The new Department for Education

Inspired by an infographic showing that all of the current education ministers went to private schools, I have just spent 10 mins on Wikipedia investigating the Higher Education experiences of the current department for education:

  • Nicky Morgan is 41, so didn’t pay uni fees for her Jurisprudence degree from Oxford.
  • Nick Boles is 48, so didn’t pay uni fees for his PPE degree from Oxford.
  • Nick Gibb is 53, so didn’t pay uni fees for his Law degree from Durham.
  • Lord Nash is 65, so didn’t pay uni fees for his Law degree from Oxford.
  • David Laws is 48, so didn’t pay uni fees for his Economics degree from Cambridge.
  • Sam Gyimah is 37, so may have paid some tuition fees for his PPE degree from Oxford (depending on whether he took a year out or not… 1k/year fees came in in 1998 so he may just have had to pay for a year or so)
  • Edward Timpson is 40, so didn’t pay uni fees for this Law degree from Durham.

So, no science in the department at all. No arts in the department, either – all Law, Jurisprudence, PPE, Economics…

International Workshop on Image Analysis Methods for the Plant Sciences

The International Workshop on Image Analysis Methods for the Plant Sciences will be held this year in Aberystwyth. The workshop is aimed at computer vision and image processing people working in the plant sciences, and plant science people doing work with images. I’m the co-chair, along with Marie Neal from the National Plant Phenomics Centre, Andrew French from Nottingham Computer Science and Susie Lydon from Nottingham’s Centre for Plant Integrative Biology.

Key facts

Abstract submission 1 Aug. Abstracts should be 2 pages max, PDF, submitted via CMT the conference submission site.

Registration deadline 1 Sep. You can register online via EventBrite.

Conference dates 15-16 Sep. Full day on Mon 15th, Half day on Tue 16th, with tutorials on the afternoon of Tue 16th introducing some open source image analysis tools (Octave and OpenCV).

Registration cost £120 including dinner on the Monday. Accommodation not included (there are lots of hotels and B&Bs in Aberystwyth, though, so accommodation in September should not be hard to arrange).

Topics covered: Plant science-based image analysis techniques from laboratory to field environments and subcellular to whole plant scales. This includes but is not limited to…

  • 3D reconstruction
  • Image segmentation
  • Modelling motion
  • Modelling growth
  • Shape analysis and classification
  • Colour analysis
  • Aerial imaging of fields
  • User interaction and software tools for plant scientists
  • The image analysis-biology pipeline (Imaging and *-omics)
  • Novel and emerging plant imaging techniques
  • Biological challenges for plant image analysis

AppInventor Family Fun Day

For the last two weeks I’ve had a work experience student in working on AppInventor stuff. When she started, she’d never done any coding before, so I set her off on updating the materials for the AppInventor Family Fun Day.

… and the materials are now ready

Check the Family Fun Day page for fully updated materials, ready for AppInventor 2. Free, creative commons licensed one-day android programming workshop, now fully up to date again.

AND she got an app on Google Play

Check out PieSplat! A custard pie app where you can change the target image, and play either Whack-a-mole style or by flinging a flan (“FlanFling”).

That’s what I call a successful work experience placement….

Computer weekly women in IT awards

Last Thursday I went to London for the Computer Weekly women in IT awards. I was invited to speak at the event, as well as being shortlisted. I chose to talk about the undergraduate experience: the BCSWomen Lovelace Colloquium for women undergrads, why I set it up, and what it’s actually like for undergraduate women in UK universities right now. The culture of uni in general has got a lot more laddish in recent years, and social media doesn’t help that at all. I also drew heavily on the excellent book “Unlocking the clubhouse“, which came out over a decade ago, and which covers a lot of the problems we’re still suffering from. The talk went well, I think – lots of people came up to me afterwards to discuss it anyway. I think there’ll be some video of the talk up on CW later, and I’ll link that in when I see it.

I’m in the program!

The other talks were a mixed bag; some of them were really interesting and evidence based talks about women in business, and others were a bit “men are from mars, women are from venus”, which is (in my not so humble opinion) a massive oversimplification that doesn’t do the women or the men any favours. It’s like horoscopes for people who can only count to two.

