Category Archives: women

International Women’s Day 2013 at Tech City & QCon London

I had a fabulous & busy International Women’s Day on 8th March. Firstly in the morning I gave a talk on wearable technology at QCon London software conference, held at QEII conference centre. My talk was part of the Making – The Future track and followed a great talk on Physical Pi, which contained lots of great ideas of what you can do with your Raspberry Pi by Romilly Cocking and Steve Freeman of QuickWire

QCon London

In my talk, Here Comes Wearable Technology, I took a brief look at how wearable technology has emerged from its early roots in cybernetics, sci-fi and clunky but cool electronics (feat the legendary Steve Mann several times) and how artists, designers and makers are developing wearables outside the current bubble of media hyperbole of speculation on Google Glass, Apple’s creations, etc. Plus showed some of my wearable electronics creations and a peek at some of the coding and electronics teaching I’d been doing via e-textiles with various groups of students at Aberystwyth University for Technocamps.

In the evening I hopped across town to Poke’s HQ in Shoreditch for Tech City International Women’s Day Showcase to show some of my wearable tech pieces such as my Baroesque barometric skirt, musical C scale and Twinkle Tartiflette t-shirts, cyclist warning proximity t-shirt and Mindwave Mobile EEG/brainwave visualising prototype!

The event featured an amazing bill of talented women technologists, such as Sarah Angliss, Emilie Giles, Leila Johnston, Pollie Barden and more, see the showcase page for full line up and links to their work!

Here’s a lovely video from the event, I apologise in advance for my doolallyness in the bits I feature – I was suffering from the effects of a horrid sinus head cold, which had reduced my brain’s processing to a wibbly mess!

Many thanks to the fab organisers of Tech City IWD: Alex Deschamps-Sonsino, Ana Bradley, Natasha Carolan, Becky Stewart, host Poke & their peeps, all the fab people who came along that I had brilliant conversations with, plus sponsors Redmonk.

Showing my work at Tech City International Women's Day Showcase

Ada Lovelace Day 2012: Jamillah Knowles – Tech Hurricane!

My Ada Lovelace Day post is a little late as I’m currently experiencing lurgied brainfuddle, so I’ll get on with it!

JK on the crystal encrusted dog n bone

I’d like to give a big shout out to Jamillah Knowles: tech journalist, radio presenter, podcaster, blogger and student of AI, whom you might also know under her nom de plume as Jemimah Knight. Jamillah is a contender for the hardest working person on the planet. When we both worked at the BBC I could rarely drag her away from her desk / studio for a conflab & chips and since she’s moved on to work for The Next Web as their UK Editor she’s just as busy, maybe busier, as there’s lots of extra travel on top to report from far flung conferences and events.

Not content with just doing the aforementioned day job, Jamillah still manages to fit in her joyous weekly reportage on leftfield geek podcast, BBC Outriders, plus is a contributor to Global Voices Online and then somehow manages to fit in study for her BSc in artificial intelligence and human machine interaction, where JavaScript jousting is a sport for the fearless. I don’t know how she fits it all in and possibly does her sleeping whilst baking zeros and ones in the Knight Patisserie. Anyways, be thoroughly impressed! Top tip – don’t get in her way ;-)

Cyberspice being interviewed by Jamillah

Jamillah interviewing Cyberspice for Outriders at Maker Faire UK

Ada Lovelace Day, 2011: Sarah Angliss, Intrepid Engineer

Ada Lovelace Day aims to raise the profile of women working in technology, engineering, maths and science by celebrating their work and hopefully creating new role models to encourage and inspire others to follow a career, study or a hobby in these disciplines.

Sarah & her speaking teapot

For Ada Lovelace Day, 2011, I’m writing about my good friend: the multi-talented artist, composer and performer, Sarah Angliss. Sarah is an engineer trained in electro-acoustics, music and robotics and also holds a master’s degree in evolutionary and adaptive systems. Her work combines technology with vintage sound equipment and intertwines spooky science stories and eclectic curiosities into the mix.

Clara!

She has also been a creator of sound installation pieces for events, exhibitions, and live shows since 1996, featuring robots such as Clara 2.0, the ‘polite robot thereminist’, Hugo, the haunting singing ventriloquist’s dummy, The Ealing Feeder a 28-note, polyphonic, electromechanical carillon and the somewhat scary crooning Edgar Allan Crow – whose eyes you must not look into!

