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Robots invade Aberystwyth!

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Robots display at the Bandstand: Lots to see

ABERYSTWYTH PROMENADE was dominated by robots and mechanics over the weekend as the Beach Lab landed for another year.

The summer weather boded well for the free entry event which took place on Saturday (Jul 1) as visitors, families and local residents flocked to the Bandstand where they were able to observe the fantastic range of interactive entertainment robots created by members of Aberystwyth Robotics Club.

There were also robots at the Bandstand built by local schoolchildren at Aberystwyth University.

Some of the machines on display were developed at the University’s award-winning club for 12-18 year old pupils from Penglais and Penweddig schools including Joseph the 3-D Printed Robot, Laser Harp with infra-red laser beams instead of strings, Idris the car-sized all-terrain robotic platform, Lego Mindstorm Sumo platforms, Valiants teaching robots performing synchronised dance routines and Blackbot the four-wheeled drive robot which is operated by a handglove system.

A familiar feature to all there was Doris the Dalek, who patrolled the promenade throughout the day and a familiar collection of Droids inspired by characters from Star Wars which included C-3PO, R2-D2 and BB-8.

Additionally, Infinity from Series 1 of the BBC’s Robot Wars was also on display to keep the visitors company.

Patricia Shaw, a Computer Science lecturer at Aberystwyth University, spoke with The Herald and explained about Miro the robot that was on show: “Miro the Robot is a cross between a rabbit and a dog (or a donkey depending what you see in it) and is designed as a social companion.

“It has quite a few sensors inside and its’ behaviour is modelled on an animal. It responds to being stroked which keeps it happy, and if it is scared it will go and hide in a dark corner.

“It is there as a companion, particularly for elderly people, and it can interact with them. If anything were to happen to a person, it would be able to raise an alarm.

Miro is connected to the internet so it can actually alert people as necessary if anyone has an incident.”

The Herald asked Patricia about the response Miro the robot received at the Bandstand:

“The response has been really positive. We have had a lot of children interact with it as well as the adults who have really loved it.

“They have all had natural responses to the interaction of the robot and Miro has received a lot of attention from everybody”.

The event was organised by Stephen Fearn, of the Institute of Mathematics, Physics and Computer Science (IMPACS) at Aberystwyth University.

Speaking to The Herald about the event, Stephen explained more about his role at Aberystwyth University:

“My main role is teaching laboratories technician for the Institute of Mathematics, Physics and Computer science which is to look after the technical aspect of busy undergraduate teaching laboratories”.

On what highlights he took away from the Beach Lab at the Bandstand, Stephen described to The Herald:

“The highlights were definitely the delights on people’s faces as they were engaged with the exhibits and robots that were designed and built by the children in the Aberystwyth Robotics club”.

Stephen told The Herald what goes into organising and planning an event such as the Beach Lab:

“A lot of work goes into organising an event like this, and getting support from so many willing volunteers who give their time to show the magnificent creations they have built.

“From the simple robotic quad spider to the latest research instrumentation development for the next Mars mission”.

Stephen said how he felt the event was successful for members of the public:

“Social media play a lot these days in advertising to the masses, and people came especially to see this event as it something different, yet it caters for all age groups”.

“How important do you feel it is to highlight what Aberystwyth has to offer through this type of event and the work of the Aberystwyth Robotics Club?” The Herald asked Stephen, to which he responded:

“The Aberystwyth Robotics club is very unique. There is not another weekly club that specializes in robotics as an afterschool club.

“We have been so successful that we are now the leading Welsh STEM hub and won a National award for university student ambassadors in a STEM club.

“Apart from the awards, the main aim is to introduce school children, boys and girls to robotics in a controlled environment so giving them transferable skills as they go through their school life”.

The Herald concluded the interview by asking Stephen how he feels the Beach Lab succeeds in bringing the whole community together during the summer period:

“Beachlab succeeds because it brings exciting technological development, designed and built at the University to the members of the public in a friendly and understandable way.

“What better than seeing exciting robotic platforms driving along the prom on a sunny day- did you see the Dalek trying to order an ice cream!!!!”.

Members of the public were also able to visit the Old College to see and discuss some of the pioneering research being carried out by Aberystwyth University’s postgraduate students on robotics and other subjects.

More than 20 of the postgraduate students displayed their research in a series of posters in the main hall of the Old College

Along with robotics, some of the other fields of study included the ExoMars mission, green energy, the DNA of yeast, Alzheimer’s disease and the hippy movement in rural Wales 1968-1980.

Professor Reyer Zwiggelaar, Head of the Graduate School at Aberystwyth University has said:

“This display of posters is an excellent opportunity for the public to get a glimpse of the range and depth of research being carried out in Aberystwyth, as well as put their questions directly to those carrying out this ground-breaking work”.

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Ceredigion lifesavers go the extra mile during lockdown

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Loyal blood donors in Ceredigion have responded to a request from the Welsh
Blood Service to ‘donate differently’ by rolling up their sleeves to make a
lifesaving donation at one of the Service’s new regional hubs.

Across Wales, of the 6,808 individuals that visited a Welsh Blood Service donation
session in May 63% of donors attended a clinic that was not their usual donation
venue.

In Ceredigion, 293 donors came forward to give blood in May, with 34 attending a
donation session for the very first time.

Following a series of Covid-19 related venue cancellations and social distancing
restrictions, the Welsh Blood Service was unable to host donation sessions at the thirty
community venues it would typically visit across Wales each week.