I think it’s really important to understand that there are benefits to a diverse workforce, and that women bring benefits to the workplace, but that this doesn’t imply that all women bring empathy or some other soft skills stuff, or that all guys are systematisers or some other Simon Baron-Cohen stuff… There are as many ways to be a woman in tech as there are women in tech, the same is true for the guys, and we really need to hang on to that idea. Yes we are all special snowflakes. (And the people in Marketing might not be able to grab that concept, but hey, they’re in Marketing, you can’t expect them to be that sharp.)

Some of the talks were a bit stereotypical:-(

Then they announced the winners, counting down… and I got the number 15 slot. Check out the full list here, there are some truly impressive women on there.

Number 15, baby

After a celebratory beer and a rather nice curry, we drove back to Aber via the mountain road. It’s nice to go to London, but it’s also nice to get back…

Always nice to get back to bustling mid-Wales

What a couple of weeks!

The last couple of weeks have been a bit mental for me, particularly on the women in tech front…

Normally this time of year I’d be blogging about the London Hopper. I went this year, and I was the MC again (introducing speakers, keeping everyone to time, being sarcastic). But I’ve not blogged about it as since then things have been fairly busy – if you want to read about the Hopper, check out Bedour Alshaigy’s post on Computer Weekly. Bedour won the poster contest last year so came to give the prize talk this year, and it was great. That evening was the Karen Spärk Jones lecture, given by Wendy Hall (who’s awesome by the way).

The day after the Hopper I came back via a large employer near Cheltenham where I spoke about women in tech at their diversity and inclusion week. It was a very interesting trip. No photos though. Or video. But I did get to play with an Enigma machine.

Last Wednesday was “my day” at the BCS Women in IT campaign. I was really pleased to be invited to contribute – they got 30 women in tech to write blog posts and featured one per day in May, and we all visited BCS London back in March to be videoed too. You can read my post here: Hannah Dee at the BCS Women in IT campaign and you can see the video on Youtube

But that wasn’t the only thing. I made it onto the Computer Weekly women in IT shortlist! CW have an annual contest to find the most influential woman in UK IT, and this year, for some unknown reason, I’m on the list. You can see the list and vote here. If you read the list I really look like an odd one out… the only other full-time academic is Professor Dame Wendy Hall (who’s awesome, by the way). But vote for me anyway. I’d like not to come last.

BCSWomen Lovelace Colloquium 2014 blog roundup

This post is a collection of all the blogs, photos and articles I’ve found about the BCSWomen Lovelace Colloquium 2014. If I’ve missed anything – leave a comment or drop me an email and I’ll add it.

Photos!

The photos from the day are now available on Flickr. Check them out, Silvia took some great pictures.

Students have been blogging about the day

Speakers at the event have been writing about their experiences and their talks

Universities have been celebrating the successes of their students

It’s lovely to see the winning students celebrated by their home university. So here are some links to uni publicity about the day…

And as you can probably guess, the organisers have been blogging too

And that’s all folks!

If you find any more Lovelace 2014 blog posts or other publicity stuff, do leave a comment or drop me an email.

The 2014 BCSWomen Lovelace Colloquium

On Wednesday 16th, I was in Reading for the BCSWomen Lovelace Colloquium. This is a national one-day conference for women undergraduates, which I started back in 2008 and which is now in its 7th year. This long and rambling blog post with pictures is my brain-dump report of the day. Hope you find it interesting in some way – I thought the day itself was AMAZING (but then again I would say that).

As ever on “BCSWomen Lovelace Day” I woke up stupidly early, and the moment I realised the date I was wide awake. So I did a bit of work, then went for a walk around the lake. The event was on Reading’s London Road campus, but we stayed on Whiteknights, which has a beautiful lake, and at dawn it’s really very atmospheric. I’m including this photo just because I like the photo and it shows how nice the main Reading campus is:-)

Some hours later, at 0830, we were at the venue getting ready. Registration and coffee were as usual a bit chaotic, with students and speakers getting lost, bus diversions, and other minor mishaps. But after a short delay and a welcome from Yota Dimitriadi, one of our fantastic local organisers, I did the overview, and then we were onto our first keynote. And what a talk that was.

