Two events, four days, inspiration aplenty

Two events, four days, inspiration aplenty

At the end of March/beginning of April we held a couple of student focused events. In total we had 350 students attend 2 events across 4 days. Let me fill you in…

BCS Lovelace Colloquium, March 30 2021:
This year’s Lovelace Colloquium took place on March 30th (virtually) via GatherTown, YouTube and Discord. We had 100 abstracts submitted and 163 general signups which was well over and above the attendance levels of the face-to-face Colloquiums.

We started the day off with a keynote from Professor Dame Sue Black who spoke to us about how image forensics can be used to help solve cases of child abuse. She shared some alarming statistics such as here in the UK there are, on average, 182 cases of child sexual abuse cases reported per day – if you’re interested in the image forensics work Dame Sue Black is doing you can find more here:

We then followed with a couple of talks, Dr Kate Ho spoke about Data Engineering and Lorraine Underwood spoke on being a ‘maker’. Over lunch the students who submitted a successful abstract were around to speak to attendees about their posters and discuss their ideas. Poster submissions included ‘Intelligent Technology and Ethical Responsibility’, ‘Unifying Games and Education in an Increasingly Online World’, ‘Gender Bias in Virtual Assistants’, and the ominously titled ‘Could a Robot Commit the Perfect Murder?’ – all the poster submissions were thoroughly inspiring – too many to list! See a couple of examples below.

Over lunch there was also a buffet (not of food, but of talks!) which covered topics such as ‘digitising your personal brand’, ‘super skills’ and ‘the power of volunteering’.

We then heard a talk from Carron Shankland on digital modelling which was followed by a panel discussion with a range of women in tech speaking about their careers – we covered impostor syndrome, work/life balance and employability topics.

The Lovelace Colloquium is a wonderful event to encourage female students to network and find out more about the industry, hear from role models, learn from experts and network with employers.

All in all, this was a thoroughly inspiring day and although everything was virtual there was such an incredibly warm atmosphere throughout the day.

BCS & Google Student Hackathon, April 7, 8, 9 2021
On April 7th, 8th and 9th we ran a BCS student hackathon in collaboration with Google. Students were able to choose from a range of 5 categories for their entry: sustainability, education, health, tech for seniors and general. These were designed to reflect our mission to make IT good for society. The student teams worked hard across the 3 days to define a problem within their category and design a solution.

Each team was assigned a technical mentor from Google (this was a member of staff at Google) to help them with any coding or technical design. Every team also had a project mentor from BCS (these were from our volunteer community) to help them with their project planning and technical solutions.

Google kindly made their Cloud Platform tools available to the participants and provided lightning talks to support the students with topics including AI modelling, app making and dialog flow. We also heard from Google staff on more general topics including sustainability (did you know in Finland Google use sea water to cool their data centre!) and software development and culture.

The students were placed into teams with other students who they had never met or spoken to before so their teamwork and communication skills were challenged just as much as their creativity and technical abilities! Across the 3 days we saw the embodiment of the ‘storming, norming, performing’ behaviour within the teams and it was lovely chatting to the students, helping them to refine their ideas and reassuring them they were doing a great job. There was definitely a competitive buzz between the teams, and on the second night many of the teams did not sleep at all – messages continued firing back and forth between the students at midnight and were still going at 5am!

In the end solutions included DevotionToEmotion – an app which helps children and young people tune into their mental health along with support from parents, EduPoint which helps remote learners stay engaged with their studies, and helps to track timetables and deadlines, and RecyCloud which is an innovative incentive to recycle while also providing quality control to items which are being recycled. One solution, a maps service designed specifically for seniors is even being released on the Google Play store!

This was the first ever hackathon we have organised and on top of that it was done virtually, at times it was a little hectic but the main thing is that all the participants enjoyed themselves and learnt a whole host of new skills ‘I am learning a lot’ is a phrase we heard many times over the 3 days! We’re so grateful to all the BCS and Google volunteers for supporting and we’ve had some really positive feedback from the participants. We hope to arrange something like this again (fingers crossed including a face-to-face element!).