Kilobot - one of a number of collective decision making robots from the Sheffield Robotics DiODe Project. Photo by Jon Harrison.

One of a number of tiny robots from the Sheffield Robotics DiODe Project. Photo by Jon Harrison.

Virtual Robotics is an innovative partnership between Rawmarsh Community School, Sheffield Robotics and lead artist Paul Evans. Together, this innovative collaboration has the aim of supporting young people from a disadvantaged community to engage in cutting-edge research and enable them to communicate through art and digital technologies, as well as accessing university ideas and raising aspirations.

Over the course of two intensive days, pupils from Year 9 & 10 will research, design and develop a series of artworks based on the work of researchers working in the field of robotics. Virtual Robotics has been designed to give these young people an introduction to the opportunities offered at the University of Sheffield, an unique insight into the lives of a number of leading robotics researchers, and a understanding of how to develop a career in robotics.

Students will work with Sheffield Robotics academics to develop their visions of the research they do. Once this is done, an exciting on-line virtual exhibition of their work will be showcased, with the help of artist Paul Evans who will work with the young people to realise their ideas. This is widening participation, but in an innovative and engaging format, one that places young people at the heart of the process.

The project is structured around the following two key stages:

Day 1: Robotics taster events at The University of Sheffield including PechaKucha topic presentations, interviews about careers and life, and lab demos and activities.

Day 2: Creative workshops at the University of Sheffield by artists and creative writers including ArtBoat, Paul Evans, Suzannah Evans, Jon Harrison & Alex McLean.

Virtual Robotics also aspires to measure the short-term and lasting impact from these interactions. This research will give a better understanding of how engagement activities change students’ attitudes to studying STEM subjects, how prolonged exposure to university activities change students’ attitudes to attending university, and how engagement in outreach activities on STEM subjects change students’ attitudes towards future career options.

A film created by the young people with the assistance of University of Sheffield Stem Ambassadors can be viewed here.