport; this course covers the modules needed to proceed onto the PGCE course. There are many aspects to Cardiff which are attractive; from the variety of shops to the excellent night life. I am a huge fan of rugby and when the Welsh rugby team have a game in the millennium stadium there is an electric atmosphere, Cardiff is a terrific place to live. I work hard as a student but I also enjoy my free time. Every week night is a student night and it’s a great way of meeting new people and having new and often crazy experiences. As a student I have had the chance to join a sports team which has been a highlight and I feel I have grown as a person from my time as a student. Hannah Marsh - BA (Hons) Educational Studies and Sport & Physical Activity

Cardiff School of Management I had heard positive things about UWIC from friends that had studied here previously and UWIC offered the course I was interested in so it was a perfect choice for me. I wanted to study a course with a wide spectrum of modules involved within the Hospitality Industry. I felt studying Hospitality Management would give me more opportunities in the future. Cardiff is a fun, energetic, friendly and vibrant City! It offers something for everyone to enjoy! Being a student has allowed me to become more independent… and the opportunity to enjoy the nightlife with my friends!!! When I graduate I hope to become an Events Planner. I love to travel and experience new cultures so hopefully this course will allow me to do both. Katharine Vesey - BA (Hons) Hospitality Management

Cardiff School of Sport

Further information

uwic.ac.uk

029 2041 6044

I chose UWIC because of my interest in sport. It offered an ideal environment in which to further develop my sporting skills through the impressive facilities and coaching available. Sports Coaching appealed to me because I have a keen interest in sports at grass roots level which has been nurtured through my own experiences and academic study. Cardiff is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city with easy access to sea, mountains and country. It has all the facilities of a large city with a comfortable, welcoming feel of a ‘home town’. What I enjoy most about being a student is the freedom of independent learning alongside a great social life. After graduation I aim to play professional rugby for the Cardiff Blues and hope to put my coaching degree into practice at various levels. Alex Murphy - BSc (Hons) Sport Coaching

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06/05/2009 13:45:11


UN IVERSI T Y O F WALE S INST IT U T E , C A R D I F F AT H R O FA P R I F Y S G O L C Y M R U, CA E R DYDD

Cardiff’s Calling!

Open Days: uwic.ac.uk/opendays 029 2041 6042 Bursaries Available! uwic.ac.uk/bursaries

Further information

uwic.ac.uk

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06/05/2009 13:59:33


a 21st century centrut apprenticeship apprenticeship

“It’s the SAS of apprenticeships only the good enough get through... they are very, very good”

only the best need apply

STFC Rutherford Appleton, one of the world’s foremost centres for scientific research

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A 21ST CENTURY APPRENTICESHIP

A 21st century apprenticeship

Spage age technology

ne of the foremost facilities of its kind, the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) has a global reputation for excellence and every year they look for electronics apprentices. MICHELLE MANNING-WAREHAM spoke to Joe Hoskins, technical training coordinator for STFC RAL to see what kind of people they are looking for.

RAL staff, including apprentices, are involved with a large number of the projects located there. Hoskins says: “The Laboratory’s electronics side is front-end level, so a lot of the equipment we build has never been made before. It’s all developmental research type of electronics - mostly what is known as fast read out digital and analogue electronics, in that field. It’s very, very front of house technology, and there are spin-offs of what we make here which later go into production for commercial equipment. Some of the spin-offs may eventually be used in new television sets or other forms of commercial equipment, etc. We are way ahead of the field in electronics high-level design.“

O

Finding the best Chosen electronics apprentices can work alongside the 1,200 STFC scientific and support staff that are based at the RAL. Hoskins explains: “For anybody to become an apprentice at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory they have to reach a certain standard in education - at present that’s five GCSEs at level C (or preferably better) including Maths, English, (double) science subjects and possibly one in more of the skilled subjects, like resistant materials. “Once they’ve achieved that, they can apply to us to become an apprentice. They would then go through a system of selection – a psychometric test is organised first of all and if successful, applicants come along to an interview. If they’re successful in that, they are then taken on as an apprentice on a fixed term four-year contract.”

an international centre RAL hosts a variety of facilities which many international scientists utilise to further their research. It hosts ISIS, the brightest spallation neutron source in the world – ISIS uses neutron scattering to study the structure and behaviour of materials. The Laboratory also hosts a series of ‘super microscopes’, known as the synchrotron light source Diamond, and houses the Vulcan and Astra lasers as part of the Central Laser Facility. It also facilitates a vast range of other resources and services in particle physics, microelectronics, atmospheric sciences, space science, spectroscopy and renewable energy research.

Space Science RAL has been involved in over 150 space missions in recent years, including the high profile ESA Mars Express and SMART-1 missions keeping the Space Science and Technology Department at the forefront of UK space research. As well having 250 members of staff to support the programmes, RAL provides worldleading research and technology development, space testing facilities, instrument and mission design, and studies of the science and technology requirements of the new missions. Hoskins said: “On the space side, we have an apprentice designing multilayer printed circuit boards - and when I say multilayer, I am talking about 8+ layers. This work is carried out to Space Flight Standards, which has to meet some very stringent rules because it is likely to be flown in rockets or in satellites.”

Learning programme RAL follows an apprentice programme that will give its students a well rounded basis in engineering as a whole. After successful completion of the course, apprentices earn the National award, the PEO, the National Certificate and the NVQ3. Many go on to Higher National too.

Straight in at the deep end Hoskins explained: “Electronic Apprentices would do a ‘block release period’ in the first year at Oxford and Cherwell College for about 36 - 37 weeks, where they do what is known as Performing Engineering Operations (PEO) programme, which includes the first year of the Ordinary National Certificate, obtaining the National Award at the end of that block period. They would study engineering as well as electronics, covering mechanical and electrical work to get a broad based training during that block release period. “After they’ve completed that first year block release, they come back to the Laboratory to continue their training on a daily basis - four days a week and on the fifth day, they go to back to the college to complete the National Certificate during their second year. “After they’ve completed that, they have the opportunity to undertake the Higher National Certificate (HNC) if they so wish, although they would have already met the minimum standards. They’re also doing an NVQ 3 during the period they’re back with us, as well as following a more intensive company training plan, where the specific training needs of the Laboratory are added.”

