WMG at the University of Warwick is helping a body of British citizen scientists, medical clinicians, academics, manufacturers and engineers who have developed an alternative model of ventilator to support the Government’s drive to equip the NHS.
Marshall Aerospace & Defence Group, the UK’s leading privately owned Aerospace and Defence business, is exploring the technical aspects of the scheme ahead of rapid production and roll-out of the Negative Pressure Ventilator (NPV). The exovent concept is also supported by WMG at the University of Warwick and representatives from Imperial NHS Trust and The Royal National Throat Nose and Ear hospital. Two leading intensive care units have agreed to trial the prototype ventilator support devices.
exovent is non-invasive, which means that patients do not need to have their windpipes intubated, so they don’t need to be sedated or paralysed. Instead, they can remain conscious, take medication and nutrition by mouth, and talk to loved ones on the phone. It can be used on a normal ward, keeping patients out of intensive care.
Margot James, Executive Chair, WMG, University of Warwick comments: “We are delighted to be working with exovent to help scale up their non-invasive ventilator from prototype to volume manufacturing. Our engineers and researchers are collaborating with the exovent team on the design, engineering, component sourcing and assembly of the ventilator. I am extremely proud of the unstinting and dedicated efforts of our research team, led by Archie MacPherson at WMG, and glad that we are able to apply our expertise to this important project.”
*Please credit images to John Hunter Steer Energy
WMG is pleased to be supporting Dataswift’s Hack from Home event, a global virtual hackathon to find technology solutions to fight the spread of COVID-19 and mitigate against its economic and societal impact.
The event organised by HAT-LAB takes place this weekend (4th – 5th April). There are a consortium of partners including WMG, NHSX, Case Western Reserve University’s xLAB, the Cleveland Clinic’s Hwang Lab, University of Surrey, University of Exeter, the Ethical Tech Alliance, Samsung Medical Center, AITRICS, and the Yonsei Severance Medical Center.
This UK-launched initiative joins the global movement of hackathons taking place around the world.
Teams of technologists, creatives, activists and experts will be launching up to 25 new applications over the weekend, as they work to help solve some of the greatest challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The innovative projects will focus on three key themes.
● Citizen science - solutions to empower individuals to help healthcare and the government tackle the disease faster
● Community health - technology or applications that help the vulnerable or ensure communities have the resources to make it through the crisis
● Mass coordination - solutions that unlock the power of personal data to help mobilisation and coordination of resources
Mentoring, resources, and support from experienced technology and product leaders will guide each project as they compete to make the biggest impact on the virus and its effects on society. Viable solutions will be offered funding and professional developer support, and the entrepreneurs leading them will be encouraged to continue development and bring the solutions they have created to market to help communities, patients, and healthcare services.
Professor Irene Ng WMG’s Professor of Marketing and Service Systems and CEO of Dataswift explained: “We’re giving people a chance to respond with action, by working together to improve the lives of everyone affected by COVID-19.”
“Our goal is to band together to help communities, patients, and their families using what we know best - technology. We need to ensure that in these difficult times opportunistic app makers aren’t hoovering up our data, and to avoid a scenario where the world ends up worse than it was before. This collective action will prove that the ethical data economy can trump the surveillance economy.”
Hack from Home is actively looking for participants, mentors, and sponsors. Anyone interested in getting involved is invited to register online or get in touch here.
Professor Ng added: “Let’s roll up our proverbial sleeves with the research, technology, and business communities and demonstrate how much public value we can create when we’re working together.”
Youngjin Yoo, Professor of Design and Innovation at Case Western Reserve University and Faculty Director of xLab has highlighted that: "The fight against the pandemic is not just a medical problem - it is a behavioural, and a social problem. Our economy, our social lives, and our community are all affected by the pandemic. A multi-disciplinary, multi-industry approach to this struggle is required. And the market failure of the ethical use of personal data is one of the challenges.
“The Covid19 pandemic is demonstrating in real time why the society desperately needs a scalable ethical technology infrastructure. This hackathon will bring bright minds together to address this complex and rapidly evolving problem."
For more information visit: www.dataswift.io
The outreach team from WMG, University of Warwick, want to encourage children and their parents and carers to use this time to explore some of the fun, creative STEM learning opportunities which are available online. With support from WMG centre HVM Catapult, the outreach team at WMG has produced a number of online activities for children of all ages to get involved and learn something new.