The Service introduced a new collections schedule at the beginning of April which saw
collections taken from five regional donation hubs at different locations in Wales each
week. Donors were asked to travel to donate at their nearest hub.

Alan Prosser, Director of the Welsh Blood Service, said: “When it became clear we
couldn’t continue with business as usual, we knew we’d have to ask donors to donate
differently. Our regional donation hubs have replaced our usual local collections
programme and the response from donors has been remarkable.

“98.3% of the appointments we’ve made available since lockdown have been taken
and many of these appointments have been taken by donors who have been prepared
to go even further out of their way than they usually would just to make a potentially
lifesaving donation.”

The Service has also observed a sharp rise in the number of new donors coming
forward to donate.

Mr Prosser continued: “In May 2019, around 11% of those that attended our donation
sessions were new donors. This May, around 19% of our attendance has been people
who had never given before.

“We’ve also see a surge in the number of donors who haven’t given in years returning
to our sessions to help us boost stocks. It’s been amazing and we’re hugely grateful.”

Blood stocks in Wales have remained healthy throughout the pandemic as the reduced
collections activity has mirrored a reduction in the volume of blood used by hospitals.
However, the Service is urging donors to continue to attend their local sessions as and
when lockdown restrictions are lifted.

“Blood stocks are currently very healthy thanks to the commitment of new and existing
donors but we need people to keep giving blood to ensure we can continue to meet
hospital demand in the coming months. Travel to donate is considered essential travel
and anyone who is fit, well and eligible to donate can book an appointment through the
welshblood.org.uk website.”

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Porth Cymorth Cynnar supporting residents in Ceredigion

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During this challenging period, Porth Cymorth Cynnar has established a virtual platform to ensure that we are able to keep in touch with vulnerable residents across Ceredigion.

Due to the restrictions introduced to safeguard our communities against COVID-19, many residents are not able to access their usual provision or support such as parent groups or GP Referral Exercise Classes. Instead, we are ensuring that all residents whom are known to our services, and others, are kept in touch with, through regular welfare calls, should they wish.

Around 2000 residents from young people to families to carers, who may require or benefit from regular contact whilst their service is not operating in its usual form, will receive communication from our staff.

To date, almost 2000 welfare calls have been made, and have been well received by people across Ceredigion. Residents have said that it is great that someone is keeping in touch with them, to give them an opportunity to have a weekly phone call and someone to talk to.

Mrs Jones* (name changed for anonymity) who is 92 and lives alone, is used to receiving regular visits from Ceredigion’s mobile library was identified as benefiting from a weekly phone call, to check how she was doing, now that her usual library service would not be visiting for a while. Porth Cymorth Cynnar aimed to get in touch with Mrs Jones, but did not have a contact number. After tracking down a contact number through the local directory, a member of the Porth y Gymuned team was able to make contact. Luckily Mrs Jones has the support of family and neighbours to collect groceries, but nonetheless was extremely grateful to have someone to talk to, and to check that she is OK. A weekly phone check in has been organised with Mrs Jones, to ensure that she is doing well and to organise if she is in need of anything.

If you, or anyone you know would benefit from the Keeping in Touch Service, please get in touch with our Customer Services team on 01545 570881 or clic@ceredigion.gov.uk who will triage your query to Porth Cymorth Cynnar.

Porth Cymorth Cynnar are also regularly updating resource lists which are available on the Ceredigion County Council website here: http://www.ceredigion.gov.uk/coronavirus

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The latest on plastic free Ceredigion

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At its meeting held on 17 March, the Council’s Cabinet received an activity update from the Plastic Free Ceredigion Task and Finish Group, which was set up after full Council approved a motion on 22 February 2018.

Full Council approved the ‘Plastic Free campaigns throughout the County, including Plastic Free Aberporth and Plastic Free Aberystwyth’ motion to ensure that the Council helps to reduce the amount of single use plastics used in our day to day operations.

The motion involved a number of factors including; reducing single-use plastics within Council facilities and offices and encouraging local businesses, organisations, schools and communities to move away from single-use plastics and use sustainable alternatives. Promoting the use of sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics at all Council supported events, supporting beach cleans and any other events which aim to raise awareness of the issues of single-use plastics.

Since 22 February 2018, the Council have removed 5 single-use plastic that were used across the local authority, implemented projects in conjunction with NRW with local primary schools, worked closely with communities throughout Ceredigion and commenced the provision of Water bottle re-fills on request to all visitors to our public facing buildings.

In January 2020, the Schools Service were successful in bidding for funding from the Circular Economy Capital Fund, which allows for the purchasing of milk dispensers which will remove the need for the provision of plastic milk bottles and straws by 1,979 pupils at Foundation and Key Stage 2. This is equivalent to a reduction of 376,010 plastic milk bottles per school year.

Councillor Alun Williams, Member Champion for Sustainability said, “These are initiatives which, together, make a real difference to the amount of single-use plastics going into the waste stream from Council activities. Whilst it’s important that everyone seeks to minimise their use of single-use plastics, it’s particularly important that large organisations like councils take these kinds of actions because they can have a wider effect which, in turn, can lead to industry changing to more sustainable practices. Ceredigion Council is trying to lead the way in showing what’s possible within an organisation.”

This supports one of the Council’s corporate priority of Promoting Environmental and Community Resilience.

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