James Watt Technician Prize
In recognition of the ingenuity of James Watt, the James Watt Technician Prize is awarded annually to a technician who is judged to have introduced significant innovation within their role to the benefit of the University, its staff and students, to the advancement of research or teaching or to the benefit of wider society. The prize takes the form of a £1,000 payment and a certificate from the Principal.
This prize is complementary to existing recognition processes including the Long Service Awards, Teaching Excellence Awards and Research Culture Awards.
The James Watt Technician Prize winners 2023 are announced.
Congratulations to the winners of the 2023 James Watt Technician Prize:
William (Billy) Allan -Technician, James Watt School of Engineering
Engineering IT Support created a TechBar, a customer service desk for IT Support in the refurbished James Watt North building. While geographically central to the school estate, it was remote from the many locations where users often need immediate assistance, such as labs, drawing offices and seminar rooms. With the changes in communication behaviours since Lockdown and the switch from telephones to MS Teams, a key question for a user needing immediate assistance is, “How do I get someone to help me right now?
IT staff also wanted to find an innovative way for users to obtain assistance quickly without IT staff wasting valuable time trying to find the room within the vast array of buildings used by the School.
In response to this need, Billy Allan turned his attention to a web-based utility that uses QR code technology coupled with Microsoft Teams webhooks, to provide an alerts system offering a user-friendly interface directly accessed from the rooms and labs across the School of Engineering.
With an easy scan of a QR code using their smartphone, staff and students can instantly initiate an IT support request within Microsoft Teams. This request could range from a minimal “Help required in Seminar Room” to a more detailed. description which the user can provide via a simple webform on their phone.
- Each room has posters prominently displayed advising users on how to obtain help at their These have a QR code specific to that location.
- A user scans the QR code using the camera on their smartphone. This links to a webapp into which the user logs in with their GUID, and sends an ‘assistance required’ message to IT This message contains the user’s email address, their current location and a connection to their Chat page on Microsoft Teams – setting up a direct two-way link between IT Support and the user.
- IT Support staff receive the alert in Teams and can immediately chat, speak, or video to the user indicating someone is on their way to help, ask for more information, or providing direct assistance.
- As this is Teams based, IT staff working away from their desk can still interact with the user and attend if they are nearby.
As each room requires a unique QR code, the system Billy created also has a facility for IT staff to create bespoke QR codes as needed that can link to other services, e.g., for a new location or for a non-IT service.
Almost immediately after being implemented within the School, the QR code system began rolling out across the wider College of Science and Engineering. The implementation of this innovative system underscores the school’s determination to providing agile and responsive IT Support for our world-class educational environment. It is a tangible demonstration of our forward-thinking approach, reflecting values of innovation, and continuous improvement.
Nominated by Ken McColl, IT Lead, Science & Engineering College IT Services and supported by Suzanne Robertson, Learning and Teaching Manager, James Watt School of Engineering, Ken McColl said:
“This utility is an example of Billy’s forward looking and innovative talents where he has understood the problem users face and taken appropriate technologies and combined them to produce something novel and tailored to our specific requirements. The seamless uptake of the facility gives the impression it had always been a part of the support offering as it effortlessly becomes part of the way we do things. Its introduction has garnered widespread positive responses from staff, reflecting not just a step towards our objective of enhanced IT responsiveness but also a step forward in using IT to improve daily experiences.”
Calum Scott - Technician (Music) – School of Culture & Creative Arts
Calum joined the Music subject area as a Technician in April 2021. In this relatively short time, he has made extraordinary contributions to the School of Culture and Creative Arts.
As the sole technician in the Music subject area, Calum’s responsibilities include looking after all of Music’s practice facilities and equipment. These include: three studios, an immersive, an Audio Lab, several practice rooms, and the Concert Hall. These facilities are used for teaching, research and civic engagement.
