"Greatly enjoyed the week. Experienced many opportunities which I would otherwise have dismissed."


Summer School 2011

The first residential UKESF Summer School was hosted by the University of Bristol from 10 to 14 July 2011.

It was delivered in partnership with:

  • The universities of Edinburgh, Southampton and Surrey and Imperial College London;
  • Its industry sponsors, ARM, Cambridge Silicon Radio Ltd, Dialog Semiconductor and Imagination Technologies; and
  • The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

40 students from schools across the UK attended this Summer School:

  • They participated in academic taster sessions to get a flavour of what it is like to study electronics at university;
  • They met and heard from engineers from the sponsoring companies;
  • They took on the Imagination Technologies product concept design challenge; and
  • They visited the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory to see how advanced electronic instrumentation is used in major science projects.

Academic taster sessions

The Topplebot Project

Students compete to see who has the best performing TopplebotStudents compete to see who has the best performing TopplebotThis was presented by Dr Mike Barton, from the University of Bristol. During the week, students learnt about analogue control before constructing and tuning their own Topplebots, i.e. two-wheeled, self-balancing electric vehicles. Once constructed they competed to find out whose Topplebot performed the best on first flat and level surfaces and then slopes with ever increasing gradients.

The “Passion Meter” or “Decision Maker”

This hands-on design project was presented by Dr Tom Tate from Imperial College London. He took the students through the engineering design of an electronic product – a toy – from initial concept to finished product. They learnt about circuit simulation, computation, and basic soldering skills and gained some insight into analogue and digital circuit design, design considerations, and how different engineering disciplines tend to merge when designing a real product. The students left this session with their very own device which makes noises and flashes lights to help in gauging passion, and in making decisions!

Building an AM Radio

Dr Reuben Wilcock from the University of Southampton showed the students how to build a radio to receive Amplitude Modulated signals in the Medium Wave band. Yet another product for the students to take home!

Making Cells Dance – A Lecture on Bioelectronics

Dr Stewart Smith from the University of Edinburgh’s Institute for Integrated Micro and Nano Systems demonstrated how techniques developed by electronic engineers to produce computer chips are being applied to biomedical and life sciences. He showed how cells can move and spin under the command of electrical signals generated within lab-on-chip devices and explored whether these techniques could be developed to diagnose disease, discover new drugs and explore how stem cells could be used to repair damaged tissues.

Using a dish of brain cells, grown to form a neural network and modified to give out pulses of light when they are ‘thinking’, Dr Smith examined whether we can:

  • use controlled pulses of light from pixels of the world’s smallest TV screen to turn on and program individual neurons in the network; and
  • use an array of micro-detectors, where each element detects a single photon of light, to monitor what this engineered network of brain cells is thinking.

Finally, he looked at whether a combination of such technologies could be implanted into a human brain to repair brain damage.

Nanotechnology: From Electronic Materials to Applications

This lecture was presented Dr David Carey from the University of Surrey based on his research in nanotechnology and nanomaterials, particularly carbon based materials such as nanotubes, graphene and diamond-like carbon. He talked about the differences between top-down and bottom-up approaches to nanotechnology as well as the advantages and applications of low dimensional materials for displays. In addition to talking about Moore’s law he also talked about the structure and electronic properties of nanomaterials in general and some of their commercial applications.

Meeting and working with electronic engineers from industry

An afternoon and evening with the Industry Sponsors

Richard from ARM answers questions on his job. Richard from ARM answers questions on his jobOn the Wednesday afternoon the students heard from young engineers from ARM, Cambridge Silicon Radio Ltd and Dialog Semiconductor who talked about the wide ranging and stimulating work that they have been involved in since graduating, as well as the responsibilities they take on. They then went on the meet these and more engineers from all of the sponsors, including Imagination Technologies, in a networking session. Here they chatted informally to explore more detail of the advanced techmologies that these companies are developing and the career options that would be open to them as graduates in electronics.

The engineers stayed on that evening to join the students in their formal course dinner.

The Imagination Techologies product concept design challenge

The students worked in teams of five on the challenge to think innovatively and to identify products that could be market leaders of the future. On the theme of “connectivity” they had to come up with ideas for electonic products that could be connected together and managed by a “portal” that would:

  • Be profitable;
  • Be of value and interest to consumers;
  • Enhance the quality and enjoyment of our lives; and
  • Lead to advances in electronics technology.

The winning team came up with the idea that friends getting together socially anywhere could watch a film together by connecting their smart phones. The phones would be laid out in a rectangular grid to create a bigger screen with each phone displaying an element of the film picture. Each member of the winning team was awarded a PURE ONE Mini digital radio by Imagination Technologies at the formal course dinner.

Visit to the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory

The Science and Technology Facilities Council is one of the UK’s seven Research Councils keeping the UK at the forefront of international science and tackling some of the most significant challenges facing society in areas such as:

  • Materials science
  • Space and ground-based astronomy technologies
  • Laser science
  • Microelectronics
  • Wafer scale manufacturing
  • Particle and nuclear physics
  • Alternative energy production
  • Radio communications and radar

The students on the summer school had a day’s visit to the the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) in Oxfordshire, one of the national scientific research laboratories in the UK which is operated by the STFC.

Here they visited the the Diamond Light Source, the UK’s national synchrotron facility and heard from experienced researchers about how electronics is used in the Diamond Light Source. in Space Science and in High Energy Physics. Over lunch they met and talked informally with some of STFC’s young scientists – all graduates in electronics.

What the Participants thoughts

Edward: “Excellent week. Really useful information and has really helped me to confirm which university courses to apply for.”

Hayley: “I really enjoyed the course.  It was really interesting learning new techniques and knowledge.”

Sam: “Greatly enjoyed the week. Experienced many opportunities which I would otherwise have dismissed.”

Ben: “I think the course was good fun as well as being informative … I think the best thing was to meet the engineering graduates and the potential companies I will be working for in the future.”