Uncanny Valley: Edgar Allen Crow

On top of all this, Sarah has also led projects such as Infrasonic, as research project to explore emotional effects of extreme bass sound. Sarah is also a writer and gives talks about vintage technology oddities and poses questions such as “We know we can teach birds to talk and sing. But were birds ever used as primordial, feathered music recorders?” as discussed in her Radio 4 documentary “The Bird Fancyer’s Delight”, which aired in July 2011. Talks include her fascinating talk at TEDx Brighton, “Loving the Machine” which drew connections between two types of dance music which developed a century apart and were created by people were working to the relentless beat of factory machines.

Uncanny Valley: Hugo

Sarah performs as part of Spacedog with her sister Jenny, compere Colin, plus robot and human guests such as Professor Elemental. Their repertoire includes much spooky exploration into the depths of technology folklore paired with intriguing and inventive use of instruments such as the theremin, spangley water instrument and the saw. In their recent award winning Televisor show they “summon the spirit of John Logie Baird as they perform with flickering projections, created live on their working reconstruction of Baird’s original 1920s televisor”.

Spacedog being spookeh at BMMF party

There’s tons more stuff I could mention, so please have a peruse through her website(s) to find out more. A perfect afternoon out with Sarah would include having some tea & caek, some rummaging and tinkering in a bag of electronics components (as she’s always hacking at something) and plotting some electronics mayhem – the lady is a proper geek – hurrah \o/

Opentech 2011, ULU London

Dorkbot talk Saul & Pete

(As usual) I had a fabulous time at this year’s Opentech 2011, a multi-stream conference that brings hacker, open source advocates, civil servants, open rights and other communities together to discuss, debate, chat and drink beer. It’s a great day of talks intersected with a fab geek social, it traditionally occurs at ULU in London.

Taken straight from their website intro: “OpenTech 2011 is an informal, low cost, one-day conference on slightly different approaches to technology, transport and democracy. Talks by people who work on things that matter, guarantees a day of thoughtful talks leading to conversations with friends.” It is certainly all these things.

Hard curves, soft electronics
Photo by @PSD

I gave a presentation titled “Hard Curves, soft electronics – code, tech and textiles” – at which I demonstrated some of my wearable technology pieces, specifically those made with LilyPad Arduino (an open source technology) sewable microcontrollers, sensing modules and conductive threads and textiles. These included Twinkle Starduino, I <3 0X0, Twinkle Tartflette and 'Yr In Mah Face', plus I mentioned some of my mbed work. I also discussed how e-texiles and the LilyPad help dismiss the idea that electronics are grey, sharp and cold. I also feel that the rise in tinkering with Arduino and e-textiles is a great way of encouraging girls / hobbyists / anyone to have fun and see beyond the stigma of electronics and coding being a dull and difficult to pursue.

Here's a link to my slides, plus one of the videos I showed during the presentation which demonstrated my ‘Yr In Mah Face‘ temperature / mood sensing t-shirt.

Talks I enjoyed this year included, a history and expose under the sheets of London dorkbot – ‘doing strange things with electricity’ from janitors Saul Albert and Peter Brownell. The session included some hilarious, bonkers and touching reminders from dorkbots of the past. The London dorkbot chapter was second to evolve, after New York being the first and has been going for nearly 10 years.

Paul Downey of OSHUG gave a lovely introduction to open source hardware, some examples of projects, events, plus various groups and people hacking tech.

Opentech: PSD on open hardware

Russ Garrett, spoke about the London Hackspace and gave a brief history of how it grew from small beginnings and venues into a very organised space today with at the time of the event, membership being nearly 300 people.

Open hardware questions: Russ

It was good to hear an update from Suw Charman-Anderson on Ada Lovelace Day: a celebration of women’s achievements in science, technology, engineering and maths – a subject very close to my heart.

Steve Goodwin gave a talk about digital archeology and the difficulties in creating and archiving retro technology. Steve concluded by showing his EMF emulator framework for a ZX 81.

A bit of light hearted and NSFW fun came from Jag who was inspired by his father’s knowledge of morse code, to play with it and come up with “an attempt to acquit extremely offensive & censured words using morse code, din & music”.

After the talks concluded, everyone made their way to the ULU bar to chat with friends old and new, plus quaff beer. Sadly the kitchen wasn’t open in the evening – I’m sure it would’ve done a roaring trade in its legendary curly fries. An awesome day – thanks to Sam Smith and all the lovely organisers for a very well executed day, the only shame is that I’ll have to wait till next year for the next one!

Ourduino PCBs
A couple of Ourduino’s beautiful PCBs.