Pulling in the haul Hoskins is proud of the scheme. He said: “We’re in the top three in the county. There’s very little between anyone of us in what we do. There is BMW who have a tremendous training scheme up in Oxford and we work closely with them. They are probably the best in the motor industry and we’re probably best in the electronics and engineering side of the area. Thames Water is very good on their side of engineering - there’s nothing between us really.” So if you’re thinking of taking up an apprenticeship position, the RAL would like to hear from you. For details of their apprenticeship scheme, go to: www.apprentices.stfc.ac.uk/Home.aspx

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08/05/2009 13:05:19


SKILLING UP

“It teaches about the fundamentals and theories of engineering in an applied manner and will bring it to life in the classroom� Bill Sutton from Semta (the Sector Skills Council for Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies) is the project manager of the qualification

An all aluminum V-8 engine that incorporates some of the latest technologies, including variable valve timing that can adjust both intake and exhaust timing between two settings: One for economy and the other for speed.

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08/05/2009 13:07:38


SKILLING UP

a NEw Qualification for a new age You may have heard about the Diploma in engineering, But what does it actually involve? DERMOT WATSON finds out

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ometimes thinking about what kind of job you want to do can be a pain. Even if you think you know what’s right, how do you get there? And, how can you be sure that you’ve made the right decision before committing yourself to years of study? …and that’s not even thinking about the competition. To be the best candidate, not only do you have to have the right education, but you’ll need experience as well. Luckily, a new qualification is available that can help you navigate through the often murky waters on route to your dazzling new career. Say ‘hello’ to the new Diploma in Engineering. Not only does it give you a solid grounding in the fundamental theory you’ll need to become a leading engineer, but it will also give you the kind of experience to put you at the front of the employment line. We spoke to Bill Sutton form Semta (the Sector Skills Council for Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies) who is the project manager of the qualification.

Can you tell us why this qualification has come along now? Young people have so many opportunities, and engineering has to become visible in the classroom and the diploma can do that. Part of the ‘issue’ in talking about engineering is that it’s so wide a subject, covering everything from car design to biotechnology, and that it exists at so many levels.

Will the new qualification be able to take all of these on board? Yes. What we need is something that articulates the huge and wide world of engineering…from coming in as a craft worker right up to being a professor. The qualification is at three levels: the foundation level, which is a gentle introduction; the higher, which is the meat and drink of apprenticeships; and the advanced which will prepare students for undergraduate study at university.

As part of this [the qualification] we look at the past and then look at the future, including carbon fibres, electronics, photonics…the kinds of subjects that people don’t see as engineering.

What kinds of institution would a student attend for the diploma? We’re using a consortia model. A typical one may be a further education college combined with a number of specialist engineering schools, possibly with a connection to higher education…maybe a university. There are currently 62 of these consortia across England authorised to teach the diploma in engineering this September. A further 72 (with conditions) have already qualified for next year. There will be common timetabling: on one day we will do principal learning. So, students in the age-range within the area will go to that department on that day. For the first time we’ll have pre-sixteens going to FE (further education) colleges – which is a new thing – and FE tutors going into secondary schools. Some bodies, such as Dyson, Toyota and JCB are building their own academies.

I presume that these will have ‘tailored’ programmes qualifying students to work in that particular industry? Absolutely. The reason that JCB are building their own academy is that they can’t get enough entrants into their apprenticeship programmes. There are three components in the diploma: Principal learning – the fundamentals of engineering – is set in stone. The second part, generic learning, contains a number of components. The students will do a project – set by an employer – to a laid-down specification. They also do something called ‘functional skills’ - English, maths, ICT - which will replace key skills in apprenticeships in 2010. So already, if you bring a diploma graduate onto your apprenticeship programme, you – as an employer – are saving time.

Another part is called personal learning and thinking skills. This is ‘employability’ by any other name. The last bit is additional and specialist learning (ASL). This is meant to broaden and deepen the student. If, for example, the student wanted to work for BMW or Honda, they would be looking at automotive systems, CAD/CAM or robotics…something applicable to that area.

So these students may be more ‘industry ready’? I believe that diploma graduates will be far better prepared than present graduates. Not only will they be better prepared by having studied engineering theoretically, but they’ll have been out there, ‘clocked on’, and have been in a workplace. An employer can be confident that when they turn up for an interview, they’re not going to leave after three weeks.

So, what would be the single best thing that these diplomas offer to prospective students? If he or she wants to read engineering, there is nothing better in the secondary school syllabus. It teaches about the fundamentals and theories of engineering in an applied manner and will bring it to life in the classroom.

…and it’s also good news for employers? Yes. It’s a great way to get new blood in. The advantages are that you can see a prospective candidate for a job for 10 or 20 days (or even longer) rather than just for an hour.

And can employers have input into the qualification? Yes, the employer can sit on the Board of Governors and ask for additional specialist training. They can even sponsor their own qualification. Find out more at www.engineeringdiploma.com.

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11/05/2009 16:14:13


from SLUG idea to product

Details behind the Magic

Behind every great gadget you’ve ever owned there are probably months – or even years – of research and development. Here, we find out what brings ideas to life

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08/05/2009 11:42:26


from idea to product SLUG

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ou may not have heard of a company called ARM, but if you’ve got some cutting edge technology – from mobile phones to computer game consoles – there’s a good chance you’re benefitting from their expertise. They’re responsible for dreaming up a lot of the ‘blueprint’ technology that helps push forward the world of electronics. To find out more, DERMOT WATSON spoke to Simon Ford (pictured), a Staff Research Engineer who works in research and development for ARM. Simon studied electronics at Southampton University before starting at ARM on a summer placement six years ago.

