Forty-five girls who are students at three Nottingham high schools took part in an Ada Lovelace Day event at leading life sciences incubator, BioCity Nottingham, to learn about the opportunities of a career in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).  

The event, run and coordinated by BioCity, Ignite! and Nottingham Trent University with support from the STEM Ambassador Hub at Derbyshire Education Business Partnership, was organised as part of Ada Lovelace Day – an international celebration of the achievements of women in STEM. Ada Lovelace was the daughter of Nottinghamshire poet, Lord Byron, and is recognised as the first computer programmer for her revolutionary work on the analytical engine. 

The all-girl group of Year 7 and 8 pupils from Farnborough Academy, Nottingham Free School and Nottingham Academy, took part in the session, which was designed to inform and encourage young women to get involved in STEM by showing them it is an accessible and appealing career path.

The event involved the students, aged between 11 and 13, taking part in exercises such as ‘draw a scientist’ and ‘people like me’ that illustrated that people with similar personality traits and skills are successful working in STEM and can be scientists, whilst challenging stereotypes surrounding who scientists are and what they look like. 

The pupils were given a tour of BioCity and a demonstration of the Floss Whizzer – an invention which uses an air vortex to shoot clouds of candyfloss into the air at 60mph, as seen on The One Show and Gadget Man.

The pupils also watched presentations from four women working in or studying STEM: Chiletam Hanson Ogbu (Nottingham Trent University); Billie Crowe (Azotic Technologies); Lorna Duffy (Sygnature Discovery) and Yvonne Barnett (Nottingham Trent University). 

CEO of BioCity, Dr Glenn Crocker MBE, said: “The Ada Lovelace event brought together a number of brilliant organisations working to promote the STEM subjects to young women, including representatives from BioCity-based companies: Sygnature Discovery, Azotic Technologies and XenoGesis.

“In the STEM industry as a whole, just 23% of the workforce are women and the UK has the lowest proportion of women in engineering in Europe.

“The Ada Lovelace Day aims to create new role models who will encourage more girls to go into STEM careers and support women already working in the industries. We hope that our event has inspired the pupils and that they may consider taking science and maths when they come to choose their GCSE options.”

Megan Shore, Communications Executive at Ignite!, said: “This event was a brilliant opportunity to showcase the work being done by female scientists in both universities and businesses in Nottingham.

“Through talks from scientists working in the city and interactive careers activities, we set out to tackle gender stereotypes in the field and encourage young women to see themselves as future computer scientists, mathematicians and researchers.”

Yvonne Barnett is Professor of Biomedical Sciences and Senior Pro-Vice Chancellor at Nottingham Trent University and Director of BioCity Group and Medilink East Midlands. She said: “I was delighted to support this exciting and important initiative on Ada Lovelace Day. I have been very fortunate to have received great support from others in progressing in my career in STEM and I am committed in doing the same for young women considering going into the field.

“It was fantastic to hear from the female students about their interest in science careers and offer them advice on planning for the next steps in their education and training.”

Amarah Kayani, aged 12, pupil at Nottingham Free School, said: “I was unsure about choosing science subjects at GCSE but after today, I am really interested in engineering. The careers lectures from women in STEM showed us that you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it.” 

Senior Scientist III at Sygnature Discovery, Dr Lorna Duffy, added: “As a scientist, I was really excited to be involved in the Ada Lovelace event at BioCity to encourage girls to get involved in STEM industries. From my experience, women make great scientists – they are generally inquisitive, ask questions and are great communicators, all important skills in science. I hope the event inspires some of the girls and gives them the confidence to keep on STEM subjects at school, especially if they enjoy them.”

Chiletam Hanson Ogbu, Computer Systems student at Nottingham Trent University, said: “The pupils who attended the event at BioCity had the opportunity to develop their problem-solving, technical and creative skills, enabling them to make informed decisions about their future careers. It is essential that events like these take place in order for progress to be made in the employment of women in STEM.”

Submitted on 15/10/2018