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Education

Aber robotics pioneer commemorated

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The Barnes ExoRover: With Stephen Fearn, Dr Matt Gunn, and Dr Helen Miles

A FULL scale model of the ExoMars rover which is set to search for life on Mars in 2021 has been named after a pioneering Aberystwyth University space roboticist.

Barnes has been named after the late Professor Dave Barnes who initiated Aberystwyth University’s involvement with the European Space Agency/Roscosmos mission to Mars.

Professor Barnes, who died suddenly in 2014, was also a leading member of the team that developed and built the innovative Beagle2 lander that formed part of the 2003 Mars Express mission.

Built by Stephen Fearn and Dr Matt Gunn from the Department of Physics, the Aberystwyth replica was unveiled by Sue Horne MBE, Head of Space Exploration for the UK Space Agency, and Dr Helen Miles from Aberystwyth University on Friday 29 June 2018, at a celebration of the work of Aberystwyth space scientists and solar physicists.

The Barnes ExoMars Rover will be used to promote the ESA/Roscosmos mission which is due to launch in 2020.

Using cameras and emulated instruments, the interactive model will also explain some of the science the mission’s actual rover will perform once it has landed on Mars.

Dr Helen Miles from the Department of Computer Science at Aberystwyth University has been instrumental in designing many of Aberystwyth’s ExoMars outreach activities.

Dr Miles said: “Deciding to name our full size model after Professor Dave Barnes was a poignant moment for us, but one very much in keeping with a tradition that has developed over the years. Several prototype rovers have been built as we prepare for the mission, and all have names starting with ‘B’.

“There are several prototype rovers in existence, Bridget, Brian and Bruno developed by Airbus, and here at Aberystwyth we have been working with a miniature half scale prototype that we have called Blodwen. So Barnes fitted perfectly.”

Dr Helen Miles developed a virtual model to produce simulated camera images from the rover, which is being used by engineers building the mission’s actual rover for the mission.

The ESA/Roscosmos ExoMars Rover is being developed by Thales Alenia Space and built by Airbus Defence and Space in Stevenage.

Professor Barnes’ work on ExoMars included the development of the rover’s colour swatch, which was inspired by medieval stained glass.

Designed to withstand the very high levels of ultraviolet light on Mars which causes colours to fade quickly, the swatch will be used to calibrate the mission’s camera and spectrometer systems to ensure colours are recorded accurately.

Professor Barnes’s work has been progressed by the space robotics team at Aberystwyth University, led by Dr Matt Gunn, who is a member of three international instrument teams on the ExoMars mission.

The Aberystwyth team have been involved with field testing of prototype instruments and developing the pipeline for processing images sent back to Earth from Mars.

Dr Gunn and colleagues have been testing the mission’s camera system, PanCam, in remote desert like locations around the world, including Iceland, Utah in the USA and the Atacama Desert in South America.

Dr Gunn said: “The camera systems on this mission are highly sensitive as the scientists who work with these images will be looking for very subtle changes in colour. These images are not ordinary colour photographs; they will be used to work out the different types of rocks on Mars. It is known that some rocks form in wet environments, so accurately interpreting the images may help mission scientists to pinpoint where to look for possible signs of life.”

“Professor Barnes started all of our research with ExoMars and was a pioneer in space robotics. He is dearly missed and naming the Aberystwyth model is particularly apt. We are hoping the model will continue to inspire people in the way that Dave inspired us.”

The Aberystwyth ExoMars Rover is available for shows and school visits. To find out more visit the ExoMars at Aberystwyth University website. It is also possible to follow Barnes on Twitter @BarnesRover.c

Education

WG invests £7.2m in STEM education

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Astronaut Tim Peake: Promoting STEM study

PRINCE’S TRUST Ambassador Tim Peake landed in Cardiff on Tuesday (Jul 17) to help the Minister for Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning, Eluned Morgan, announce £7.2m of funding to encourage young people, especially girls, to study Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects at school.