These spaces come with their own challenges, they are not purpose-built; they are not co-located, but rather scattered across several buildings on campus; Music does not have sole use of some of these spaces; and the numbers of Music students (UG, PGT, PGR) who make use of these facilities has grown over the years, without the availability of such spaces having grown proportionally.
In collaboration with academic staff in Music, Calum led the process of setting up an immersive space for staff and students to develop teaching and research projects in an ambisonic environment. Calum identified a need for such a space through his work supporting MSc students working on such projects, and subsequently led in identifying a space within the school and procuring equipment to set up the space, which has now been operating since early 2023.
Calum has made a significant contribution to undergraduate teaching as well as the learning environment. He has been proactive in ordering and upgrading equipment which has brought our basic performance and rehearsal facilities up to a professional level. Calum has also contributed enormously to specific courses. Sonic Arts: Interacting with Sound (SA IwS) is entry-level course in Sonic Arts, which is crucial in introducing students to the practice and supporting those who subsequently wish to go on to further Honours study in Sonic Arts, PGT and then PGR study. Calum took the initiative in organizing standalone recording sessions to build a shared library of materials that students can use for their assessed work. He has also been instrumental in opening up other undergraduate practical courses to more sustained and critical engagement with audio technology, notably Experimental Music Practice and Introduction to Creative Practice. His contributions include sourcing new audio equipment and instruments, training students to use them, and providing excellent live sound resources and support for students presenting practical work.
Calum has been a major player in organizing and running the Glasgow Electronic and Audiovisual Media Festival (GLEAM), featuring the work of staff, UG and PG students as well as guest performers. Calum oversees all the technical aspects of running this two-day festival, and his professional and technical support has been consistently praised by performers and audiences.
Calum has made significant contributions to the Music in the University (MIU) public engagement programme.Calum pioneered the use of streaming technology to bring concerts on campus to larger audiences while maintaining a sense of community for those audiences unable to attend in-person events, therefore advancing the university’s civic engagement goals in a challenging time.
Calum also made a crucial contribution to Music research. He has worked on a collaborative project between Professor Nick Fells and Drake Music Scotland aimed at involving disabled individuals in music-making. Calum co-designed technical resources for the project and came up with a massively useful way of editing multiple camera video that makes it possible for the PI to select the best video content for the project output, which will be key to the impact value of the project.
Nominated by Eva Moreda Rodriguez, Reader within Music and supported by Nick Fells, Professor of Sonic Practice within Music, Eva Moreda Rodriguez said:
“Calum has without a doubt consistently demonstrated initiative, resilience, diplomacy, superb communication skills, extraordinarily versatile technical competence, and a creative approach to problem-solving, all the while fully aligning his work with Music’s and the School’s strategy and plans for the future. Calum has shown a commitment to excellence in practice research, and teaching that is led and informed by practice research, namely in the areas of Composition, Performance and Sonic Arts; and similarly, a commitment to create an inclusive, mutually supportive environment for such practice among students, staff, and external audiences.”
Who is James Watt?
Born in Greenock, Scotland, in 1736, James Watt was employed by the University as an instrument maker at the age of 20, providing him with lodgings and a workshop. During his employment he manufactured a range of items for the Professor of Practice of Medicine, Joseph Black, that included an organ and a perspective machine.
When presented with a model Newcomen steam engine in need of repair, Watt devised a separate condenser which would improve efficiency and permit enormous savings in fuel. Through developing this idea with industrialist Matthew Boulton, Watt is considered to be one of the key figures of the Industrial Revolution. The model Newcomen engine survives to this day and is on long-term display at The Hunterian.
All members of University staff on the Technical and Specialist Job Family and all Technical Specialists on the MPA or Research-Only Job Families (e.g. IT staff).
There are 5 criteria against which an award can be considered:
- Innovative contribution in support of the student experience
- Innovative contribution in support of the staff experience
- Innovative contribution to the development of learning and teaching
- Innovative contribution in support of world leading research outcomes
- Innovative contribution to the civic mission of the University.