Anne Marie Imafidon, Stemettes: “How to lean In (when you’re not Sheryl Sandberg)”

Anne-Marie is a powerhouse of a woman: she’s only 24, but she’s got a bunch of records and achievements that just put the rest of us to shame. She was the youngest person in the UK to get a GCSE and an A-Level in computing. She’s got an MSc from Oxford. She works at Deutsche Bank and she’s set up Stemettes, an organisation to encourage young women to consider tech careers. Anne-Marie spoke about Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg’s book, and how to apply it to your life. Lots of superb ideas and really inspirational. Everyone in the room loved this talk – I know, because I’ve read the feedback forms, and the “can you give this talk marks out of 10?” had a mean value over 9 (wow!).

Prof Rachel McCrindle, University of Reading: “Gamification for learning and rehabilitation”

Rachel is a Reading professor and works in human computer interaction, and for this talk she spoke about her work looking at games and how gamification can help us learn, and also help people recover from brain injury. This was a talk of two halves, with the first half discussing games for learning (her software engineering module looks brilliant!) and the second half discussing how games can help rehabilitation. The software engineering games were all board games, here’s a snap of a slide showing some of the games made by students at Reading:

Her team has been using the Microsoft Kinect to get people moving more after brain injuries, building simple games which encourage patients to work on their hand-eye coordination and general range of movement.

Dr Jane Haslam: Senior Computer Vision Scientist, VICON Motion Systems Ltd: “Computer vision in industry”

Jane Haslam has spent her career working in industry, looking at how we can build computer systems that can see. She’s working at VICON now, who are the industry leaders in motion capture software (think Gollum, and people in bodysuits covered in retro-reflective ping pong balls). Her talk introduced the idea of motion capture and showed some of the state-of-the-art work going on in VICON: they can replace human actors with computer animated characters in real-time using their whole-body tracking software. She then went on to discuss Cara, which is a new face-tracking system. Cara usese makeup-based markers and can track detailed facial expressions: not real-time (yet) but super impressive. This talk showed real technical work and research in industry, which is great.

Lunch & posters

The poster contests all have to be judged over lunch, which meant that this year things were very tight timing-wise; with 54 posters to get through that left the judges just 2 minutes per poster. So we over-ran (a bit), but we got through everything in the end. The range of posters this year was amazing, and the quality really high. Also, for the first time this year we had help from one of the previous year’s judges (Lucy Hunt), who worked with students before the event giving feedback on poster design and tips on presentation.

As usual I had to skip the post-lunch talks as I was tied up with working out who’d won the poster contests (counting the people’s choice votes, checking with the other judges, and generally being “organised”) so I don’t have as much to say or indeed any pictures of the next two talks. However I’ll give it a go:-)

Rebecca Little, Head of Strategic Alliances and Digital, ResourceiT Consulting Ltd: “Adventures in digital marketing”

Rebecca Little spoke about digital marketing, and what the internet can offer to a brand. I caught some of the questions in this talk and it seemed really interesting – the students certainly had a lot to ask about. Here’s a picture from Olya, one of our attendees:

Cate Huston, Google : “Distractedly Intimate: Your Users on Mobile”

Cate from Google talked about mobile computing and how our relationship with mobile devices is different to the relationship we have with physical devices. Despite missing this talk I have a good idea about what Cate said, as she’s kindly put up a blog post with an overview of the talk: check out Distractedly Intimate: Your users on mobile over at catehuston.com. Here’s a picture of Cate in action, again from Olya:

Prizegiving

Poster prizes are a key part of the event and this year we had winners from across the UK – Reading, Dundee, Bath, Hull, Aberystwyth. That’s pretty much the whole country covered I think:-). Here are the winners:

MSc contest, sponsored by FDM Group

  • Best MSC student poster, £300: Maitreyee Wairagkar of Reading Uni, “Seeing Through Walls: Handling Large Datasets”.