Professor Margaret Low, Director of Outreach and Widening Participation for WMG, explains:
"With schools closing it’s a real opportunity to engage parents and carers with online teaching resources, to ensure children are getting an education at home during these uncertain times.”
“We hope these resources, which are suitable for young people of all ages, will inspire children to take up careers in STEM. Many children may think of engineering as physically making things, but don't realise the maths or computer design skills required, which could open up a great career for them in the future.”
The first resource suggested by WMG outreach team is Turtlestitch, which is great for children in school years 5 to 9. Turtlestitch is a free website on which users can write a program to control a digital embroidery machine. It is used by WMG for outreach activities, as a means of raising awareness of the breadth of engineering. Young people really enjoy using Turtlestitch for pattern design, with or without access to a digital embroidery machine, which makes it ideal for learning at home while schools are closed.
Helen Luckhurst, a Project Officer at WMG, University of Warwick comments: “Turtlestitch is great for children learning at home because it gives them a fun context for applying maths skills. It is interactive and engaging as children discover the patterns they can make using maths.”
“We have created a number of resource cards and video tutorials to support its use, so I hope that parents and carers will encourage their children to use this as a different way of learning.”
Find WMG video tutorials, how-to cards and maths tasks to guide users through Turtlestitch here. Explore the learning materials on basic programming skills, year 5 and 6 maths, craft projects and further mathematical investigations.
Another fun activity for both primary and secondary school children is Tinkercad, a colourful, easy to use computer-aided design software, which is free to use in the web browser and suitable for children from around 8 years of age. Teachers, kids, hobbyists, and designers use it to imagine, design, and make anything. It is used by WMG outreach as part of the Warwick Bright Stars programme in primary schools. Parents can find video tutorials and ideas for several projects here, including keyrings, money pots and lolly drip trays.
Diane Burton, a Project Officer at WMG, University of Warwick explains: "These Tinkercad projects engage children in the design process, and get them using measurements and maths as an essential part of their design work.”
Autodesk Fusion 360 is a powerful, professional CAD package. It is used in secondary schools and is suitable for ages 14+, and a free download is available to students, educators and enthusiasts. WMG video and written tutorials are available here, where you will find projects including design of assistive technology.
Parents may also want to do some experiments at home with their children, which are fun and educational for any age.
WMG staff have made videos available of demonstrating experiments to do at home, using household items and toys you might already have. It is advisable that children are supervised during these experiments.
Watch Graduate Trainee Engineers Lauren, Jacob, Josh and Lucas demonstrating STEM experiments, and follow a guide to building a pulley from a toy construction set. There are many more experiments to come, telling the engineering story behind household objects.
Dr Phil Jemmett, a Project Officer at WMG, University of Warwick comments: “Every product in your house has been made by engineers and shaped by scientists. We want to tell the story behind those items and show you experiments that you can do with everyday stuff. Now that we are all staying in our homes, we just have to find a way to do STEM with what we’ve got!”
Parental supervision is advised when accessing external websites.
The potential of UK engineering companies to manufacture ventilators - expert comment from Professor Robert Harrison
Robert Harrison, Professor of Automation Systems, at WMG, University of Warwick, comments on the potential of UK engineering companies to manufacture ventilators.
He said: “JCB, Rolls Royce or others could potentially manufacture ventilators. They have relevant skills and capabilities, but given that all the design and manufacturing related information could be supplied to them, getting the parts and the tooling to manufacture such a thing will be a significant task, perhaps taking many months.
“They would have to tool up production lines and train workers to assemble and test the product. Sourcing the parts, e.g., electronics, valves and air-turbines, quickly could be difficult.
“These are sophisticated devices. It is crucial that they work correctly in order to keep the patient alive, as these are life-critical pieces of equipment.”
WMG Associate Professor receives prestigious Institute of Marine Engineering Science and Technology award
His nomination for the IMarEST Outstanding Contribution Award was based on his engagement with the ‘European International Submarine Races’ (eISR) and the US equivalent (ISR) competitions over the last seven years. His involvement has reaped a substantial amount of educational benefit that he has developed and disseminated throughout the higher education sector.
