Last year I took part in the Ada Lovelace Colloquium, an annual conference for undergraduate women with a passion for computer science. I enjoyed it so much I headed back for the 11th Colloquium in March with Christina Moir, honours year student and vice-president of RGU’s Computing Society. This year the event took place at Sheffield University. The event is now run by Helen Miles, teacher and researcher at Aberystwyth University, after founder Dr Hannah Dee stepped down as chair.
The attendees presented posters on a topic of their choosing. I’m currently on a year-long placement with the Science and Technology Facilities Council in Oxfordshire and created a poster about my work there with the EPICS software control system. Christina presented on her honours topic, the simulation of evacuating historic buildings.
We arrived the night before the event for some networking and ice-breaking, set up by the students of Sheffield Hallam University. They sent us on a treasure hunt around the city and provided a hearty dinner to keep us going. Meeting the other students was a highlight of last year, and it was fantastic to see so many familiar faces. Indeed, many of the students have attended for all the years of their undergraduate degree.
The Colloquium surpassed itself with the quality of student’s work, and the events on offer. The People’s Choice award deservedly went to a fully fabricated poster about the comparisons between programming languages and knitting patterns – with full Adafruit FLORA chip integration! As well as the poster presentation, there were a number of companies on board to tempt us with internship and graduate opportunities. It’s great to hear from more unknown organisations about the different places a CS degree can take you.
The day featured talks from a number of women involved in the IT industry. The keynote was delivered by Tanja Lichtensteiger, attendee of one of the first Ada Lovelace Colloquiums a decade ago and now manager of software development at Leeds Beckett University. Her talk on her unorthodox journey into the software development world, and her championing of diversity in Tech, was inspiring! I hunted her down after the talks for a chat and she happily showed me the RFID chip implant in the back of her hand, which is hackable and allows her to unlock doors and store basic credentials.
Gillian Arnold, founder of Tectre Recruitment, hit us with some hard statistics about being a woman in industry, as well as general information about IT careers and their financial possibilities. It was pragmatic, informative and very useful.
The day came to a close with a Q&A session with industry professionals (from Google and JP Morgan) and academics. It’s a chance to ask personal questions about life in the IT world as a woman, and it’s difficult to leave without feeling more inspired and heartened at the future that lies ahead for women in computing.
Christina added: “This was the first event of this kind that I had attended, and I am glad I decided to apply. It was fantastic! A great opportunity to meet so many like minded people as well as network with potential employers. As a final year student it was heartening to find many sponsors be so interested for me to apply to their companies, some of which have even contacted me since to offer help and guidance with their application process.”
If you’re interested in bio-hacking yourself with RFID chips, head to Dangerous Things.