Final year student (3rd years, or 4th year students on a four year undergrad program) sponsored by EMC

  • Best 3rd year poster, £300: Heather Ellis of Dundee Uni, with “Mind The Gap: Using e-Health for Seizure Management to bridge the communication gap between patients and clinicians”.
  • 3rd year runner up, £200: Alexandra Williams of Bath Uni with “Teaching children to code- how is computer programming helping to change the curriculum?”

2nd year prize sponsored by Airbus

(This is actually open to students on their 3rd year or on an industrial placement – basically, this contest is for those students who are between their first and final years of undergraduate study)

  • Best 2nd year poster £300: Charlotte Godley of Hull Uni with “A crowdfunded wearable technology workshop”
  • 2nd year runner up £200: Angharad Cunningham of Aberystwyth with “Still the minority at 50%”

The Google Excellence Award for best first year

Google sponsor our best first year prize, and this year, that went to …

  • Best first year poster £500: Katie Hobson of Aberystwyth, title “A Dip in the Meme Pool”

People’s choice award, sponsored by Interface3

Every year we have a people’s choice award and every attendee gets to vote for their favourite posters (2 votes each), with the most popular on the day getting £150. This year, for the first time ever, there was a 3-way tie on the people’s choice votes. I think this is an indication of how close the field was. Rather than cast a deciding vote myself (which would have been, er, unethical) I decided to split the prize 3-ways.

  • Peoples choice joint first £50 Silvia Diana Teodorescu of Aberystwyth, with “Understanding crimes of the past – a machine learning look into the 19th Century news”
  • Peoples choice joint first £50 Jolanta Mirecka of Aberystwyth, with “Segmenting Mammograpic Images based on Manifold Learning”
  • Peoples choice joint first £50 Roseanna McMahon of Bath, with “Augmented Reality – what future can it have on campus?”

Panel session

For the panel session we have a group of women on “stage” who are at different stages of their computing careers, and open up to questions from the floor on any topic at all. So the students get to ask any question they like. This year we were very lucky to have Sarah Lamb, founder of Girl Geek Dinners on the panel, as well as Anne Marie Imafidon (our keynote speaker, and founder of Stemettes); Cate Huston from Google (who also spoke earlier); Sarah Burnett, deputy chair of BCSWomen, and myself. Notably, Sarah Lamb came with her son (who is 12 weeks old) – it’s the first time we’ve had a baby on the panel!

Social

The social was sponsored by CA technologies, who have been at our event for the last 2 years now. They have a stall at the daytime part, and during the social they have some recruiters who wander around with iPad apps chatting to the students. It seems to work for them, and it’s great for us as the social is a really important part of the day. The speakers and panellists also hung around at the social for a bit, as students have a bit more courage to ask questions when they’re not in a lecture theatre. One of my favourite sights is seeing undergrads in earnest conversation with keynotes, but I didn’t capture any pics of that. Instead, here’s a picture of Sarah Lamb from our panel, at the social, with the event’s youngest attendee (Daniel, actually a guy).

Thanks

It’d be impossible to put together an event like this without support from loads of people and companies, so here’s my “thanks!” list:

  • All the speakers and panellists on the day
  • Yota Dimitriadi and James Anderson, local organisers, who helped pull the event together
  • University of Reading, and particular the Institute for Education, who hosted the event and contributed to running costs
  • Aberystwyth University, who host the finances, student submission system, web presence and provide admin support on an ongoing basis
  • Amanda Clare and Amy Guy for helping with submissions, planning, and on-the-day management of speakers and posters respectively. Lucy Hunt for helping students with their posters before the event
  • Google, our headline sponsor, who also sent a speaker
  • Prize sponsors: EMC, Airbus UK, FDM, Interface3
  • Social sponsor: CA technologies
  • Stallholders: UTC Aerospace, VMWare
  • General sponsors: BCSWomen, VICON (who also sent a speaker), FXpansion

And next?

Edinburgh: 9 April 2015

put it in your diary:-)

our speakers are awesome, lovelace colloquium is fab, pornography is strange

For the last few months, my writing here has been slow, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. Actually, I’ve had articles published on a couple of other blogs, which probably have a slightly higher readership than this one…

On computer weekly

The BCSWomen Lovelace is a conference I set up and have been running for 7 years. This coming event has a super lineup, so I have done a post introducing our awesome speakers at the BCSWomen Lovelace Colloquium

And a general overview of the colloquium which describes the background, and also why it is great.