Since 2013, Ian has acted as Project Director on the Warwick Submarine team supporting final year engineering students in designing and building a human-powered submarine to the exacting specification of the US and European competitions.
Ian said: “This award is wonderful recognition of a great deal of very successful work – but that has involved contributions from a number of colleagues and of course a lot of my project students. Their enthusiasm and engagement in both the Warwick Submarine project itself and the dissemination of its benefits and achievements has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career as a teacher. I am grateful for having the opportunity to have been involved in this activity with all of these people and would like to extend the recognition that this award offers to all of them.”
Ian’s teaching subjects range from applied statistics and experimental data analysis to various aspects of Engineering Business Management (EBM) at both undergraduate and Master’s degree level. His exceptional standard of teaching has been recognised with several awards including a 'Warwick Award for Teaching Excellence' (WATE).
Supporting the supermarkets to ‘smooth the spike’
"The current issues facing UK grocery supply chains, is not one of supply, but one of demand. The UK grocery retailers have sophisticated planning systems that seek to balance demand and supply. Over time, they learn seasonal patterns, the impact of promotions and other events and automatically adjust. The systems are so sophisticated that in the shorter term, they can adjust to changes in weather, for instance making sure we have the right food for our BBQs on hot days.
Need to smooth out the spike…
"The one type of demand that these systems really don’t like is unpredicted spikes in demand. Most grocery products have a relatively stable, and predictable rate of demand that the retailers can plan for. If this suddenly increases, it can take time for the supply chain to react, and move the stock that is further upstream to the shelf.
The problem at the moment is that whilst there is stock upstream in the supply chain, it is hard for the retailers to replenish it to shelf at the rate consumers are taking it. It also means that rather having stock in a warehouse, that could be used by all, the stock gets isolated in our homes, where it can only benefit an individual or their family.
Grocery retailers are taking the really sensible step of ‘rationing’ to try and smooth out these spikes. This is a really responsible reaction, and one to be commended as it will help to ensure that everyone gets the essential items they need.
Need to protect the vulnerable…
"Many in the UK have to budget carefully and only have the financial resources to buy what they need, when they need it. They can’t afford to stock pile.
Rationing should improve availability of products to all, and encourage everyone to buy at the rate that they consume. In that way we should all have access to the essential items we need.
Further measures by grocery retailers to prioritise delivery slots, and have dedicated in-store shopping slots for the elderly and vulnerable are be commended too.
What else could be done?
"Whilst UK retailers have started rationing, some are still offering promotions. Buy-one-get one-free, 3 for 2, or buy 2 for a fixed amount, all encourage consumers to buy more than they actually need.
Perhaps now is the time to stop such promotions, move to fixed pricing, to discourage purchasing more than required.
The Italian retailers are a number of weeks ahead of the UK retailers in understanding the impact of the virus on demand. It would be expected that once initial panic buying is over, when cupboards are full, replenishment will return to a more normal rate. There may be some uplift as we stay at home, and consume more in our domestic environment. Insight from the Italians, shared with UK retailers and their suppliers could help us to prepare.
With more consumers shopping online, and rationing in place, donations to food banks have fallen at a time when they are needed more than ever. Perhaps it is time to consider, how we can move food banks on-line too. Donate food, as part of our on-line shop or as a direct donation. With digital food bank vouchers, enabling the most vulnerable to get direct supply from a retailer.
These are unprecedented times. The basic principle of good supply chain management is to balance demand and supply. The UK retailers are working really hard to ensure that we have all the essential items that we need. We can help too, by buying responsibly and supporting the more vulnerable."
An Autonomous Guided Vehicle is being designed by researchers at WMG, University of Warwick in a bid to help the horticultural sector tackle a labour shortage.
The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) launched the SmartHort project in 2018 in a bid to help the sector’s economy by reducing labour requirements in horticulture through new technology and automation.
Leading automation experts from the WMG, University of Warwick are creating the model alongside three horticultural businesses; Crystal Heart Salad (lettuce propagators, Yorkshire), Valefresco (salads, Worcestershire), and WD Smith & Son (bedding plants, Essex).
The model will have the potential to work in both glasshouse and outdoor environments to automate the movement of trays and boxes around the production area, speeding up production.
Professor Robert Harrison from WMG, University of Warwick comments:
“We’ve been able to apply the cutting-edge technology developed in the automotive industry to the challenging environment of horticultural production.