ARM technology and thinking features in a lot of high-end electronic products, but a lot of people probably haven’t heard of you. Would you agree? In some ways we’re quite anonymous but we work with all the manufacturing companies that people have heard of. They may not have heard of us but they use our stuff.

what’s it like working in r&d for ARM? The company has a lot of product engineering groups who work on the next products graphic design, processors and tools – but our role in R&D is to take a wider view across the business so we can understand everything going on and can look for upcoming opportunities and problems that could arise. For example, there will be a lot of problems in the future with standby power for deep submicron processes…i.e. when your processor isn’t doing

anything it’s still consuming a lot of power. We go off, do a bit of research and work out how we could solve these problems, either by ourselves or by working with other people. We then get it to a point where we know how to ‘productise’ something and just do it.

So when it comes to having an overview of new technologies your department must be in a good position? Yes, certainly from the technical aspects. But we also have technical marketing people who are out with customers trying to understand

what sorts of problems they’re seeing. If you’re talking to someone like Nintendo, they’ll probably be thinking about their next games console. They’ll say: ‘We think it needs to do this and that’…that sort of marketing requirement comes back to us. So it’s not driven by technology, it’s being driven by the market. But it can also come from technical observation and opportunities. If we can see a problem coming up and can come up with a solution, that could make it a great product. There is also the other element, which is keeping the status quo. If people are to keep using our processors – for example – we have to have a solution for the problem.

You have an electronics background, is that representative? Backgrounds are mostly in electronics, computer science, physics and maths. But we’ve had people coming from all sorts of areas. A lot of our graphics people, for example, are just talented people playing

around on computers and are really good at doing 3D graphics. A lot of our technical marketing and field application engineers started out as engineers in the company. After a few years they decided they wanted to start flying around the world, meeting customers, understanding their requirements and helping them build their technology. That works quite well because the engineers know a lot about what we do and have a lot of credibility with customers. When you’ve got someone with that degree of technical insight, you’ve got a great opportunity to see what they’re really saying.

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08/05/2009 09:59:02


SLUG idea to product from

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Can you tell us a little about rapid prototyping, which you use at ARM? At some point (in designing) you have to make a cost/risk trade off. If it’s going to take you two months to work out if you’re “internet iron” is interesting or not, you’re probably not going to bother. But if you can knock it up in an hour, then you may say, ‘yes, it’s actually rubbish, but it’s not about whether I can turn it on, it’s whether I can detect if I’ve left it on.’ It’s that kind of rapid iteration that is really attractive. You can come up with something, decide what’s wrong, then iterate. The idea is that the risk you have to take to experiment is a lot lower, so it opens it up to a lot more people.

Can you tell us what is the best thing about you job? Have you ever heard the saying you learn a new thing every day?...well it’s true and that’s why I enjoy this job. Because the company deals with such a wide range of companies, you get to find out about different types of technologies. The people you get to work with are very talented.

What do you think you’ll be doing in 10 years time? I’d like to stay here for a lot longer as it’s a really great company to work with. But looking at my future, I’d like to be involved with leading the new technology developments. I would also like to spend time looking for new business opportunities.

Can you tell us about some recent projects you’ve been working on?

What do you do outside of work?

I designed the ARM neon architecture – a multimedia processing architecture – which is going into the next generation of mobile phones and laptops that you’ll be able to buy. It means that you can run multimedia applications on portable devices…this will be the kind of technology that will enable you to do that. It is going to be installed into various products very soon.

At the moment I’ve been trying to start a new division in the company, which has been taking up a lot of my time. Outside of work I play the drums when I get the chance. Living in Cambridge gives me the chance to do a lot of recreational activities. I spend time cycling around Cambridge taking in the beautiful scenery the town has to offer. Find out more at www.arm.com.

“Have you heard the saying that you learn a new thing every day?... well it’s true and that’s why I enjoy this job”

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11/05/2009 16:16:10


Autumn 2008

Your complete guide to higher educatioN

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06/05/2009 14:03:53


SLUG mobile music

“There are over five million tracks in our database at the moment and it grows every week�

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SLUG mobile music

ShAZAM! anD YOUR MUSIC’S THERE Have you ever been listening to the radio, heard a song and wondered,what band sings that track? Now, thanks to some clever electronics you need never be in the dark again

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hazam can bring you old and new music to where you are with their patented music recognition technology – just let your mobile phone do the listening. MICHELLE MANNINGWAREHAM spoke to a Shazam magician to show you how it’s done.

Mobile magic wand Hear something you like on the radio, at a nightclub or party? No matter where you are and if you have your mobile, you can use music recognition technology to have the title and artist of the song sent back to you as a text. You open Shazam, either by dialling the number or choosing its icon on your mobile, and let it listen to the music. That ‘bite’ of music is then transfigured into an algorithm that is sent to Shazam’s massive database of five million ‘tagged’ tracks. Shazam is available to over 500 million mobile phone users worldwide and is accessible in the UK from a Shazam ID icon already provided by your operator, by downloading it from www.shazam.com or by dialling 2580 (an Interactive Voice Recognition [IVR] service) from your 3G mobile. Once you are armed with it, you can simply hold your phone to the music for 10 to 15 seconds – enough time for the Java ‘smart’ client application to identify the track using a process based on a unique ‘fingerprint’ and then returning the found info as an SMS to the client. We spoke to the man at Shazam, Mobile Software Engineer Michael May, about the magic that happens behind the scenes. He said: “We’ve got database administrators

a service where you just hold the phone up but now they’ve moved into full applications on the mobile phone. So the idea is that we write the applications that then go out to the manufacturers: Samsung and Motorola are two we’re working on at the moment. We write the application for their phones often before the phones are released to the public. “We are writing applications for these phones so when you buy that phone you’ve got your upgrade. You’ll turn it on and you’ll look through all the little things it has: you’ve got your address book and whatever else and there you’ve got the Shazam logo. And when you click on it you can tag tracks straight away. Often operators will include that in the package price so you won’t actually be paying for it.” Shazam operates under different names, depending on the operator. For instance, it is known as TrackID™ with 3 or ‘Song Identity’ with Alltel – the fifth largest wireless telecom company in the United States.

that manage this massive database of tracks as well as all the other related information about the music itself, and then you’ve got to get that music in the database in the first place.” “There’s a whole team dedicated to just uploading music all the time, making sure we have a copy of it and getting it tagged. There are over five million tracks in our database at the moment and it grows every week.” Not only do you receive a text with the relevant information about the song you heard, but the Shazam IT team are working on providing more: “Some of the things we’re looking include better integration, so when you start the application and it uploads the sound, you don’t just get back the tag. You don’t just get this is Mr Brightside by The Killers, you get the artwork for it and maybe you can download the lyrics if you want, you can buy the ringtone and you can buy the track itself. You can link off to your favourite supplier of digital music, like iTunes for example to buy the tag, that’s the sort of thing that happening right now.

