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British astronaut gives Swansea children guide to the stars thanks to Gower dark skies



The first European Space Agency astronaut, Tim Peake, revealed secrets of the universe to a group of year 5 and year 6 primary school children under some of the darkest skies of the year in the Gower Peninsula in Wales at Arthur’s Stone, Cefn Bryn.

The former Apache pilot, flight instructor, and test pilot led the six budding scientists to a stargazing camp on a dark night in November for their first experience of the wonders of the sky at night – as part of a Visit Wales and Welsh Government initiative.

November is one of the best times of year to see dark skies, due to lower levels of water vapour, dust and haze.

The children were given a unique lesson in gazing up at the stars by one of the few people on the planet who has looked down at the earth from space, finding out how to spot the constellations that make up the Milky Way, neighbouring planets in our solar system as well as galaxies such as Andromeda.

Wales has some of the darkest, clearest and unpolluted skies in the world and it has the highest percentage of land with protected dark skies status on the planet.

Tim Peake, who recently attended COP26 conference to discuss solutions for climate change, said: “Looking down at the earth from the International Space Station gives a unique perspective of our fragile planet and how connected we are across the globe.

“And looking up at the night sky from Earth is as important as looking down from above. It reveals the wonders of our universe and shows children that they have a lifetime of limitless possibilities ahead of them.”


“Not all young people have the same access to dark skies, but it’s so important to look up to the stars and be inspired for the future, to understand why we need to protect the planet and to ask the big questions about life.”

“Wales offers a huge number of opportunities for seeing the night’s sky at its best with Dark Sky Reserves and Dark Sky Parks and of course low levels of light pollution.”

Tim Peake, the British astronaut pictured inside a dome on the top of Cefn Bryn on the Gower Peninsula is South Wales. Tim was stargazing with local school children and helping them discover the beauty of the dark skies in Wales.

The awe-inspired youngsters from Swansea are hoping to be astronauts in the future, most of whom had their first ever experience of witnessing the magic of the stars and completely dark skies at the event with Tim Peake.

Jessica Sadler from Sea View Primary School in Swansea said: “Now I’ve seen the dark skies I want to see them more often, and I’ll be looking out from now on.

“In the future, I hope to see a shooting star and I would love to travel to space one day.”

In December 2015, Tim became the first British astronaut to visit the International Space Station and conduct a spacewalk during his six-month mission. He also ran the London marathon from space.


His mission engaged more than two million students in outreach activities and he is an ambassador for STEM Education.

Tim regularly visits Wales and famously wished the people of Wales a Happy St David’s Day from aboard the International Space Station in 2016.

Wales’ vast network of three International Dark Sky Reserves and Dark Sky Parks have been singled out by astronomers as world-beating places to go stargazing. There are also hundreds of other places, from small and accessible Dark Sky Discovery Sites to Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Economy Minister Vaughan Gething, said: “The Welsh Government is working hard to help Wales’ young people reach their full potential. So meeting someone who has done something truly out of this world like Tim Peake is an excellent way to inspire our younger generations to reach for the stars, helping them see that they can be what they aspire to be.

“As part of our economic vision to create a stronger, fairer, greener economic future, we’re looking to inspire more young people to take up STEM subjects – and be inspired by the world around us. What better way to do that than by learning more about space from your own doorstep.


“The wonders of our dark skies in autumn and winter shows that Wales is an inspirational place to visit all year round.”

The children attended from Sea View Primary School in Swansea. Councillor Robert Francis-Davies, Cabinet Member for Investment, Regeneration & Tourism at Swansea Council said: “We are delighted that after a sell-out event at Swansea’s Brangwyn Hall, Tim decided to extend his stay in Swansea Bay and share his enthusiasm for our dark skies and his experiences in space with children from Sea View Community Primary School – what a privilege for them to meet a real-life astronaut!

“This recognition is timely as we are in the process of applying for Dark Sky Community Status for Gower. There are several places on the Gower Peninsula where you can appreciate the wide expanse of our night sky – it’s yet another way in which we can appreciate the outdoors and spend quality time in nature all year round.”

