We visited the Loughborough Schools STEM activity which was taking place at Loughborough Grammar School which included pupils from several Loughborough schools. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths and the workshops encourage pupils to design and explore a project based on these criteria. We gave a presentation on the pathway we took when designing, prototyping and manufacturing the Endeavour LED sabre. We then addressed the need to consider what activities the final product would be used for including any limitations or challenges which might need to be addressed. Finally we talked with the pupils individually and invited them to tell us about their projects and explored options that might be worth thinking about in their design stages and beyond.
More about Mel’s work and activities can be found here.
BBC East Midlands visited one of our LED sabre sessions in Sileby. Below is the report they produced. We were very pleased with this article as it gave a good account of the classes and of our manufacture of the ISM Endeavour LED sabre. Despite a few Star Wars references added by the BBC it was accurate and highlighted a number of our values!
Following the visit we were contacted by many interested people including an international media company. As a result the story appeared in a number of publications. The articles tended to relate more to the Star Wars films and their associated lightsabers. Both StarWars and lightsabres are trademarks of Disney and Lucas films and Intergalactic Sabre Masters Ltd has no affiliation with these trademarks nor their owning organisations. We did not mention these trademarks during any of the interviews and were surprised to see some of the so-called “quotes”! However, there has been a lot of interest as the result of this exposure which has pleased us and there have been several new starters at classes as a result, particularly from the BBC piece. In addition, there have been enquiries from many organisations wishing to book team-building events, lessons and displays. These are coming from people with a wide range of physical and mental ability and their representative organisations. We are keen to ensure that the activity is open to a diverse range of participants.
I was also on BBC Radio Leicester to talk about LED sabre manufacture and classes. The LED sabre classes with adults and children are designed to incorporate mindfulness, confidence building and self awareness towards increasing resilience in a fun way. We teach traditional western sword arts, particularly those of the medieval hand and half. We train and spar with LED sabres, designed and manufactured locally, specifically made to be safe, ergonomic and easy to use by children and those with differing physical abilities.
Much like this blotch of colour, my mind is also a blur with so many thoughts, ideas and experiences that I soaked up at CHInclusionworkshop. CHI is a prestigious conference which has seriously started thinking about inclusion at their events – to open up to new audiences and making those attending feel included in this computer science community.
Having attended this workshop was particularly timely for me. I recently had the privilege of being interviewed about diversity and inclusion of females in the cybersecurity and AI fields and share my own experiences in regards to this for Women’s History Month. I don’t believe that it was something in specific that I had done but rather just that I ended up being at the right place at the right time.
I’ve also noticed how a lot of my conversations with my close support network have been focused on diversity, inclusion, social justice and equal opportunities. I thoroughly enjoy these conversations because (selfishly) they offer me great mental stimulation. I believe that these phenomena are interlinked and must be seen in a circular rather than a lateral way and think this is one of the greatest challenges we face for a better future.
These are some of my learnings from the interview, personal discussions and the CHInclusive workshop, which I hope will be inspirational to you but also in time serve as a reminder to myself – enjoy!
Everything is a two-way mirror. I came across a sentence at the workshop which deeply resonated with me. It was something along the lines of ‘see yourself in others and see others in you’. I feel this is the core of being inclusive to others. It’s important to strive to find commonalities with anyone rather than differences. It’s a two-way mirror where we must constantly try to see others’ stories and challenges in our own experiences while also seeing ourselves in their actions and choices.
2. Inclusion and diversity are separate but the same in many ways. We must think about these carefully as one is insufficient without the other. Inclusion speaks about including everyone along the way, just bring everyone along for the ride! To me, diversity essentially means taking a range of skillsets along for your ride. Even if that means that someone might offer the same skillset as you. They can still do things very differently to how you do them. One is not better or worse than the other, just different. I firmly believe diversity goes beyond gender and must start to seriously encompass ethnic minorities and truly represent diverse audiences, each participant bringing their own skillset.
3. Empower ourselves and those around you. Be more inclusive to everyone. Be more diverse in your engagements. Be mindful of your conscious and unconscious biases. We’re all people who are saying the same things in different ways. Some things we’ll inevitably love to hear and others we’ll dread but listen to them anyway. This might empower you, as well as others, to create spaces that are tolerant and encouraging of new thoughts, people and things.
4. It’s not personal. I feel it’s important to remember that any comment that might exhilarate or aggravate you, it’s not personal. No one other than you has travelled your journey, faced your challenges, overcome your adversities or experienced what you’ve experienced and how you’ve experienced it.
5. Create space for others even if you feel that space isn’t created for you. This can be especially hard to experience. Ultimately, it still allows you to offer a space that’s safe for anyone who needs it. You can foster micro-universes of interaction that will lead to others being empowered and eventually you’ll find yourself surrounded by people who offer this same space to you in a much deeper and richer way than you can imagine.
I joined a Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) event at Loughborough Grammar School. I was happy to join in when I heard they were running STEM events for secondary school boys and girls. On a rather wet and windy day, I headed to the event hoping the pupils would enjoy my talk and have some interesting questions.
My talk covered My Journey to a PhD, my research, and a memory game to demonstrate working memory. The game involved seeing an image of items from around the home and kitchen for 10 seconds. Then having 10 seconds to write down as many items as they could remember. I took the items with me as a tactile version in case any blind or partially sighted pupils attended. Somewhat ironically I forgot to boil an egg to take with me to match the image, but improvised with an egg cup for the tactile version.
The talk went really well and the pupils loved the memory test. No one got all 14 items, and they all sighed when I put the image back up so they could see what they’d missed. The second test involved spotting what was missing from an image, and they all answered the moment the slide appeared. It was a simple but effective demonstration of how our ability to remember varies between tasks and this should be considered in design. I am glad I included a practical element as it is always great to get more interaction. The group had been hesitant to ask questions, so it was good to give them permission to get involved at the end of the talk.
My PhD is sponsored by the rail industry. It turned out that Network Rail provide funding for a STEM challenge. Pupils were eager to hear how they could work on projects of interest to Network Rail. I suggested they consider level crossings, and how to influence the behaviour of level crossing users, as this is an area of great interest to the rail industry.
During the day I got to hear some of the current ideas students had for their own STEM projects. These included how to detect when someone is having an allergic reaction to food and designing a water filtration system to provide drinking water. I was really impressed with the range of projects and their innovation.
I talked to the teacher afterwards, and they will be coordinating STEM events in the future across the region to raise awareness with pupils of opportunities and future careers in STEM. I welcome this programme, and the links that can be built between schools and universities to support pupils in their further education of STEM subjects.
He said that it was an amazing experience, but felt a little nervous about speaking infront of an expert audience and in his reflections thinks that he needs to get some more practice in public speaking to boost his confidence.
His advice to other PhD students:
“don’t be shy, a top conference can give us chances to exchange ideas with most successful and famous guys in our field face to face”
Will 2019 be the year your publish and present some of your PhD research?
Velvet Spors (2017 Cohort) and Ahmed Al-Talabany (2016 Cohort) have accepted the challenge set by the Digital Economy Network (DEN) to code for one hour a day for 21 days.
Velvet and Ahmed join students from across the EPSRC Digital Economy CDT network to practice their coding skills and are recording their progress through Twitter using the hashtag #DENCodingChallenge. Ahmed is working on creating a map and running routing algorithms through it while Velvet is working on a bookmarklet.
1/21 of #DENCodingChallenge@DECDTNetwork i’ve started building a little bookmarklet, called ‘timo’. you can use it to pause your web email client for 5mins, to reflect on rough emails answers you’ve just typed ✉️🛑⏲️ (not fully done yet!)