Moving forward

SIMPLE BEGINNINGS It was back in August 2002 when Shazam Entertainment Ltd launched the world’s first music recognition technology. Michael expands: “It was two guys out of America who had this idea (apparently one of them was in the shower one day and didn’t know what a song playing on the radio was) and thought it would be really good if you could somehow have a system that could find out what was playing and thought a mobile phone was good because you always have them on you, and it already has a microphone on it.” Then it was a matter of writing the technology. “Eventually he found someone who could do the algorithm to match music,” said Michael. And now the company is growing. Michael explained how Shazam is getting to the next level: “They were initially doing

The product has now taken another step into the internet. A complimentary music search service has been launched to provide users with an additional way of ‘Shazaming’ the music database. Users can use this service (through the web or WAP) to purchase mobile content like ringtones, wallpapers, full track downloads and even CDs. Michael says where the company is going: “In the future, there is talk about things with new devices with more interesting capabilities, like some of the stuff that Google is coming up with. Once ‘real phone’ is on the market, we’ll start looking at those. There’s a whole swathe of new mobile devices coming out. Windows mobile development is now producing consumer products and not just for business. The Blackberry is a good example so we’re writing for Blackberry now…”

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07/05/2009 11:48:15


THE BIG BANG

Making a big bang If you were one of the lucky thousands who made their way to the QE II Conference Centre, London to visit The Big Bang in March, you’ll know how great it was

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id you Bend it Like Beckham? Did you get down with the Punk Scientists? Maybe you built a tower with Rolls-Royce? Or maybe you thought about the energy challenge with Shell? With over 134 exhibits, workshops and shows, there were loads of experiments and demos to see - plus things to build, cars to drive and TV programmes to make. Isn’t it amazing how science and engineering are everywhere - and how it will change your future? If you did make it to The Big Bang in London, we may have some photos of you on the website - or even some video footage. So, check out www.thebigbangfair.co.uk and see if you’re there. Even if you didn’t come, have a look on the site anyway - it’s a fantastic chance to see what went on. Good news. The Big Bang 2009 was so good - we’ve decided that we have to do it again. We’re planning on an even bigger bang in Manchester in 2010!

Come along and you’ll see tonnes of exciting and important engineering and scientific achievements…plus you get the chance to quiz the engineers and scientists who make it all happen. There really is nothing like it. And you might even discover the ideal career for you! What’s more, there’ll be loads of amazing science and engineering projects on show from students just like you! Like last year, schools and clubs right across the UK will show-off the projects they have entered into various competitions - including the National Science and Engineering Competition. Plus you’ll see who won and why. Sound like fun? Well why don’t you and your classmates have a go? Visit www.thebigbangfair.co.uk to find out more. So, make sure you don’t miss out on The Big Bang in 2010. If your school isn’t planning a visit – ask your parents or guardian to bring you. The Big Bang 2010…bring it on! www.thebigbangfair.co.uk

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07/05/2009 15:40:19


Be unique Bath Spa University

could help you change your future. We offer teaching of the highest quality across a wide range of courses, from Foundation Degrees to Master’s programmes. We provide an inspiring and supportive environment – our campuses are stunning. And, of course, Bath is a superb city.

To find out more about a unique University where each student is valued as an individual, contact us now. Tel: 01225 875 875 email: enquiries@bathspa.ac.uk www.bathspa.ac.uk

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let’s change our future 06/05/2009 14:21:35


ASK THE EXPERT

Your questions answered From atoms to energy efficiency, our experts come to grips with your questions

I

f you have a question that only an expert can answer, then send it to us and it could be published in the magazine. if it is published you could win Amazon vouchers. Following a fantastic response last time, we’re giving away two of these vouchers.

The Question: Our first question comes from Nichola Crawford, Head of the Science Dept at Canon Lee School in York. She asked: “During a Year 11 chemistry lesson this week about atomic structure, one student asked me if it would ever be possible to reach a situation where all atoms had a ‘full outer shell of electrons’....any suggestions for a suitable answer?”

The Answer: Expert, Dr Paul Murray, a Postdoctoral Research Assistant from Chemical Connection, School of Chemistry, University of Edinburgh, provided an answer: “In actual fact, there are very few elements to be found as atoms in our world. Those that do exist as atoms are the Noble Gases (Inert Gases - Helium, Argon etc.) which do indeed have a full outer shell. Everything else is either an ion (which has also acquired a full outer shell by either donating or accepting electrons) or part of a molecule (e.g. methane, where each C-H bond shares two electrons between a C and an H.”

The Question: The second question comes from David Hall in Northamptonshire: “Is it cheaper and more energy efficient to keep water in an immersion tank at a constant high temperature, or is it better to allow it to cool down in-between uses and brought up to temperature when needed?”

Answering all your atomic questions The Answer: A spokesperson from the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University provided an answer: “Assuming that all of the other factors remain constant for example the energy price over time, the latter option will be the better one, i.e. it is cheaper and more efficient to let it cool down and warm up when needed. Where there is a difference in temperature between two bodies, the heat energy is transferred from the hotter body (i.e. the water in the tank) to that

of the cooler body (i.e. the tank and its surroundings). The rate of the heat energy transfer is proportional to the temperature differential between the two bodies: the higher the tank temperature, the higher will be the loss. Less energy will be lost if you can minimise this differential over a period of time by allowing the water to cool between uses.”

What about you? If you have a question only an expert can answer, email us at editor@scenta.co.uk.