Women in Technology – WIT #5

We had a lovely turn out for Women in Technology #5 at the BBC Academy in W12. Vinoba Vinayagamoorthy gave an in-depth talk on 3D from TV content generation to 3D in games and sport, visualisation tools, an overview of stereoscopic displays and how chroma-key has developed for live sports events. The future for Vino lies in the investigation of how users want to use 3D content and how this might transfer into mobile devices. There was also discussion about the crossover between 3D and augmented reality and serious games.

I gave a quick talk on ‘Thinking Digital : 10 things’ a quick overview of the TDC conference at the Sage Gateshead last month, plus ten things – i.e. ten quotes and things I heard from the speakers at the conference.

Backstage are still looking to collect memories and stories for their 5-year retrospective – please get in contact if you have anything to contribute via this spreadsheet.

After announcements we adjourned to Davy’s to spend the rest of the evening having a lively discussion around coding and our tech projects.

Ada Lovelace Day, March 24th, 2010 – Maggie Aderin-Pocock, space scientist

If you missed the hullabaloo last year, the inaugural Ada Lovelace Day on 24th March, 2009, was created to celebrate the achievements of women in technology by pledging to write a about a favourite woman who has worked with technology, dead or alive – this could also be a mentor, role model or inspiration.

Last year I wrote about Delia Derbyshire, bobmother of electronica, this year I’m writing about space scientist, Maggie Aderin-Pocock, with whom I have share a love space and especially The Clangers and the Moon!

Born in Camden to Nigerian parents, Maggie has been fascinated by space since she was a child. The Clangers introduced her to the idea of ‘space’ and when she was six years-old she came across a book that inspired her ‘it had this astronaut on the cover floating in space with the Earth behind him and I thought wow, I really want to do that!’ Later, watching Star Trek and Carl Sagan’s ‘Cosmos’ on the television inspired her ambition to be an astronaut, but on mentioning this to her teacher the response was to suggest nursing instead. Aged 15 and disappointed by a telescope she brought from Argos, Maggie attended a telescope building class and built her own.

At school she was diagnosed with dyslexia and as was a common outcome at the time she was put into a remedial class. This was not the best start for a space scientist, but her father helped her nurture her ambitions and interests and as the internet had yet to evolve, Maggie spent a lot of her time in the library. This made her dreams of space travel seem more obtainable ‘thanks to his support it seemed entirely reasonable to me that with hard work, a black girl with learning difficulties would soon be travelling from inner London to outer space’. With this help Maggie did well in her exams and gained four A Levels in maths, physics, chemistry and biology and went on to study physics at Imperial College, enjoying her studies so much it led on to a PhD in mechanical engineering.

Since leaving university, Maggie has worked on many projects, her first was at the Ministry of Defence but being a pacifist she had qualms about working for the military, so she endeavored to work on projects which had positive goals in helping people, such as hand-held instruments to detect landmines. Still dreaming of space, Maggie moved on to Imperial College in 1999 to work on a high-resolution spectrograph for the Gemini telescope in Chile – it probes the heart of stars by converting the starlight gathered by huge telescopes into the component rainbow colours, and then analyses them to work out what’s happening billions of miles away. She is presently working at Astrium on observation instruments for the Aeolus satellite, which will measure wind speeds to help the investigation of climate change. Maggie is also helping to coordinate the development of the Mid-Infrared Instrument for the James Webb Space Telescope, the planned replacement for the Hubble, and working with Imperial College on other infrared instruments for monitoring climate change.

Maggie is committed to inspiring new generations of astronauts, engineers and scientists – she has spoken to about 25,000 children, many of them at inner-city schools telling them how and why she is a scientist, busting myths about careers, class and gender as she describes her journey from a dyslexic kid with dreams to respected space scientist. She holds a Science in Society Fellowship awarded in 2006 by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), as well as Honorary Doctor of Staffordshire University for her contributions to the field of science education and an MBE awarded in 2009.

She still wants to travel into space – her dream job to build a telescope on the moon. She says: ‘from the age of three, I wanted to get into space and I still do. It’s been the driving force of my life really, that desire to get out there one day.’ And for later plans ‘I want to retire to Mars, some people choose gardening; I choose Mars’. When Maggie was recently a guest on Radio4’s Desert Island Discs, her one luxury to take with her was a telescope.

List of articles that helped me glean info and quotes for this blog post:

Science Careers – Reaching for the Stars
Staffs University – profile on Maggie
Telegraph – Let’s inspire the next generation of scientists
Royal Institution of Great Britain – Maggie profile