I work in the Sheffield Institute of Education at SHU and manage a number Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) engagement projects which aim to enhance equality, diversity and inclusion and impact on widening participation.
The Virtual Reality Prosthetics project is one of the most exciting projects that I am involved in and I hope that everyone who gets involved with this work - either through attending one of our exhibitions or workshops, or just reading about us online - will be inspired by the team's infectious enthusiasm!
Over the past few weeks, the project has featured at two pop-up exhibitions at the Millennium Gallery and Weston Park Museum, reaching almost 3500 visitors.
The feedback from the public has been fantastic. Through our ‘evaluation wall’ which captured the visitor demographic and people’s experiences, we discovered that the public found our exhibition to be of genuine interest. Comments ranged from ‘How great it is for kids, no matter what age’ through to ‘Learning you could control prosthetics with the brain, and the use of VR to help’ and ‘How hard it is to live with one arm’.
Next year the exhibition will reach out to even wider audiences when we tie in with national sporting events such as the World ParaAthletics Championships in London in July and the Special Olympics in Sheffield in August. An accessible online resource is also being developed to ensure project sustainability, so that schools and young people, and the general public can extend their learning about cutting-edge research and related study and careers.
Kevin Evison who supports the project as a very active steering group member and role model competed in last month’s Cybathlon competition in Zurich, Switzerland. The competition, pitched as the ‘Bionic Olympics’, enables people with severe disabilities to compete in an array of events with the help of assistive technologies. Kevin said: “Disability sport is very much in the public eye thanks to the success of the London Paralympics, but people don’t see the struggles people with disabilities or physical weakness face every day.” Read more about the event here
We’ve had an amazing three days showcasing our project to the public at the Millennium Gallery in Sheffield with 1701 visitors from far and wide! Team member Steve made a short 360 video of the event so you can see what we’ve been up to. Just click and drag (or swipe) to look around:
After last week’s two-day dry run at UTC Sheffield with over 100 visitors, we’re now feeling ready to take our project out to the world…well, to the people of Sheffield to start with at least! Team member, Steve Florence, adapted this photo of me trialling our Virtual Reality experience, and I can confirm that it is awesome. We’ll have lots of practical activities on offer including a specially designed ‘Anatomy Scanner’, and you will be able to build your own hand and design a prosthetic or artificial arm with our help. There will be plenty to look at and loads to do, and the team will be on hand (see what I did there?) throughout the day to help you. Please come and help us get our message out and join the debate about blending in or standing out.
The antique prosthetics and full skeleton have arrived, our film is coming along nicely, our exhibition designers are working on the final look as I type, so we are almost ready. Looking forward to letting YOU see what we’ve been doing very soon. Join us at the Millennium Gallery from 25-27 October for the first glimpse of our cutting-edge research. More details here!
Don’t miss the chance to join us when we showcase the project at our exciting, interactive exhibitions in these two Sheffield museums. You’ll get the chance to try our Virtual Reality and Leap Motion technologies, design your own prosthetic limb and find out more about how your mind controls your body. Our film will give you an insight into what it’s like to wear a prosthetic – and why some people chose not to – and you’ll be able to read about WW1 soldiers rebuilding their lives in Sheffield after suffering life-altering injuries.
Keep an eye on our homepage and Twitter feed for more news as it comes in!
In June we had a great afternoon with 30 Y6 children who had a chance to try out lots of the activities that will feature in our exhibition. See their blog for pictures of the project in action! We are also going to Rainbow Forge Primary in July. There’s lots going on!
We are now four months into the project and are making good progress. Our Core Team meets monthly to fine tune our project plan and ensure we are on track, and our very active steering group has already had its first meeting, with a second meeting planned for July.
We have already delivered three events with very different audiences. The first was for a family audience and was held during British Science Week involving hands-on experiences for people of all ages; the second event was held at UTC Sheffield in April and this enabled us to trial some of our activities and resources with secondary and primary school pupils. Our most recent event was a public debate which enabled us to explore some of the more challenging and contentious issues associated with limb loss in a public arena.
You can see details of these events in our other posts.
We are currently planning more schools events over the Summer.
Dates for the exhibitions in Sheffield Museums have been confirmed as 25-27 October and 12-13 November 2016, and planning for the exhibitions is underway.
The VR system and Leap Motion tracking are continually being updated to ensure they are appropriate to enhance understanding and learning.
The website and additional online resources (including teacher and STEM ambassador resources) are in development, with plans to have a simple website up and running from the end of May, and further development completed in time for the first exhibition in October.
Our twitter account is continuing to raise awareness of our project and attract new followers. Please follow us if you don’t already!
Our first schools event was held at UTC Sheffield in April and this enabled us to trial some of our activities and resources with secondary and primary school pupils. The day was attended by 57 primary school students from a local primary school cluster.
The students took part in 4 different workshops, a plenary and took a speed tour of the UTC. The workshops were Design it!, Explore It! (using the leap motion camera and models of the arm and brain), Solve It! and Film It!
At the Explore Science and Engineering @ SHU event on 19th March 2016 we contributed a hands-on interactive stall staffed by team members Ivan Phelan and Andy Bullough where families could experience Virtual Reality and explore the psychological and physiological aspects of limb loss.