The astronaut, joined the Minister at an event organised by The Prince’s Trust Cymru at Tramshed Tech where they met young people involved in the youth charity’s STEM-related programmes, There, the Minister announced an investment of £7.2m, including £5.2m of European Union funding, for two similar projects. Gwynedd Council’s £1.9m STEM Gogledd and Swansea University’s £5.3m Technocamps 2 have been awarded £1.4m and £3.8m of EU funding, respectively.

Both projects will help to ensure young people, particularly girls and young women, continue STEM studies at GCSE and beyond with the aim of pursuing STEM-related careers.

Over the next four years, STEM Gogledd will work with 600 young people, 60% of whom will be female, to enrich and promote STEM subjects through a range of activities that complement the mainstream curriculum within schools across Gwynedd, Anglesey and Conwy.

Technocamps 2 will work with 3,600 young people across West Wales, North Wales and the South Wales Valleys, two-thirds of whom will be female. It will target secondary schools which do not currently offer computer science as an option at GCSE, or where the subject is only recently available. The project will enable pupils in these schools to take part in workshops to build on their existing knowledge and enthusiasm for IT and computing.

Announcing the funding, the Minister said: “It is a pleasure to be standing alongside Tim Peake today to announce such an important investment which will help to build the skills of our young people to help drive a the Welsh economy.

“Wales must become a STEM nation if we are to build a modern, dynamic, open economy that benefits everyone in Wales. Both the pace and nature of technological change is increasing dramatically and, to have the skilled workforce to capitalise on it, it is vital we have more young people who choose to study STEM subjects to a sufficiently high standard. While this is quite a challenge to address for both boys and girls, the challenge for girls is much greater.

“This is why I am grateful to organisations like The Prince’s Trust for their pioneering programmes and to role models, like Tim, who are influential in promoting the study of STEM subjects. Tim’s Principia mission inspired a generation and showed just how far, literally, science can take you.

“We cannot just rely on people like Tim, though. We must all play our part in stimulating interest in these crucial subjects as a way of securing the next generation of STEM professionals in Wales. This is why I am so pleased to announce this £7.2m investment, £5.2m of it from the EU, for STEM Gogledd and Technocamps. This is a great example of EU funds helping to enthuse and excite young people, particularly girls, about the opportunities available to them.”

Philip Jones, Director of The Prince’s Trust Cymru said: “We are delighted that Tim Peake was able to join us and Welsh Government in promoting the importance of STEM to Welsh Education today. At The Prince’s Trust Cymru, we believe every young person should have the chance to succeed, and we believe Welsh Government’s latest commitment to STEM activities will help transform more young lives in Wales.”

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Education

Williams marks end of school year

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Proud of reforms: Kirsty Williams

AT THE end of school year, Education Secretary Kirsty Williams has set out what has been achieved through Wales’ national mission for education and what these changes mean for pupils, teachers and parents.

Last September, the Education Secretary announced a national mission to raise standards, reduce the attainment gap, and deliver an education system that is a source of national pride and public confidence.

At a conference held in Cardiff today, the Education Secretary explained how major changes to what pupils are taught, how they are taught and how their teachers are trained and developed are helping to transform schools as we know them.

One of the most significant and wide-reaching of these changes is the new curriculum to be rolled out from 2022. Over 200 pioneer schools across Wales are involved in developing six different Areas of Learning and Experience. This work includes embedding digital competence into all areas of teaching and learning and supporting teachers to develop the new curriculum.

A new independent report published today found that these schools strongly support the changes being made and are enthusiastic about their part in developing Wales’ new curriculum.

Teachers’ professional learning and development has been similarly instrumental to the national mission for education, with this school year seeing:

New professional standards for Teaching and Leadership developed with the profession, for the profession;

The establishment of a new National Academy for Educational Leadership to support all leaders in education at all stages of their careers;

New accredited Initial Teacher Education programmes to be delivered in the academic year 2019/20;

Plans for a new part-time PGCE and Employment Based Route into teaching from 2019/20.

Teachers and pupils will also soon begin to see the benefits of a £36 million fund to reduce infant class sizes, with the appointment of over 80 new teachers across Wales and a capital fund to build new classrooms.

