We are told that engineering is in crisis, with double the number of engineers needed by 2020. Only 7% of the UK’s engineering workforce is female, so many outreach programmes now focus on girls as the next generation. However, engineering is portrayed as a male world in the media; with surveys conjuring images of men in yellow hardhats and overalls. ‘Robots vs Animals’ is a project which set out to challenge these media portrayals using the media technique of storytelling. Stories combine emotional highs, characters, and narrative in order to provide context and relevance for an audience.
The project was curated by the Science Communication Unit at UWE, Bristol, and brought together engineers from Bristol Robotics Laboratory with education officers from Bristol Zoo Gardens. Five narratives about biomimetic engineering were created; each combining the stories of three animals and two robots. The overall aim was to highlight the creativity involved in the engineering design process needed to solve real world problems. The project title aimed to engender conflict to hook audiences in. Representations of engineering as a male profession were challenged through implicit messaging by half the ten engineers being women.
The narratives were presented through face to face presentations, social media, video, and blogs; and reached several audiences including schoolchildren at the zoo, family audiences at festivals, and professionals on social media. This presentation will detail results from the project and the reactions from engineers and audiences; centrally exploring whether engineering and emotions can mix through media storytelling techniques.