Lead image: Tim Peake, the British astronaut pictured on the top of Cefn Bryn on the Gower Peninsula is South Wales. He is alongside a dome especially set up to show local school children the wonder of stargazing and the beauty of the dark skies of Wales.

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Swansea student joins BBC Children in Need challenge




A Swansea student is joining a group of five young people selected to take part in a new fundraising challenge for BBC Children in Need.

The Surprise Squad is made up of inspirational young people who have been supported by BBC Children in Need and want to give back and lend a helping hand to benefit others.

Joined by The One Show presenters Alex Jones, Ronan Keating and Jermaine Jenas, the Surprise Squad will head to locations around the country where they will complete surprise challenges for BBC Children in Need funded projects that are in need of a little help with something – which could be anything from creating a secret garden for a children’s hospice, or organising a much needed community fundraising event to give a local project a boost.

The team of young people will deliver their surprises and complete them within a day. The One Show viewers will be able to watch how the surprises unfold each evening, whilst learning the young people’s inspiring stories, during BBC Children in Need Appeal Week.

Among the Surprise Squad is Gower College Swansea A Level student Nathan Pollard-Jones, who is 17.

Nathan was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia when he was 13 years old in 2018. He was an active teenager but was feeling fatigued so he went to the doctor and was eventually diagnosed with cancer. Nathan spent three years in treatment with a lot of time spent in hospital, which he found tough as he had to spend a lot of time away from school and his friends.

In addition, some of his treatment was delivered during Covid-19 which made things even harder as he had to isolate from family and friends to minimise his risk of catching it. Nathan has recently finished treatment and attends College, where he is studying A Levels.


He has been supported by Teenage Cancer Trust, who receive funding from BBC Children in Need to deliver the Find Your Sense of Tumour weekend which helps young people rebuild their lives after cancer. They bring young people with cancer together to hear from experts, to get advice and most importantly, to be themselves and have fun.

Nathan said: “Having recently finished my cancer treatment, I feel so proud that I’m able to be a part of the Surprise Squad. I hope that the surprises we create make a huge difference to others who are facing challenges.”

The One Show’s Alex Jones will be joining the team during one of the surprises and said: “I’m excited to be back on the green sofa, and to be joining the Surprise Squad as they deliver these really special challenges for BBC Children in Need funded projects across the country. I can’t wait for the audience to see what the Squad get up to and I hope that they’re inspired by their incredible stories.”

Ronan Keating will also be joining the team for one of the surprises. He said: “We’re so excited to be delivering these surprises for worthy organisations across the country. We hope that these surprises will make a huge difference to those receiving them and we can’t wait to bring the audience along to see what the Surprise Squad get up to!”

Jermaine Jenas added: “I’m looking forward to seeing some of the amazing things that the Surprise Squad get up to, and how what they do will benefit communities across the country, and I hope that our audience love watching it all too!”


The other members of the Surprise Squad are:

Ore, 19 from Barry, Wales.

Ore is a young carer who helps look after her younger sister Ire who is 14 and has Sickle Cell Disorder. Ore was the main carer for her mother, who passed away two years ago in October 2019 following many years of illness. Ore lives with her father and her sister. Ore is a passionate advocate for families who live with Sickle Cell Disorder – she wants to breakdown the stigma that can sometimes affect people with Sickle Cell Disorder. She also wants to highlight just how serious the impact of Sickle Cell Disorder can be on people’s lives and give people from all walks of life a better understanding of the condition. Ore has been supported by Friends of Cymru Sickle Cell and Thalassemia through their youth project and their home support service.

Ore said: “I’m so looking forward to being a part of the Surprise Squad and doing something that will make a huge difference to other children and young people across the country.”

Joseph, 19 from Liverpool.

