School girls get stuck into STEM


On Friday 21 June, CEBE hosted ‘BCU’s Women in Computing and Engineering day’, a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) event, where more than 100 Year 8 school girls from 10 local schools took part in engineering and computing challenges.

Computing Courses

Birmingham City University

The event was an advance celebration of International Women in Engineering Day on Sunday 23 June, and also provided a taster of the STEM courses on offer at BCU. Attendees included pupils from Handsworth Wood Girls Academy, Bordesley Green Girls’ School and Shenley Academy in Weoley Castle.

Executive Dean of the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment (CEBE) Professor Hanifa Shah kicked off the event at Millennium Point with a welcome speech, which was followed by talks from inspirational women in computing and engineering.

Speakers included Head of Engineering and Operations at Jaguar Land Rover Classic and Visiting Lecturer Sukhi Clarke and first-year Mechanical Engineering student Molly O’Neill.

Molly was recently awarded a £1,000 scholarship aimed at getting more women into science and engineering-based professions. The prize involves hands-on experience at Meridian Lightweight Technologies UK, the world’s largest producer of magnesium component parts.

Chancellor of BCU Sir Lenny Henry expressed his enthusiasm about the event and International Women in Engineering Day in a video screened on the day.

Senior Lecturer in the School of Computing and Digital Technology Jagdev Bhogal set the computing challenge, while Senior Lecturer in the School of Engineering and the Built Environment Laura Leyland ran the engineering challenge.

For the computing activity, pupils used emerging technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality, hand trackers and eye trackers to create an exciting application concept. Pupils then designed a poster, which encapsulated the key points of their concept.

The engineering challenge took a humanitarian angle, with pupils building storm-proof houses for people living in Sri Lanka, with the stability of their creations tested in front of a fan. As well as having to design and assemble the structure, the exercise also included budget management and poster-making.

The results of the challenges were presented to the judges and prizes were subsequently awarded to the winners. This was followed by a closing speech.

Jagdev said: “For nearly 40 years, there has been a shortage of girls in computing. Initiatives such as BCU’s Women in Computing and Engineering day are designed to address this gender imbalance.

“We wish to enthuse the audience about computing and, hopefully, they will seriously consider it as an area of study and a career choice.”

Pictured: A school girl taking part in the computing challenge

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