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:
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?”
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!
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).
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