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British Science Week: Soldiers say why STEM matters in their jobs

As part of British Science Week (10-19 March), three female soldiers reveal how the latest developments in science and technology are central to their jobs in the British Army.

I have a STEM background - maths and science at A Levels and a degree in bio-chemistry - but I wasn’t really in the digital tech world, the Royal Signals have trained me to look at it COLONEL LIZ BYFIELD,
FUTURES DIRECTORATE
ARMY HEADQUARTERS

All three women are officers in the Royal Corps of Signals, the Army’s lead for IT, Cyber and Telecommunications, including surveillance, electronic warfare and intelligence systems.

Secure and effective communications are vital on the battlefield.

Colonel Liz Byfield, who works in the Futures Directorate at Army Headquarters, says,

“I have a STEM background - maths and science at A Levels and a degree in bio-chemistry - but I wasn’t really in the digital tech world, the Royal Signals have trained me to look at it.

“Whilst I joined the army for three years, I have stayed for over 20 years because of the people and opportunities.”

Evolving technological advances mean that the British Army cannot stand alone in the fast-moving world of science and innovation. It must partner with companies at the cutting edge of technology to ensure it stays a leading military force.

Major Lianne Robinson says,

After I left, I was told the whole project has been funded and the complete plan would be implemented. It’s moments like those that fill you with pride in your work which take you forward to the next project Captain Catherine Henderson

“As a team, we are working on the Future Land Operating Concept which is helping to shape the future force of the British Army, looking at our capabilities and advising on acquisitions.

“My role allows me to blend my degree in Human Psychology, my operational experiences of electronic warfare and training whilst serving in the Army in battle-space technology and cyber defence.”

The British Army often sends specialists to work alongside other armies across the world. This ensures best practices are shared, lessons learned and, where needed, specialist advice offered.

Captain Catherine Henderson, who works in capability and acquisition at the tactical level, says,

“I worked with the Somalian National Army whilst serving with the United Nations in Somalia.

“I was asked to help plan a high frequency (HF) radio network which included advice on the procurement of equipment that would be sustainable using solar power.

“There are moments of uncertainty as you plan for best practice for not only military efficiency but also sustainability; you are not quite sure if the funding will be there.

“After I left, I was told the whole project has been funded and the complete plan would be implemented. It’s moments like those that fill you with pride in your work which take you forward to the next project.”

We are constantly looking at research in the military and in industry to see what we can achieve Major Lianne Robinson

Major Robinson added,

“In Future Force Capability, we look at what the trends are now, how these will filter into the future and what operating environment will we see. From that we try to figure out how we will operate in that environment and what capabilities will we need to be successful.

“We are constantly looking at research in the military and in industry to see what we can achieve.”

One such area of interest is Artificial Intelligence. This brings exciting opportunities to innovate to protect the military’s most vital asset, its people, and to speed up routine labour-intensive activities.

Colonel Byfield says,

“As the Director for the Artificial Intelligence Innovation Programme, I see the blend of technologies from across the military, civil service and industry giving us the diversity of thought which keeps us innovating in an exciting way.

It is bringing data together to give the most complete overview in a matter of minutes rather than collating individual statistics. A good example is in logistics where you want to know what condition your vehicles are in, the fuel status, the ammunition for the vehicles - this is where we save time COLONEL LIZ BYFIELD, FUTURES DIRECTORATE ARMY HEADQUARTERS

“It is about reducing the cognitive burden for mundane tasks. A recent piece of work I was involved in cut ten hours off the work that soldiers were having to do.

“If we can free up our people to think about the problems that are becoming increasingly more complex then this has to be a good move forward.

“It is bringing data together to give the most complete overview in a matter of minutes rather than collating individual statistics. A good example is in logistics where you want to know what condition your vehicles are in, the fuel status, the ammunition for the vehicles - this is where we save time.”

British Science Week is a ten-day celebration of thousands of events running throughout the whole of the UK with the aim of celebrating science, engineering, technology and maths.

The programme of events, which can be found on www.britishscienceweek.org, is a hugely varied and eclectic mix suitable for people of all ages and abilities.