Reducing unnecessary bureaucracy for teachers continues to remain a priority, with this year seeing a £1.2 million investment in the appointment of school business managers – helping headteachers to manage their workload and focus on raising standards and school improvement.

Kirsty Williams said: “When I announced our national mission for education last September I said that we would never be able to achieve our ambitions if we just stayed still.

“That’s why the past year has been all about momentum – a drive for self-improvement that reaches right across our education system.

“We still have much work to do but I’m proud of the reforms that we have introduced in a relatively short space of time. I am also genuinely impressed by how everyone in the education system has responded.

“When I visit schools and talk to teachers and pupils, I am always struck about what they’re achieving and how they are improving – whether that’s in developing the new curriculum or discovering new ways of teaching and learning.

“In return, we are introducing the most comprehensive changes to teacher training and development in years, ensuring that our teaching profession are fully prepared and equipped when they start to teach our new curriculum.

“Our schools are changing, education in Wales is changing and I’m confident that our national mission is well on course to deliver the wholesale reforms that we need.”

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Education

WG promotes universities overseas

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Professor Iwan Davies: Chair of the Global Wales Board

THE WELSH G​OVERNMENT​​ is investing £3.5m in a programme run by Wales’ universities to drive international partnerships and promote Wales as a study destination in a post Brexit world, Education Secretary Kirsty Williams has announced.

The new funding is for Global Wales, a partnership between Universities Wales, British Council Wales, the Welsh Government and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales. The support is via the Welsh Government’s £50m EU Transition Fund to help business, public services and others prepare for the impacts of Brexit.

Established in 2015, Global Wales promotes Wales’ universities in priority overseas markets: Vietnam and the United States. This funding will see a significant increase in the scope and scale of the programme to deliver the Study in Wales brand globally, develop existing activity in the US and Vietnam, and to expand to other markets. The aim is to drive education exports and boost Wales’ profile as an outward-facing knowledge-economy.

Both Vietnam and the US have been identified as two increasingly important markets for a post-Brexit Wales. The funding will reflect this by supporting a Wales-Vietnam scholarship programme, identifying areas for joint-research and promoting Wales as a distinct study destination for Vietnam,the United States and other key markets, including Europe.

The Education Secretary’s announcement coincides with the visit to Wales by His Excellency Tran Ngoc An, Vietnamese Ambassador to the UK, which will see discussions on strengthening educational links between the two countries.

Kirsty Williams said: “I am very pleased to announce this funding for Global Wales so that they can strengthen the developing relationships we have with both Vietnam and the US.

“In a post-Brexit world we need to make sure that our HE sector continues to reach out to new and emerging markets.

“Our universities have so much to offer so we need to make sure that we look further afield to capitalise on the growing demand for higher education globally.

“I’m proud to welcome His Excellency Tran Ngoc An to Wales and hope that this announcement will be the beginning of a very productive partnership between our two countries.”

Ambassador Tran Ngoc An said: “As Ambassador of Vietnam to the UK, I highly appreciate the announcement of the Welsh Government to establish a fund for promotion of education co-operation between Wales and Vietnam. I am confident that with strong political will and join effort, our education co-operation will certainly be further developed.

“Our Minister of Education and Training is looking forward to welcoming HE Mrs Kirsty Williams, Cabinet Secretary of Education to Vietnam to lay a foundation for our education co-operation.”

Prof. Iwan Davies, Chair of the Global Wales Board, said: “I am delighted that the Welsh Government is making this significant new investment in Global Wales. The announcement today represents an important vote of confidence in our world class universities and the role that they, along with the Global Wales partners, play in helping to underpin the economy of Wales.

“Overseas students, international research collaboration and global institutional partnerships all help build trust and goodwill for Wales around the world, which in turn, has the potential to have a transformational impact on the Welsh economy. In the uncertain context of Brexit, this new investment in Global Wales will strengthen the major contribution that higher education plays to Wales’ international engagement and reputation for years to come.”

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