Still spaces (Reading Uni, April 16th, sign up here: at the BCS site) if you want to come. Awesome speakers, inspirational students, free lunch…. maybe even free beer.

On the software sustainability institute blog

I’ve published an article on Lena or “How a photo from Playboy became part of scientific culture”; describing how computer vision seems to have strangely adopted a photo from a 1973 issue of playboy.

I was born in 1973 so that particular image is older than me… How strange is that?

Data collection in March can be a chilly business

Last week we went out data collecting with my PhD student Max. Max is working on an airborne robot which can be used in navigation – floating above (say) a robot boat, and giving a top down view of surrounds.

Out at Clarach bay, it was a bit misty. The plan was that I would play the role of the robot boat, whilst sat in the Aberystwyth University Robotics Group Kayak (yes it does exist) paddling back and forth. We’d then test the ability of the vision system to detect targets on the boat, and the control systems to do stuff with the motors. Unloaded the van, flew the balloon, tethered it to the Kayak at about 8m…

It turns out that the motor wasn’t working. It also turns out I’m not actually as good at kayaking as I think I am. Well, I’m probably better in my own kayak, but… basically I was pants. I fell in, on the way out to sea… and then I fell in again at the end. Here’s a balloon’s-eye-view timelapse, where you can detect both events. You can also detect that the blimp doesn’t keep up with me, as the motor wasn’t working, but that the targets are in shot when I turn and that looks OK.

More work needed, I think… both on the blimp front, and the kayak-skillz front. But hey. I fell in the sea in March for Science. Sometimes I love my job.

QCon London 2014

Last week I was invited – by the lovely Graham Lee – to talk about mobile code at the QCon London conference. I said that the most interesting thing I’d been doing in the mobile sphere was my AppInventor workshop for kids (the BCSWomen App Inventor Family Fun Day) and so I talked about that, with the title Creating Apps with 6-Year Old Girls (and their Dads) (BTW slides are available from that last link). I’ve done loads of conference speaking in the past, but the vast majority of it has been at computer vision conferences, or at women in tech gigs. Mainstream technology conferences, particularly massive ones, like QCon, are a different beast.

Firstly, they invite you! This is great. To get into a computer vision conference, I have to do some original research, write it up in a paper (usually 6-10 pages), submit that paper, get that peer reviewed by people who don’t know who I am as the paper is anonymised, and then get accepted (the big conferences have, like, a 4% acceptance rate for presentations). If you get in you’ve been selected to talk about that one paper, and you’ve most definitely not been selected on the grounds of your speaking ability.

Secondly, you don’t have to pay to attend. QCon paid my conference fees… and even the richest research conferences don’t pay your attendance fees. They may be free for keynotes, & for the main organising committee. But not for presenters – if I stand up and talk at BMVC, I’ve paid my registration like everyone else.

Thirdly, they sorted out my hotel. All the speakers were in the same hotel, and it was a cut above the places I usually stay in London. Not only did I not have to pay for it, I also didn’t have to book it. SWEET!

Fourthly, the swag is much higher quality. We’re talking free t-shirts, nerd gear, prize draws for 3d printers (I lost). One stand, organised by Trifork, had the best coffee, with actual barristers.

Anyway. QCon: Fun conference! If I had the cash I’d probably quite like to attend as a normal attendee. Talks were varied and the ones I saw were strong. Apart from one slightly off-colour t-shirt (“kiss my app”? please!) and a keynote who made a couple of comments about aspergers, the conference was super friendly. I met some really interesting people. The view from the stairs at the QE2 is pretty much a “greatest hits” of Westminster, which is also nice.

My talk went well, too. The conference app let everyone vote on your talk, and I got 75 green smiley faces, 2 yellow unsure faces, and 0 red frowny faces. I’m not sure that’s the most sophisticated way to evaluate a talk, but I’m fairly sure it indicates I was OK.