Women in Engineering Day at the BBC

Doctor Who adventure gameLast Thursday I took 4 year 9 girls to BBC Wales in Cardiff for a Young Technologists event.  This was an excellent day out organised by the BBC Academy, and Steve Sandrey, BBC Wales education officer.  The focus was Women in Engineering, to encourage girls to see the exciting technical careers in the media industry.

The 4 girls who came with me were randomly chosen from 15 who came to see me at the end of assembly.  They were surprised to find they were the youngest of the 10 schools at the event.  I often find that I am accompanying students who are younger than everyone else there.  Partly it is because at Y Pant we tend not to take year 11 students out of lessons on trips, but partly because we also feel it’s important to expose students to experiences such as this as soon as they are ready.

The day started with an introduction from event organiser and BBC Academy Centre of Technology trainer Aradhna Tayal.  She described how her 4 maths and science A-levels had led her to a degree in Engineering and then on to a tech career in the BBC.  Next up was Anwen Aspden, executive producer of the BAFTA award winning Doctor Who adventure game “The Gunpowder Plot”.  The girls were very impressed by a glamorous woman standing up in front of the crowd and announcing “I’m a massive gamer!” then going on to explain the huge variety of roles needed in creating an exciting adventure game such as this.  Generally gaming is considered to be a nerdy boy-thing but talks and demonstrations like this help to change perceptions, and incidentally add weight to the STEAM not STEM debate (adding Art to the STEM subjects).

We were joined by a BBC web developer who then led the students in pairs in an HTML activity.  Within 90 minutes they had edited HTML, added in a bit more CSS and edited some JavaScript.  For this particular year group this is the first time they had done anything like this.  We’re making CS changes to schemes of work at school but Rome wasn’t built in a day.  I suggested to one of the girls that she asked her year 7 sister for HTML tips!  All said they found this much easier than building websites in Dreamweaver as they had done in year 8.

During a break the girls were absolutely buzzing with excitement.  They all said they’d give this a go as a career and could imagine themselves as programmers.

Are you a geek Miss?

Yes – and proud of it!

After a working lunch where we spent time talking to the many BBC staff members who had given up their time for the day, we were assigned to radio.  (Huge cheers from the girls!).  This was also very well organised.  The Y Pant girls were into the studio first and slipped into their roles of presenter, newsreader and guests very professionally.  They had a script for a short show that was “produced” by the 4 students from Pontllanfraith School.  They had to fade in their own microphones and I was surprised and impressed by their fluency.  All took it in turns to sit in Derek Brockway’s chair before swapping to produce the show for the other school. (I did take pictures but they will be on the school site as I don’t post pictures of students on my own blog).

On the way home the girls excited by the experiences they had.  Inevitably I suppose, the experience in the radio studios had replaced the HTML workshop in their affections.  Ultimately though they had their eyes opened to the broad range of tech careers and met some accessible role models.  A great day out!