Joseph has cerebral palsy and has been attending the BBC Children in Need funded project Stick ‘n’ Step since he was two years old. He says the project has changed his life in many ways, not least by teaching him how to walk. Joseph underwent a major operation in 2016 in which he had to learn to walk again, he has since recovered and now describes himself as someone with a hidden disability, as following his operation his disability is less prominent.  This can be difficult for him to explain though sometimes, as he stills finds certain moves or work that he doesn’t have strength for, hard to accomplish.

Joseph said: “Being part of the Surprise Squad this year is something that I’m really looking forward to. I want to share my story and hope that I can help raise money for other children and young people like me.”

Roisin, 16 from Derry/Londonderry, NI.

When Roisin was 14, she had a stroke which caused her life changing disabilities. She spent three months in hospital and had to relearn how to walk, talk and eat.  Up until then she had been a healthy teenager who loved singing and performing. Since having the stroke, things can be quite difficult for Roisin as she isn’t able to do all of the things that she used to but her confidence is being rebuilt and she’s looking forward to being a part of the Surprise Squad. Roisin has been supported by Brain Injury Matters who deliver a youth empowerment project with funding from BBC Children in Need.

Roisin said: “Being part of the Surprise Squad is a huge achievement for me. I’m really looking forward to helping make a difference that will benefit others. I hope that those who can do, donate.”

Dylan, 18 from Glasgow.

Dylan has autism. He developed a rare condition called MDP Syndrome when he was 18 months old, finally receiving a diagnosis aged 10. MDP only affects him and 15 other people in the world and it causes deafness, fat loss under the skin, joint stiffness and eye problems. Dylan is really passionate about raising awareness of his condition, throughout his school life he has delivered speeches to his classmates about MDP and also uses his skills in photography to do this, as he is a passionate and talented photographer. He has been supported by Indepen-dance for many years, which delivers dance sessions for disabled young people.

Dylan said: “I have spent my life raising awareness for my condition with school friends and my wider community.  I’m really looking forward to being able to share my story with The One Show viewers. I hope I can help to raise money that will go on to support other young people like me.”

Rob Unsworth, Head of The One Show said: “This year we really want to give a helping hand to some of the projects that have been funded by BBC Children in Need. The Surprise Squad will help provide a little bit of magic to projects across the country, whilst sharing their inspiring stories too.”


Tommy Nagra, Director of Content at BBC Children in Need said: “It’s fantastic The One Show are back with a brand new challenge this year. The amazing stories of the young people overcoming their own challenges to thank, surprise and delight  others in need  is truly inspiring .  We hope viewers at home are equally inspired by their efforts. Please tune in to The One Show to see the amazing things this remarkable team of young people achieve!” 

For details on how to donate and support The Surprise Squad for BBC Children in Need visit 

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Swansea animal movement expert awarded prestigious medal for scientific contribution




Professor Emily Shepard, an expert in the movement ecology of wild animals, has been awarded the prestigious Zoological Society of London (ZSL) Scientific Medal, in recognition of her outstanding research.

The ZSL Scientific Medal is awarded for outstanding contributions by an early career researcher, with up to three awarded annually.

Professor Shepard’s work focuses on how bird flight is affected by airflows, using biologging technologies in the field, experimental work in wind tunnels, and theoretical models of airflows and flight mechanics.

This novel research has combined bird tracking data with the use of computational fluid dynamics to model airflows at local scale. She has looked at how airflows affect where birds fly, the ability to land, and where seabirds nest.

In addition, Professor Shepard’s use of high-frequency tagging data has provided fascinating insights into the flight strategies of condors. This involved using high-frequency sensors to quantify the amount of time spent flapping, and when and where birds extract energy from the air by circling in thermal updrafts or soaring along windward slopes.

Professor Shepard said: “It’s a huge honour to receive the ZSL Scientific Medal. It has also been a delight to team up with collaborators in biology, meteorology and engineering, which has been fundamental to much of this work.”

Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity whose mission is to promote and achieve the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats.


On presenting the award to Professor Shepard, the ZSL said: “Emily is recognised as a global leader in this research area, and her contributions to the scientific literature simply cannot be missed. Many of her papers are already seen as classics, and bound to become timeless achievements in the realm of zoological scientific discoveries”.

