Robotic Visions

Project aims:

Robotic Visions aimed to provide a unique platform for two-way discussion and debate between young people and robotics researchers.


1. To provide a unique platform for two-way discussion and debate between young people and robotics researchers.

2. Feed opinions gathered at all the conferences into an over-arching policy document relating to robotics research development.

Summary of activity:

Robotic Visions involved five separate ‘visions conferences’, held at various geographical locations throughout the UK in association with key robotics research laboratories and experienced host venues (science centres and universities). Places at the conferences were awarded by the local venues on a competitive basis and will be recognised as a prestigious opportunity for the pupils involved. Students from a range of backgrounds attended. The direction of each conference was be led by the participants themselves – both students and researchers – who worked together to identify the issues and topics that are of most concern to them. Each conference consisted of three
1. A divergent phase – where participants are given the opportunity to explore the uses and potential of robotics, bringing their creativity and personal aspirations to the fore
2. A convergent phase – where key priorities and themes are identified by the participants and a list of key recommendations (considering a range of stakeholders and audiences including government, and other researchers and young people) is produced.
3. A celebratory session to which key stakeholders will be invited. Part of this celebration will include the formal presentation of the participants’ shared vision to the local stakeholders. This brief overview will be followed up by a short report compiled after each conference which draws out key cross-cutting themes from the discussion.

Evaluation approach:

The event format and process was initially evaluated during the pilot by an external evaluator, resulting in significant learning which has fed into this programme. A thorough evaluation was therefore be conducted internally by Dr Claire Rocks and will involve a range of mechanisms, including:

At the Event:

• All participants will be given a written entry questionnaire at the start of the conferenceand an exit questionnaire at the end.

• A democracy wall2 will be available throughout the conference so that participants can informally post their ideas and opinions throughout the conference

• The evaluator will observe sessions throughout the conference using a semi-structured approach

• Interviews will take place with the facilitators immediately after the conference

3 weeks post event:

• Interviews will take place with all of the roboticists involved

• 2-3 focus groups will take place with students at 2-3 participating schools.

6-8 weeks post event:

• An e-survey will be sent to the teachers and roboticists. This survey is interested in

assessing whether the report has been disseminated or whether conference

participants have shared their experience.

What went well:

1. Findings were widely disseminated, for example to the policy departments of relevant government bodies and learned institutions, and made available to relevant existing networks, giving the students and roboticists a chance to have their opinions heard.

2. Students were able to visit the Houses of Parliament to Students and discussed the main areas where they see robotics research having an impact in the future.

What was learned:

1. A pilot phase was essential to develop the project. It clearly demonstrated the potential of the event format to deliver a high quality, sustained impact on the young people and also on the roboticists involved.

2. By the end of the conference the young people’s opinions were much more focused and they were able to articulate the reasons behind their opinions.

3.The visions put forward by the young people were not the same as the areas where roboticists felt their work would have the greatest impact.

4. It increased students’ interest in science and engineering by placing it in a wider context.

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