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Queen Mary launch storytelling workshops to inspire engineering students

12 October 2021

Engineer The Story team at recent workshop
Engineer The Story team at recent workshop

‘Engineer The Story’, run in partnership with the Ideas Foundation, helps engineers tell stories about their career aspirations at Queen Mary and bring engineering research to life. It is supported by the Train the Trainer programme at the StoryFutures Academy, the UK’s National Centre for Immersive Storytelling, and a second Ingenious Award from the Royal Academy of Engineering.

The project team, led by Queen Mary’s Dr Tina Chowdhury, recently developed a prototype storytelling workshop to train a pilot group of 30 engineering students and researchers from Queen Mary’s School of Engineering and Materials Science (SEMS). Academics from Queen Mary’s Schools of English and Drama and Languages, Linguistics and Film including Dr Aoife Monks Queen May’s Arts and Culture academic lead, supported the design of storytelling content as these schools have already embedded storytelling skills into their programmes.

Workshop participants were coached and inspired by world-class storytellers, creative practitioners, artists and role models including BBC presenter Dallas Campbell and Deepa Mann-Kler. Students learnt how to create stories with Adobe Spark and TikTok whilst developing new skills in content creation, data visualisation and communication.

Heather MacRae, Chief Executive of the Ideas Foundation and Honorary Fellow at Queen Mary, said: “Tina has a track record of supporting education for students from different backgrounds. During the coronavirus pandemic, she shared her amazing stories to inspire young people whether they are at home or at university. 'Engineer The Story' connects students, researchers and the creative technology experts across the UK, driving story creation and a new generation of engineers.”

Deepa Mann-Kler, Visiting Professor in Immersive Futures, Artist and Diversity Inclusion Specialist, added: “Working with Tina Chowdhury and Heather MacRae from Queen Mary and The Ideas Foundation on storytelling and engineering, has been dynamic, engaging and now embedded as part of the taught programme. This means that practical storytelling tools and techniques will be available to all engineering students in teaching and research. They both truly understand the power of storytelling to change the world."

Embedding storytelling skills into the curriculum

Dr Tina Chowdhury’s ambition is to develop a storytelling module for students studying different engineering disciplines. Working with colleagues from across the University involved in online learning, engineering, drama and film, the team have identified how storytelling could contribute to the SEMS Graduate Attributes Framework, which aims to help students develop the knowledge and skills they need to succeed both personally and professionally.

Dr Tina Chowdhury, Senior Lecturer in Regenerative Medicine at Queen Mary and project lead, said: “'Engineer The Story' helps students build confidence and communications skills as well as share stories and develop relationships both within the University and beyond. Speakers like BBC presenter Dallas Campbell and Diversity and Inclusion specialist Deepa Mann-Kler who took part in the pilot workshops are incredible role models for our students.”

“The project is such a great way to connect communities across Queen Mary and create an exciting archive of digital resources to share with students and alumni. I look forward to rolling out the project to more of our students at the School.”

Dallas Campbell will also be returning to Queen Mary later this year to share his stories with the SEMS student community tell his influential stories in engineering to 570 students on 9 November 2021 as part of the SEMS Skills & Employability week.

Training the trainer

The Train the Trainer initiative was set up to support the development of UK trainers, and to address the shortage of graduates with the right skills essential to the growth and success of the immersive sector in the UK.

Following the success of a first cohort of seven university projects, the universities funded in this second round will address some of the sector’s emergent challenges, bringing the sciences together with the arts and medicine (STEAMM) to help teach our brilliant creators of the future a set of essential crossover skills.

Mary Matheson, Executive Producer of Train the Trainer and Course Director at the Royal Holloway MA Immersive Storytelling “StoryFutures is absolutely thrilled to see Queen Mary launch 'Engineer The Story', putting into practice the prototyping developed during the team’s Train the Trainer programme. We set out to build higher education capacity to create a talent pipeline for immersive production, bringing the arts and sciences together to give students a full a skillset across STEAM subjects. Queen Mary epitomises this ambition, embedding cutting edge immersive technologies and storytelling techniques into their science and engineering curricula.”

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Updated by: Vicky Kwaku