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06/05/2009 14:19:46


you can make the difference Nursing Midwifery Optometry Radiography Speech and Language Therapy

A degree in the health professions can take many forms yet they all have one thing in common. Excellent career prospects. Because we have one of the best graduate employment records in the country. Add to this a career where you can make a real difference to the community in which you work and the prospects are even more rewarding. To register for our Inside Health information evenings visit our website. Or call 020 7040 5780.

www.city.ac.uk/insidehealth

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06/05/2009 14:23:36


the future’s bright

BrighTer and Better MICHELLE MANNING-WAREHAM takes a glimpse into the brave new world of next generation lasers

“High-power laser diodes are an enabling technology, which is impacting communications, medicine, projection displays, security, materials processing, manufacturing and even scientific research”

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08/05/2009 11:44:03


The future’s bright

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asers are becoming brighter, more powerful and look set to take many technologies to the next generation. They’re involved in making broadband go faster and display screens look sharper, not to mention their far-reaching potential in healthcare… It almost seems more appropriate to start this feature with a Star Wars-style scrolling intro.

A brighter europe Scientists and engineers across Europe have joined forces to make the €16.25m project entitled WWW.BRIGHTER.EU - an effort to make the next generation of high-brightness lasers smaller, brighter, more efficient and cheaper – which promises to bring improved technology to the European public first. It brings together 22 of Europe’s top research teams together from industry, internationallyrecognised research laboratories and leading academic institutions. In the UK, we are represented by two leading academic institutions: the University of Nottingham and the University of Cambridge. Spokesperson Professor Eric Larkins, from the University of Nottingham, talked to MICHELLE MANNING-WAREHAM about what the BRIGHTER group as a whole are doing with lasers as well as how students can get involved in the exciting new field of photonics - the science of semiconductor induced light, such as the laser diode technology in question here.

ahead of schedule “The progress within the project is in line within expectations and in some cases ahead of our planned schedule,” Professor Larkins said of the project that started in 2006 and is due to finish in September 2009.

Bypassing transistors Not since the advent of the transistor in 1948 have electronic goods seen a new tool with the potential to thoroughly revolutionise them on this scale. If BRIGHTER is successful, there will be a whole new level of possibility with the internet, healthcare and entertainment systems. “High-power laser diodes are an enabling technology, which is impacting communications, medicine, projection displays, security, materials processing, manufacturing and even scientific research,” explained Professor Larkins. “The key to opening the new technologies lies in improvements in brightness (the ability to focus a high optical power to a small spot), improved efficiency (which improves cost and portability issues related to the cooling and packaging), and the availability of an extended range of wavelengths (colour).”

Up the ante A laser diode is a laser where the active medium is a semiconductor. Current advances developed by BRIGHTER include extending the range of wavelengths represented as colours red, infrared, green and blue. Blue and red lasers have been used in medical applications. Blue lasers can be used for locating tumours in a minimally invasive procedure called photodynamic therapy PDT- (administering chemotherapy-like drugs to malignant tissue without harming the surrounding healthy tissue); a red laser is then used to activate it. Professor Larkins commented on the benefits the medical field should see as a result of BRIGHTER’s success: “In medicine, improved treatments such as PDT for treating certain forms of cancer, particularly skin cancers, will become more readily available. These treatments are not only

effective, but reduce the risk to the patient by not damaging healthy tissue.”

on the right wavelength The same lasers can be used for other applications, but there was one elusive colour (wavelength) that the team had to work at green. Producing new wavelengths, Larkins explains, is one of the issues BRIGHTER faces. “The main challenges regarding the laser diodes themselves include [among others]: The development of high-brightness laser diodes/ subsystems to produce new wavelengths – these are often driven by the needs of specific applications – for example, in BRIGHTER, the development of red, green and blue lasers are being driven by applications in medicine and display technology.” Projection display systems require red, blue and green lasers channelled into a single module. While red and blue lasers are already developed for medical applications, the realisation of a highbrightness green laser diode, that is affordable and portable, was a challenge. To produce the tricky green laser diode (a challenge because no semiconductor material can purely produce the green laser light), the BRIGHTER team have used a technique successfully demonstrated in the blue medical laser – the frequency doubling principle (an advanced technique that uses a special nonlinear optical crystal to convert the colour of the laser output) – to produce the green laser from a high-brightness infrared device. “Laser displays in the form of small video projectors will become commonplace affordable items and reach the market sooner rather than later. Such devices have the potential to replace the current more bulky versions that use conventional bulbs,” said Larkins.

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the future’s bright

Already, to improve communications (long distance calls and broadband), near infrared lasers played an important role in sending digital information down the many hundreds of kilometres of optical fibre. Because the internet is growing and consumers are demanding faster and faster connections, “developments within the BRIGHTER project will also allow communication network capacity to be able to grow to meet the demands of consumers,” Larkins said. BRIGHTER are already developing highpowered infrared laser to pump the optical amplifiers: erbium-doped fibre amplifiers (EDFA) and Raman amplifiers. Larkins said: “Improvements in lasers for communication systems will allow network/system providers to utilise these devices in new and upgraded networks, which are required to meet the ever growing demand from consumers for a wider range of services. The high-brightness pump sources developed in BRIGHTER will improve the performance of EDFAs and distributed Raman amplifiers, thereby helping telecom service providers meet the continued demand for increased transmission bandwidth.” European Technology Platform, Photonics21 Strategic Research Agenda, says that data rates to the home must increase a hundredfold over the next decade, which will demand a further increase in telecommunication networks capacity.

Join sides with the lasers According to a report by the European Technology Platform Photonics21, the market for photonics in Europe was worth €225 billion in 2005, and is expected to triple in the next 10 years. Although the latest developments in photonics are often the realm of PhD projects and specialist companies, there are undergraduate courses that are specifically about electronics and photonics (semiconductor induced lasers). One is called Electronic and Photonic Engineering, and it is offered by Heriot Watt University. This course is designed to provide a broad education as well as an appropriate degree of applicable specialisations in advanced electronic, electrical and computer systems. Heriot Watt University boasts excellent employment prospects throughout industry including financial organisations, government and the professions. Graduates are qualified to join research teams in Electronic and Photonic Engineering. However, many universities in the UK offer an education in lasers through a physics degree. But then some universities offer highly specialised undergraduate degrees and the

University of Strathclyde, for example, was the first in Europe to offer an undergraduate degree in laser physics and optoelectronics. To read physics or any related course at university, completing A-level physics and maths is usually considered compulsory.

