‘Engineer the Story’, run in partnership with the Ideas Foundation, helps engineers create digital stories to bring their research to life. Supported by new funding from the Train the Trainer Initiative of StoryFutures Academy, the UK’s National Centre for Immersive Storytelling run by National Film and Television School (NFTS) and Royal Holloway University of London, the project will develop immersive stories around topics including research into osteoarthritis and the premature deaths of babies, as well as diversity and Covid-19.
For the project, Queen Mary’s Dr Tina Chowdhury will work in collaboration with Heather MacRae from the Ideas Foundation and Queen Mary staff and students to recruit and train a pilot group of students and researchers from the Schools of Engineering and Materials Science (SEMS) and Electronic Engineering and Computer Science.
Participants will be coached and inspired by world-class storytellers, photographers and creative directors. They will begin to look at how the augmented, virtual and XR experiences can be used in teaching and research. Participants will develop new skills in content creation, data visualisation and communication.
Heather MacRae, Chief Executive of the Ideas Foundation and Honorary Fellow at Queen Mary, said: “Inspiring role models like Dr Chowdhury have amazing stories to tell. ‘Engineer the Story’ connects engineering students and researchers with creative experts to develop compelling stories that will encourage a new generation of engineers.”
The Train the Trainer initiative was set up to support the development of UK trainers, and to address the chronic shortage of graduates with the right skills essential to the growth and success of the immersive sector in the UK. Following the success of a first cohort of seven university projects, the universities funded in this second round will address some of the sector’s emergent challenges, bringing the sciences together with the arts and medicine (STEAMM) to help teach our brilliant creators of the future a set of essential crossover skills.
“We are delighted to welcome Tina and her Queen Mary University team to the Train the Trainer programme where they will join a 2nd cohort of innovative educational projects. Exploring how immersive storytelling techniques can be applied within bio engineering, to help build a new pipeline of talent with Steam skills while also improving ways of communicating critical health concerns to audiences, is really exciting” says Amanda Murphy, Executive Producer, StoryFutures Academy.
Building on past success
In 2018, the ‘Engineer the Story’ project received funding from the Royal Academy of Engineering to deliver intensive creative media camps that bring engineers together with disadvantaged young people from East London who have limited science-related knowledge or exposure to the work of scientists and engineers.
Through this experience, the students created digital stories to help encourage young people to consider a career in biomedical engineering and explain how engineers are striving to help decrease the number of pre-term deaths in babies.
Dr Tina Chowdhury, Senior Lecturer in Regenerative Medicine at Queen Mary and project lead, said: “Our work brings STEMM and the media together via “The Train the Trainer” programme and upskills our Queen Mary community. Engineering students work the digital communication industries and learn how to build their skills through digital storytelling, creating a personal immersive experience. When young people engage with our trainer champions and hear about the motivation of why we work, we STEM-up learning and help each other see our aspirations. My story provides a new perspective that has transformed how I think and how I reach young people and their families.”
Inspiring future engineers
Dr Chowdhury’s research investigates novel bioengineering approaches to repair fetal membranes after they rupture and prevent preterm birth. She is passionate about encouraging young people, especially girls to increase their scientific skills and develop careers in STEMM disciplines such bioengineering. Her own commitment to inspire future bioengineers has been influenced by the late Professor Peter W. McOwan, who was Vice Principal for Public Engagement and Student Enterprise at Queen Mary. His legacy has led to Tina’s motivation and her new role where she is the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Director at SEMS. Tina’s goal is to bring engineering to life and make engineering accessible for everyone.
Professor Richard Pickersgill, Chair of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee for Queen Mary’s Faculty of Science and Engineering, said: “Tina is a brilliant role model whose project ‘Engineer the Story’ extends the horizons and ambitions of young people. The project particularly benefits those from less advantaged backgrounds as Tina spearheads equality, diversity and inclusion in science and engineering at Queen Mary and beyond.”
Sheila Gupta MBE, Vice-Principal for People, Culture and Inclusion at Queen Mary, said: “I was hugely impressed to learn about the transformative work that Tina is doing. Tina’s authenticity, passion and her attention to storytelling to promote engineering, engage with new audiences and speaks openly about the added value in her academic career, has inspired a new generation of Women in Engineering.”