£30,000 funding to help engineers inspire young people to make prosthetic hands

Categories: School of Health and Society

Engineers at the University of Salford have received almost £30,000 of funding from the Royal Academy of Engineering to encourage young people to find out more about prosthetics and rehabilitation technology.

The project, ‘HandBuild/HandAssess’ will harness public curiosity about upper-limb prosthetics and develop a public engagement toolkit to explore how prosthetic hands work, and how we measure their use. A bespoke training programme will equip researchers at the University with the skills to communicate their work more effectively to young audiences. The hope is that engineers involved will gain the confidence to engage with the public, before developing materials based on their own research.

As part of the project, there will be a two-day campus visit where pupils from local schools can take part in the HandBuild and HandAssess packages, explore the routes into a career in medical engineering, and see how engineers work closely alongside healthcare professionals and patients to ensure positive outcomes. The team are keen to hear from any teachers or schools who would be interested in finding out more.

The project is one of 23 new Ingenious awards. The Royal Academy of Engineering Ingenious scheme funds public engagement projects designed to inspire the next generation of engineers. The funded projects will engage communities across the UK on a variety of topics, including climate change, sport, cultural heritage, and increasing diversity and inclusion in engineering.

The Ingenious programme started in 2007. Funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, it offers grants of up to £30,000 to support creative public engagement with engineering projects while providing engineers with the communication and presentation skills to share their stories, passion, and expertise with the public.

Dr Alix Chadwell, Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Salford, said: “I’m really excited for this project. It’s always enjoyable to explain to people how prosthetic hands work! But I think it’s also important that our future engineers understand about the person in the system, and the realities of applying these technologies. The other highlight for me is the public engagement training, the opportunity to spend time working with the public, and to inspire the next generation of engineers.”

Professor Laurence Kenney from the Centre for Health Sciences Research at the University of Salford added: “This project provides an excellent opportunity for our engineering researchers to engage with local schools around the exciting topic of prosthetics. Our group ran a very enjoyable public engagement event on prosthetics at the Museum of Science and Industry in January 2020, but Covid ‘put the brakes on’ subsequent planned activities, so we are excited to have the opportunity to get started on the new project.” 

Ingenious Panel Chair Professor Lucy Rogers FREng said: “The ‘E’ in STEM is often silent – and currently many engineering stories from across the UK are not being told. The Ingenious programme provides engineers with opportunities to further develop their communication skills, enabling them to illustrate their work and inspire the public in new, creative ways. 

“Engineering can mean different things to different people. These Ingenious projects can broaden perceptions of engineering to encourage more people from diverse backgrounds to engage with the profession and access future-shaping careers.”

For all press office enquiries please email communications@salford.ac.uk.