Take your choice of subject “Photonics is a highly interdisciplinary subject, requiring workers skilled in fields ranging from physics, electrical and electronic engineering, optics, material science, chemistry, mathematics and computer science,” says Professor Larkins. “Proficiency in physics, computer programming, numerical methods and mathematics can provide a solid basis for work in simulation and design,” Larkins continued. “Skills in electronics, mechanical engineering, optics, computer science and applications

fields (e.g. medicine, biotechnology, manufacturing engineering, entertainment systems) are useful for the design, development and testing of laser systems.” But most of all, Larkins says that students have to have a passion for light. “While proficiency in mathematics and physical sciences is very helpful, the most important thing a student needs is an interest and curiosity about how to make and use light. There are many training and career opportunities for enthusiastic and talented people, who want to help shape some of the most far-reaching and influential technologies of tomorrow,” he said.

Shape light Lasers are set to take the world to a new level of high performance and efficiency, and the field is growing too. Lasers, it seems, may be where the future’s at.

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SLUG

it’s alive! Bridging the gap between science fiction and science fact, robotics is entering a new, exciting phase. What part could you play?

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SLUG

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obots have been part of science fiction for decades and have been a part of the real, industrial world for years, building everything from cars to phones. The world of tommorow draws closer and with it robotics are becoming more exciting. DERMOT WATSON spoke to Dr KlausPeter Zauner teacher from the Science and Engineering of Natural Systems Group (SENSe) at the University of Southampton’s School of Electronics & Computer Science to learn more. A small group Dr Zaumer’s students shot to fame when they designed ‘swarm robots’ (small robots designed to work together in groups.) The robots design is based on the motors in mobile phone that produce ‘vibrate’ alerts. Some experts have suggested that this could signal a new wave of cheaper, more accessible units in the near future.

Dr Zauner, can you tell us a little about the Biologically Inspired Robotics course you teach? It’s a 4th year option course (among other courses) that is open to a range of students, which makes it exciting. We have electrical engineering students, electrical mechanics, electronics students, computer engineering students and computer scientists all on one course. There are only a few lectures that give an overview of the field and even then they form teams who do robotics projects of their own.

You originally studied biochemistry…has that influenced you? Absolutely, I think that in robotics you can see the difference between what an organism can do compared to technology. People look at computers and think ‘fantastic’…but I think this is an optimistic view. Compared to a human mind, the computer is very primitive…we have no way of engineering something like a bird or a fly.

So you think of robotics biologically? I think eventually we should look at organic type robotics. This would be a difficult challenge as conventional engineering has a very different mindframe and the tools do not fit well to that. As I come from biochemistry, I look at using molecules, so maybe we could have small molecular machines, but it’s a long way off.

Are there any new design principles you’ve seen enter the robotics world? There are several new directions. One is in using simpler methods as early machines were heavily over-engineered. People now know that they don’t have to be so fancy and a lot of that is to do with biological inspiration. When you see that the number of neurons in small organisms is very little, you’re inspired to get some motion and walking out of simple techniques. A second direction has to do with interfacing with the robot - when we are able to get a robot to a stage where we can get someone to use it, even if they’re not an excellent programmer.

So for you, what is the difference between a robot and a simple mechanical device that does routine tasks? There are many machines that might have been called a robot at one point, but are now seen as mundane mechanical computercontrolled machines For me to be excited at something means the design would have to be autonomous. Something which is remotecontrolled to do bomb disposal I wouldn’t necessarily call a robot. You should be able to set it off so it can go and do its job. You should be able to send it to places where communication isn’t very good… like underwater or exploring on Mars. The robot then needs to be able to figure out what next action is. It needs to be able to decide if something is risky or interesting. It needs to be able to act sensibly in a complicated environment.

How far are we from completely autonomous robots? We are at an early stage.

Robots have featured heavily in science fiction, most recently in WALL-E. Do you think this has helped the field progress? Certainly, I feel that there is a big time gap between what you can imagine and what you can realise. I think it’s good that you can have those ideas, which help to entice people to

work in that field. It needs those big ideas to progress, otherwise it’s very incremental.

What kind of people do you think are suited to studying and working in this field? The robotics field is at such an early stage that I think people from all backgrounds can contribute. I think it’s good for people have a good knowledge of mathematics, but that’s not enough…they need to know about materials as well. You need to be able to put your imagination into something that can be made. The swarm robots which we are displaying were made in the class as a student project. There are two kinds of robotics. One is conventional, assembly line robotics. It is hard to make progress outside of conventional engineering as there are certain limitations. On there other hand, there are areas like biorobotics where you can have simple, little ideas – like gluing bristles from a brush on to a microphone to work as a sensor. It’s those little ideas that you can do at home or at the lab where the potential to make a new, interesting discovery happens. That’s where the biggest progress comes from and where students can create things in a few months... that’s really exciting.

What kinds of jobs can students move in to? There are numerous things you can do, for example, developing a physics type environment for new robots. Those are the same kinds of simulations that are used in games engines.

So it’s fair to say that the future of robotics is a big, open, exciting book? Yes, there’s a big future in getting away from the constrained, narrow way of computer processing that we have done for such a long time. We have the same machine as Babbage (an engineer who designed a mechanical computer in the 1800s) but massively sped up and with bigger memory. However, this has limitations, if you want something that is intelligent (as we understand human intelligence) then we need to step out of that and look at information processing in nature and how that works. Certainly our brains – which are the best information processors that we know – work in no way like computers.

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ON TRACK

DERMOT WATSON speaks to Farah AlKhalisi, ex-news and features editor for 4car (www.channel4. com/4car) and a juror on the panel for International Engine of the Year, to find out about advances in car technology

PLUG anD PLAy Early adapter: The Toyota Prius Hybrid

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esponding to a new market created by the conscientious consumer and rising fuel prices, the electric car, in addition to other alternatives, is entering the domestic transport arena.

