Sometime before xmas I was working from home and there was a bang on the door (around school drop-off time). I opened it to find Clive, the curator of TEDxAberystwyth, wanting to discuss lineup, promotion and so on. I’d been heavily involved in the first one as an organiser, on the small team that pulled it together. So I am familiar with the rules of TEDx and have even negotiated the whole “building a TEDx-compatible website” and “booking a room and making it look a bit like a TEDx event” things. The knock on the door turned out to be my “Would you like toRead More →

Usually we organise a couple of socials each term for the women students in our department. These involve meeting up for a coffee or some drinks, and provide an informal way to support women students as it can be a little odd being in a minority. As Wales went into a “firebreak” lockdown, a friend suggested we do some kind of online social to entertain the students. This is a difficult year for everyone in education but I think students must find it particularly hard – it is frustrating being locked down in a house, I can’t imagine being locked down in a student accommodation.Read More →

I’ve just finished the book “A Computer Called LEO“, by Georgina Ferry, and it was a great read. I can thoroughly recommend it. It’s not new either so if you like secondhand books you can probably pick a copy up cheap. It’s a book about the early days of business computing, but don’t let that put you off. Lyons teashops, which I don’t really remember (the last closed in 1981, when I was 8) were apparently MASSIVE before the second world war. The parent company Lyons were innovative, in their business practices and the way they approached problem solving. In 1946, two managers persuaded theirRead More →

Everyone I speak to who has hayfever confirms that 2019 has been a challenging year of sneezing, running eyes, and itchy faces. This means that there’s a lot of pollen about. In over 10 years of beekeeping, Rog has only once collected enough honey to warrant borrowing the extractor from the beekeepers association. Usually, we get 5 or 6 jars, if we’re lucky. This year, the payoff for my runny nose was a Saturday spent extracting honey. How do you extract honey? Well let me show you. To begin with you have a bunch of frames. These sit in a super which is a boxRead More →

A week ago I went to London to borrow a piece of scientific jewelery for a couple of years. It’s a delightful, rather bonkers scheme by the MRC called Suffrage Science, whereby they chose 6 women computer scientists to receive a brooch 2 years ago, and last week they handed the brooch onto the next woman. In just under two years time I get to hand it on to the next person, and that way it passes from scientist to scientist. I was given the brooch by the excellent Professor Carron Shankland from the University of Stirling. The event was good fun – here’s meRead More →

For EMF2018 (my general blog post about the festival can be found here) Charles Yarnold and my old friend Ben Blundell built a cyberpunk zone, called Null Sector, with installations and all sorts of cool stuff. I made a tiny part of this, in the form of a surveillance themed installation which sat behind the cyberpunk-style grill in the bar area. The aim of the installation was to provide a slightly disconcerting surveillance-style view of the people in the bar, matching the general branding of Null Sector, so it seemed as if the company running Null Sector (Polybius Biotech) were carrying out videosurveillance of attendees.Read More →

Electromagnetic Field is a massively friendly not-for-profit hacker and maker camp which happens every two years. I went in 2012 and spoke about women in tech, and I went again in 2016 and spoke about doing robotics with kids. This year I’ve been trying to do a bit less work and get a bit less stressed, so I decided not to submit a talk or workshop. Then my mate Ben put out a call for installations for a cyberpunk zone and I ended up pitching an idea for a display to sit behind the bar. This installation took – as you might imagine – longerRead More →

At EMFCamp in 2016 there was a musical ballpit, and ever since having a go in it (which was my first ever ballpit experience) I have wanted to build one. This has become something of an ongoing project. First, I contacted some soft-play suppliers to find out about the cost of balls, and it turns out that soft-play balls (proper ones for use in commercial soft-play facilities) cost quite a lot. 15p+VAT each. Which doesn’t sound like a lot, but to fill a large paddling pool that was going to be something like £2,000, and even if I tried to bodge it with a smallerRead More →

I decided to build a retro games controller based on something I saw on the internet. There are lots of discussions and videos and howtos, but to be honest I’ve never been particularly good at following instructions so I just bought a kit from arcade world (the two-player xin-mo board one – here’s a link) and had a go at bodging it together. It came with some instructions. Here’s a picture of the instructions, along with a pound coin for scale. I did read these instructions. Then I googled, to find slightly more detailed instructions. Then I went “fuck it” and just got on withRead More →

For the last 9 weeks I’ve been visiting the University of Girona (UdG), and working on some research in Vicorob and Udigital. I’ve taken part in three engagement activities whilst I’ve been here – even though I don’t speak the language. It turns out that with colleagues to help translate, it’s possible to be useful even without many words, although in the first two workshops I was more of an observer/helper than a facilitator. The first of these was an underwater robotics workshop, with a visiting class or around 15 teenagers; the second of these was a wheeled robotics workshop with 9 adults in aRead More →