(Lead image: Swansea University)

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£1.73m additional funding to expand project in semiconductor technology and applications




The Welsh Government has announced additional funding of £1.73 million for a project, which involves Swansea University and partners, developing world-leading semiconductor process technologies.

Applications include autonomous vehicles, novel devices for clean energy, future mobility, artificial intelligence, advanced packaging, and biosensors and wearable sensors.

ASSET (Application Specific Semiconductor Etching Technology) is an industrially driven, collaborative project with partners across south Wales, including: SPTS Technologies (a KLA company), IQE, The Compound Semiconductor Centre (CSC), Biovici, BioMEMS, Swansea and Cardiff universities and Integrated Compound Semiconductors Ltd (Manchester).

ASSET is partly funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), under the Welsh Government’s SMART Expertise programme.

The ASSET industrial partners provide advanced technologies for almost all the world’s smartphones. By developing a host of new semiconductor process technologies using compound semiconductors and next generation materials, ASSET will service new and emerging applications in automotive sensing, 6G, photonics and healthcare.

The expanded ASSET project involves additional industry partners from the South Wales Compound Semiconductor Cluster including: CSconnected, smart sensors and networks producers UtterBerry, photonics company Wave Photonics, and the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) which is the UK’s national metrology institute.

Professor Owen Guy, head of chemistry at Swansea University and lead for the ASSET project, said: “The expanded ASSET project is a timely boost to the UK semiconductor industry, with exciting developments planned with several of our regional industry partners, and the opening of our £90m Centre for Integrative Semiconductor Materials (CISM) – a new state-of-the-art semiconductor facility at Swansea University – in 2022.”

Vaughan Gething, Welsh Government Economy Minister, said: “We are immensely proud of the world-leading compound semiconductor ecosystem we helped foster here in Wales. It is a high potential network translating state-of-the-art research and innovation capabilities into world-class Welsh manufacturing for new and emerging global technology markets. This “next generation” technology shapes our lives today and will improve our experiences of tomorrow – from electric vehicles, to face recognition in smart phones, and space applications.

“The sector is of huge significance to Wales, providing high value employment and a real magnet for foreign direct investment. It also underpins development in so many other industries, and we believe it can deliver against our Programme for Government by driving a stronger, greener economy, and contributing to the net-zero, decarbonisation challenge.

“I’m very proud of the Welsh Government’s track record on supporting businesses to innovate and introduce new products and services, to trade with the UK and the rest of the world, to improve our skills base and to ensure that Wales remains competitive in the fourth industrial age.”

Dr Matt Elwin, Operations Director for CISM / Dr. Mike Jennings, Associate Professor in Electronic Engineering at Swansea, said: “The ASSET expansion links with our new ‘Driving the Electric Revolution (DER)’ Industrialisation Centres (IC) initiative to create a new sovereign supply chain for the UK in next generation power electronics components for transport electrification. This funding, plus the £4.82 million from the DER Industrialisation Centres programme, will help us deliver common goals for increased economic growth, developing clean and resilient supply chains in power electronics, machines and drives.”

Paul Rich, Executive Vice President of Product Engineering and Technology at SPTS Technologies, said: “The ASSET project gives the consortium the ability to work with the extensive fabrication supply chain in the region to further expand our capabilities and capitalise on new and exciting market opportunities.”

Wyn Meredith from the Compound Semiconductor Centre said: “The South Wales semiconductor industry employs over 1,400 highly skilled people in the region and is set to expand rapidly over the next five years with the growth of 5G, AI and other mega-trend markets. ASSET will support these markets by developing a range of advanced semiconductor processes and expertise to overcome technical and industry challenges.”

Heba Bevan from UtterBerry said: “UtterBerry is proud to be working with Professor Owen Guy and his team at Swansea University on the project, to revolutionise chip manufacturing and to become one of the most advanced centres in the UK. We also look forward to the broader positive changes the team at UtterBerry will make to the area, including job creation, a more efficient transportation network, enhanced connectivity and automation in the clean energy sector.”

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