Electric cars have had a lot of press recently but what stage are we really at? It’s still very much at the early adopter stage in that there are so many limitations on the type of vehicle on offer but we are on the verge of significant advances that will make the technology much more appealing for normal people to use on an everyday basis.

garage with a power point. Either that or you’re running extension cables out of your house. As most city dwellers don’t even have guaranteed on-street parking it just makes it all the more difficult. So, some kind of fleet-type operation where you can have a recharging point at a central depot is the way to go initially.

Is anyone making inroads to establish a domestic charging infrastructure here? There are a number of pilot programmes. For example, Renault and Nissan have signed a deal with an Israeli consortium called Project Better Place who are aiming to establish an infrastructure.

Do you think ‘grand scale’ use may come via larger more industrial users like commercial fleets?

So the established big players will make the biggest impact in this new space?

It will certainly be a factor as the infrastructure for recharging is an issue. Although London’s Westminster Council, for example, has recharging bays, it’s still very limited. Electric cars can be charged off a domestic power supply, but that necessitates people having a

Ultimately, yes. Cars like the Tesla Roadster and the Lightning GT are great looking cars and are great for building the image of electric vehicles, but ultimately the fact that they’re expensive high performance sports cars limits their attractiveness to the general public.

So, is there a space for small scale ‘maverick’ production? It’s a nice idea, but once you get a car from an established manufacturer you’re getting something that’s been engineered to the standards of everything else in their range, which means proper safety for a start. There was an electric Fiat 500, converted by an independent company, on display at the last London Motor Show, for example. The 500 got five stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests, so this is going to protect you in an accident and it’s a well-engineered, proper car in the first place.

What have been the biggest technical challenges? Its range, range and range. Once you look at the figures they all have very limited ranges… you’re talking 40, 50, 60 miles and that’s under optimal conditions, not accounting for stop/ start traffic and using systems that are going to take a drain off the battery like air conditioning or stereos. The other issue is the weight of battery packs but the new generation of lithium iron batteries allow for a lot more power to be stored in a smaller space.

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ON TRACK

“If your idea of an electric vehicle still conjures up images of milk floats let me tell you, things have changed”

how much of the R&D budget do you think electric cars take up?

Where would your money be in terms of what we’ll be driving in 5/10 years?

I think it’s a relatively small part in that there’s a lot of hedging of bets as to what’s going to be the next big thing.

I think there will be much more use of electric cars as part of the mix, but they will only be part of the solution. In 5/10 years we’re going to see hybrids and more developments in efficiency, such as stop/start systems. That’s where we are at the moment, incremental advances on the petrol/diesel engine. Ultimately there are technologies like fuel cells, but I think there’s life in the combustion engine yet.

Do you think manufacturers need new skills for making electric cars? I’m sure they’re recruiting engineers from outside of the motor industry to work on it.

So, will electric cars play a significant part in our future? There will have to be a significant advance in general usability and range before it comes into the equation to any degree. You’ve got to make them affordable as well, to make them viable. There are also issues of practicality. A lot of electric cars on the market are tiny 2-seaters with no luggage space and very little by way of comfort. For it to be a success it has to be as desirable as any other car in their category in their own right, not just because they’re electric.

how much impact do environmental concerns actually have in the carpurchasing process? As a senior engineer and product planner at a large car company said to me, ‘it’s very well the tree huggers saying they’ll buy new cars, but they’re not the kind of people who buy new cars anyway’. The place to get this stuff into the market is via the fleets. To do that you need to have a number of tax incentives and measures like the congestion charge to start it off. Find out more and take part www.greenpower.co.uk

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SLUG PROFILE

HIGHLY CHARGED

From winning Apprentice of the Year to securing a place on the prestigeous Siemens Graduate Scheme, David Lovelady is fast-bound right to the top in the energy industry

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profile SLUG

“The best thing about the graduate scheme is the ability to use your initiative and have your ideas listened to”

Name: David Lovelady Education: Apprenticeship, The University of Manchester, Siemens transmission & distribution Graduate Scheme Courses: BEng electrical and electronic engineering Age: 27 Meet David Lovelady, destined to be a highflyer in the energy industry. Not only has he previously been awarded The Apprentice of the Year, but he’s also managed to secure a place on the much coveted Siemens Transmission & Distribution Graduate Scheme.

Can you tell us how you got started? I left school at 16 and started an apprenticeship with a manufacturing firm. I worked for four years as an electrical and electronic engineer, during which time I won the Apprentice of the Year Award. I then

took an HND part time, continuing with my employer for another three years before leaving to take my degree.

How did you come to your current role with the Siemens Graduate Scheme? I came to my role through the Power Academy, which is a scheme run by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (The IET) in conjunction with leading power sector companies, to attract graduates to the sector. As well as providing a bursary for study, the scheme organises paid industrial placements and allocates a mentor from the industry.

What’s the best thing about the scheme? The best thing about the graduate scheme is the ability to use your initiative and have your ideas listened to. You’re given tasks where you’re allowed to work on as you see fit, but have the support if you need it so you can work things out for yourself. The scheme I’m on involves a range of

placements, usually lasting eight weeks each. Three quarters of these are engineering-based but there are placements in other areas of the business that help build up more businessoriented skills. I have had freedom to pick and choose those placements that most interest me and to extend them or cut them short where appropriate. There are also corporate courses that graduates from all areas of the business attend. These cover core abilities such as customer focus and presentation skills.

What’s the next big thing on your training schedule? I did an apprenticeship as a technician, and then went to university. I think I have come this far, so my next step is to become Chartered with the IET…I’ve already started accruing evidence for that.

Outside of work, what do you do? My main hobbies are mountaineering and rock-climbing.

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SLUG ON GAME

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GAME SLUG ON

LIVING THE DREAM Name: Steven Edmonds College/ University: University of Teesside Age: 23 Course: Computer Games Programming Steven Edmonds, a games programmer fresh out of university, is working at Codemasters, one of the most successful games studios in the UK.

“A graphics programmer has to know a lot about matrix maths”

What made you want to be a games programmer? I’ve always been a big fan of computer games, thanks primarily to my father’s interest in technology. When I was 13, I started learning HTML so that I could produce a website for an online gaming community. I found the static nature of HTML to be quite limiting, so I decided to teach myself PHP with the help of a book and the internet. I enjoyed programming, so when the time came to decide on a career path it was fairly obvious that games programming would be the perfect choice for me.