“We reviewed existing AGVs to ensure there wasn’t an available product that could meet the growers’ needs, and have run a full analysis on the potential prototype to ensure the investment could be repaid through offsetting future labour costs.”
Our research teams is working on a solution to specifically address needs within the horticulture sector. Having captured the requirements, we have produced a configurable solution, which we are now progressing via prototype designs. Key aspects of the solution include the ability to work both indoors and outdoors and for it to be usable in conjunction with application-specific attachments of different types.
Grace Emeny, Knowledge Exchange Manager at AHDB, said: “With the lack of available labour an increasing pressure for many businesses, there is a growing need to automate more routine tasks to enable staff to be reallocated to more skilled jobs.
“There are two main barriers that prevent the uptake of automation. Many off-the shelf solutions don’t work for diverse horticulture production systems and often the return on investment doesn’t stack up in the current trading climate. WMG were tasked with addressing both of these challenges, which we believe they are well on their way to achieving.”
The overall goal is for the prototype to be developed commercially and is likely to cost around £30,000 to £50,000 depending on its configuration. So it’s available to all kinds of businesses in the sector.
James Bean, Crystal Heart Salad Co. comments:
“WMG have made several visits to our nursery. They have carried out a study of our logistics and have identified a design of autonomous vehicle which can improve efficiency and remove low-skilled manual tasks.
“We are excited to see this move to the next stage, to conduct real-life tests of the technology. If it fulfils expectations, it will make a fundamental change to our business.”
Grace added: “We know horticulture is at the forefront of a digital revolution in farming and our SmartHort programme is designed to help connect growers with automation and robotics experts to help accelerate innovation. This project demonstrates the potential opportunities available from matching skills outside horticulture to meet the needs of the industry.”
The project is being funded by AHDB and match-funded by Innovate-UK-backed High Value Manufacturing Catapult.
To find out more about the SmartHort Automation Challenge, visit www.ahdb.org.uk/smarthort
WMG was delighted to support STEM for Britain 2020 earlier this week for the fourth consecutive year.
STEM for Britain is a poster competition with five categories including Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Chemistry, Engineering, Mathematical Sciences and Physics. It took place at the Houses of Parliament bringing together early career researchers and MPs from across the UK.
This prestigious annual event is an important date in the parliamentary calendar because it gives MPs an opportunity to speak directly to some of the UK’s brightest young researchers.
Professor David Mullins, WMG Head of Department (interim) said: “This is the only event in the year that brings together really creative, really intelligent and passionate, young PhD and early career research students.
“We are delighted and honoured that WMG was able to sponsor the engineering element along with the Royal Academy of Engineering.”
He added: “For MPs it’s a really inspiring event. They get the chance to see the work coming out and how issues including climate change and healthy aging are being addressed. These young people are our future.”
Stephen Metcalfe MP and Chairman - Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, said: “These early career engineers, mathematicians and scientists are the architects of our future and STEM for BRITAIN is politicians’ best opportunity to meet them and understand their work.”
Greg Clark MP, Chair of Science and Technology Select Committee, explained: “It is a growing field that will have a huge impact on millions of people. STEM research will change the lives of our generation and of generations to come.”
Four University of Warwick students Jake Brooks (School of Engineering), Fabienne Bachtiger (Computational Chemistry), Robert Richardson (School of Chemistry) and Jonathan Harrison (Mathematics Institute) presented posters at the event.
The University of Warwick is delighted to announce the appointment of former Minister Margot James as the new Executive Chair of WMG. She takes up the role in April.
The University of Warwick’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stuart Croft said
“This is a fantastic appointment. Margot brings a wealth of leadership experience from Government and industry to WMG.She is ideally placed to lead WMG as it celebrates its 40th Anniversary year as it continues to grow and diversify, building on the outstanding foundations established under its former Chairman the late Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya”.
She served as Minister of State for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, with responsibility for Digital, Telecoms and the Creative Industries, piloting the Data Protection Bill through Parliament, incorporating GDPR into UK law. Previously she served as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, with responsibility for small businesses, consumers and corporate governance, including labor markets.
In 1985, Margot founded Shire Health Group which she grew to over 100 staff, having created a new market for industry sponsored public health campaigns.In 2004 she successfully transitioned Shire Health Group to the multinational WPP.Subsequently, she served on the Europe, Middle East and Africa Board of Ogilvy Mather, leading their European healthcare programmes.
