Last week saw the start of a new year for IBM Hursley’s MentorPlace programme. The idea of MentorPlace is to connect people from the lab with female students from local schools who might be interested in pursuing a career in one of the STEM areas (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). We work with the girls over the course of the year, providing a weekly email mentoring session, and run some activities on-site to build up their knowledge of different topics and work together in teams. The idea of engaging more with students to help them to learn more about technology and careers is something I’m personally passionate about, and I wrote about it on my own blog last week.
It’s a lot of fun, and I think the people from the lab get as much out of it as the girls do! Last week’s activities at Hursley saw 48 students learn some Java coding in the morning, and in the afternoon to build bridges using paper, string, tape, and craft sticks – they had to support a number of text books in order to be successful. The girls were divided into teams named after different inspirational women in science, technology and other areas of achievement. Here are some of the resulting pieces of work:
All of the bridges performed to the required specification and it was left to the judges to decide which one was the most creative and successful design – tough job! Looking forward to working with the schools during the academic year…
One of the first Hursley-related things I wrote about here on the eightbar blog back in 2006 was how much I enjoy helping with our annual schools event for National Science and Engineering Week in the UK – Blue Fusion (the event website has gone AWOL at the moment but here’s a link to the press release).
This year was no exception. This is now the fifth year that I’ve been a volunteer. Unfortunately I only had room in my schedule to spend one day helping this time around, so I choose to host a school for the day rather than spending all day on a single activity (that way, I got to see all of the different things we had on offer).
So, yesterday I had the pleasure of hosting six intelligent and polite students from Malvern St James School and their teachers – they had travelled a fair distance to come to the event, but despite the early start I think they did really well.
I won’t go into too much detail and spoil the fun for people who might read this but have not yet taken part in this week’s event, but I think we had some great activities on offer. I twittered our way through a few of them. My own personal favourite was a remote surgery activity. You can’t see much in this image (it was a dark room) but the students basically had a “body” inside a box with some remote cameras to guide their hands around and had to identify organs and remove foreign objects.
There was also some interesting application of visual technology / tangible interfaces – a genetics exercise using LEGO bricks and a camera which identified gene strands, and an energy planning exercise which used Reactivision-style markers to identify where power stations had been placed on a map (sort of similar to what we built in SLorpedo at Hackday a couple of years ago). We also had some logic puzzles to solve, built a, err… “typhoon-proof” (ahem) tower, simulated a computer processor, and commanded a colony of ants in a battle for survival against the other school teams.
Once again, I thought this was a great event – just amazing creativity on show from the folks at Hursley in coming up with such engaging exercises. I hope the students had as much fun as I did!