What did you study at school/university? I studied A-Level Maths, Physics and IT along with Geography to AS-level at the sixth form of my secondary school. I came out with a BBCC (respectively), which was more than enough to get me into the University of Teesside on a Computer Games Programming course.

How did you get to where you are today? Codemasters is actually my first job in the games industry, and I was lucky enough to get it shortly after finishing at university. I was recruited via a third-party games specific recruitment agency that saw and liked my CV. During my time at university, I had put together a good portfolio both from the work I had to complete for assignments and by carrying out my own learning while studying. My CV got me an interview and my portfolio got me the job.

What is the best thing about your profession? While it’s a challenge to only pick one thing, I’d say the best thing would have to be that every day you’re faced with new and interesting challenges to resolve.

What is the best thing about working for the company? Codemasters is a big and financially stable company, which means we can focus more on making amazing games and less on having to pump out game after game to try and make ends meet!

What part(s) of the game(s) do you develop? I’m a member of the Front End team in the racing studio. Our primary focus is the 3D menu system that makes our games so special, although we do a lot of underlying work too. I believe we’re the second biggest group in the racing studio next to the graphics group!

What skills do you have to have to do what you do? There are two key areas: Firstly, they need to have the technical knowledge to get the job done. For most programmers, this means a good working knowledge of C++. The different programming specialities require different technical skills – for example a graphics programmer has to know a lot about matrix maths. Being an amazing C++ programmer isn’t enough on its own though. Being able to communicate and work effectively in a team is just as important - a high budget big game is just too big for one person to work on in isolation.

What is the coolest thing for you once the game is completed? Definitely seeing my game in the shops and seeing other people walking away with a copy. It’s really exciting to overhear someone talking about how good something is that you’ve worked on and is very rewarding.

Any advice for would-be games developers? It’s amazing how many people take up game programming with the idea that it’s easy. I’d say that games programming is the hardest type of programming you can do. If you’re passionate about programming, then you’ll find no better place to be than in the games industry. I can’t imagine doing anything else.

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SLUG a grand day out

IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR A DAY OUT THAT’S TRULY ELECTRIC, VISIT SOME OF THESE GEMS

Out and ABOut Benjamin Franklin House

Museum of Electricity

In the heart of London, just steps away from Trafalgar Square, is Benjamin Franklin House, the worlds only remaining Franklin home. For nearly sixteen years, between 1757 and 1775, Dr Benjamin Franklin - scientist, diplomat, philosopher, inventor, Founding Father of the United States - lived behind its doors. Today, the house is open to the public as a dynamic museum and educational facility, featuring hands-on experimentation with Franklin’s London scientific discoveries.

Set in an edwardian power station in Dorset, the Museum of Electricity has unique displays of electrical items, ranging from a Bournemouth tram car to boot warmers. A highlight of the visit is a number of electrical experiments that gives an insight into how electricity works. The main focus of the museum is on early electrical discoveries of the 19th century. The museum also has a tour that gives an in depth explanation of how electricity is generated and then sent to your home to be used in your day to day life.

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The EDF Energy Electricity Hall The EDF Energy Electricity Hall is located at the Amberley Working Museum in West Sussex. The collection relates to all things electrical from the earliest classical discoveries (c.600 BC), up to the modern age. The collection comprises of a fascinating variety of electrical equipment, ranging from heavy engineering plant for the mains supply system to small domestic appliances. For academics, there is an extensive library of reference & archival material.

How to get there From Charing Cross (Northern and Bakerloo Lines) underground station, turn left out of the main station entrance, through the alleyway and down the steps on to Craven Street. Turn left - there are three doors down at number 36.

How to get there The museum is an easy walk from Christchurch High Street in Christchurch, Dorset - five minutes from the town centre – in the Old Power Station.

How much will it cost? Tickets cost £7 standard and free for under 16s.

How much will it cost? Admission is free

How much will it cost? Adult: £9.30, Over 60: £8.30, Students: £8.30, Children (5-15 yrs): £5.80, Under Fives: FREE, Family Ticket (2 adults & up to 3 children): £26.50

Find out more www.benjaminfranklinhouse.org

Find out more www.scottish-southern.co.uk/museum

Find out more www.amberleymuseum.co.uk

How to get there The Amberley Working Museum is situated in West Sussex, adjacent to Amberley railway station.

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Y f i a a


Higher Education

Open Day Wednesday 24 June

2pm - 7pm

You will have the chance to explore the college’s campuses, see the outstanding facilities and speak to tutors and advisers to find out more about what you’re interested in. We offer HE courses in a range of exciting subjects including, design and visual arts, music, theatre, sports, business and management, media, computing and networking.

Call 0800 068 8585 or visit www.themanchestercollege.ac.uk

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FOCUS ON BIOLOGICAL AND BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES AT MIDDLESEX UNIVERSITY APPLY NOW FOR SEPTEMBER 2009 Field work is an important part of the Biosciences programmes.

With brand new state of the art laboratories and some of the UK’s leading academic and research staff in the fields of Biosciences and Biomedical Science, Middlesex is now the number one choice for study in this area. • BSc Honours Biomedical Science • BSc Honours Biomedical Science with Foundation Year If you have a science background and are interested in a career in hospital laboratories, scientific research or further study, find out more about these innovative courses. Good graduates in biomedical science are highly sought after, so employment prospects are excellent.

• BSc Honours Biosciences • BSc Honours Biosciences with Foundation Year A course embracing all aspects of living organisms, ranging in scale from molecules to cells and organisms, to entire populations and ecosystems.

• BSc Sports Biomedicine Develop the practical skills to work in exercise physiology, biochemistry and performance laboratories.

Find out more at an Open Day Biological and Biomedical Sciences are taught at our Hendon campus, with Open Days on 14 March, 2 May and throughout 2009.

For further information on these and all other courses please visit

www.mdx.ac.uk/hssc Or call the enquiries team on

020 8411 5555

email: enquiries@mdx.ac.uk

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BeScentaMagSpring2009