“I am delighted to have been appointed Executive Chair of WMG, University of Warwick.It will be a real privilege to work with the exceptional academics and researchers from industry who are based at, or partnered with, WMG to grow this unique institution.I would like to pay tribute to the vision and dedication of WMG’s founder and chairman; the late Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya who led WMG in a constant quest for the latest innovations and new technologies.
“As well as world leading research with impact, WMG are educating the next generation of engineers and technologists.Throughout my career in business and government I have championed the need to expand opportunities for diverse groups of young people and I am inspired by the range of different opportunities on offer at WMG.”
“I look forward to bringing to WMG my experience as minister for digital and the creative industries, and prior to that business minister, as well as my time spent building up my business which provided marketing insights and services to the healthcare industry.”
On the appointment, the Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, said:
“WMG plays a highly important role within the region and with my knowledge of Margot, and experience of working with her, I am sure that she will provide strong leadership enabling WMG to continue its beneficial impact in the region”.
The Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, who worked closely with late Professor Lord Bhattacharyya for many years, stated
“I am pleased to see Margot James with whom I worked closely in government appointed to this post. Margot’s thorough understanding of the national policy debate and her experience of leading and working with organisations across a range of sectors, and her personal drive and enthusiasm will be ideal for WMG.”
- Current Physiotherapy techniques require patients to complete exercises at home, which doesn’t include much guidance
- Virtual reality (VR) combined with 3D Motion capture could allow movements to be translated onto an avatar the patient can follow, thanks to researchers at WMG, University of Warwick
- Consumer VR technologies can be used for both providing guidance to physiotherapy exercises, but also to make the exercises more interesting and encourage people to complete the course they need Virtual reality could help physiotherapy patients complete their exercises at home successfully thanks to researchers at WMG, University of Warwick, who managed to combine VR technology with 3D motion capture.
Currently prescribed physiotherapy often requires patients to complete regular exercises at home. Outside of the clinic, patients rarely receive any guidance other than a leaflet of sketches or static photographs to instruct them how to complete their exercises. This leads to poor adherence, with patients becoming anxious about not getting the exercise right, or simply getting bored by the repetitiveness of the movements.
The advent of consumer virtual reality technology combined with 3D motion capture allows real movements to be accurately translated onto an avatar that can be viewed in a virtual environment. Researchers at the Institute of Digital Healthcare, WMG, University of Warwick are investigating whether this technology can be used to provide guidance to physiotherapy patients, by providing a virtual physiotherapist in the home to demonstrate the prescribed exercises.
Their paper, ‘Timing and correction of stepping movements with a virtual reality avatar’ published today the 28th of February, in the Journal PLOS ONE, has focused on whether people are able to accurately follow the movements of a virtual avatar.
Researchers had to investigate whether people were able to accurately coordinate and follow the movements of an avatar in a virtual environment. They asked participants to step in time with an avatar viewed through a VR headset.
Unknown to the participants, the researchers subtly slowed down or sped up one of the avatar’s steps, such that the participants would have to correct their own stepping movement to stay in time. The effect this correction had on their step timing and synchronisation with the avatar was measured.
Lead author, Omar Khan from WMG, University of Warwick commented:
“If participants were observed to correct their own stepping to stay in time with the avatar, we knew they were able to accurately follow the movements they were observing.
“We found that participants struggled to keep in time if only visual information was present. However, when we added realistic footstep sounds in addition to the visual information, the more realistic multisensory information allowed participants to accurately follow the avatar.”
Dr Mark Elliott, Principal investigator on the project at WMG, University of Warwick added:
“There is huge potential for consumer VR technologies to be used for both providing guidance to physiotherapy exercises, but also to make the exercises more interesting. This study has focused on the crucial question of how well people can follow a virtual guide.”
Prof. Theo Arvanitis, co-author and Director of the Institute of Digital Healthcare, said:
“Our work and digitally-enabled technological solution can underpin transformative health innovations to impact the field of physiotherapy, and have a direct benefit to patients’ rehabilitation.
“We now plan to investigate other types of movements working closely in partnership with physiotherapists, to establish the areas of physiotherapy that will benefit most from this technology.”