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IBM uses sport to inspire young girls to pursue careers in science and technology


HURSLEY, U.K - 11 Jul 2012: Last week IBM Hursley development laboratory near Winchester hosted 100 Year 8 girls, from ten different schools around Hampshire and the surrounding counties, for a two day camp known as think.IT. The aim of the camp, which was repeated twice over the week, is to encourage girls to continue studying Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and eventually consider careers within the IT industry.

Split into teams so that no two girls from the same school worked together, the girls were tasked with designing and marketing a brand new product, this year in the field of Technology in Sport, before presenting their idea to a team of judges in the form of IBM executives and IBM Master Inventors.

The camps began with a brainstorming session during which the girls explored ideas and selected one to take to market. The girls were then taught the basics of marketing and the importance of branding and applied this knowledge to their product by developing a business plan and creating a brand logo, slogan and designing a web site. Team building exercises and mentoring on presentation skills helped them prepare for their final presentation to the judges.

Local MP for Romsey and Southampton North, Caroline Nokes, who returned again this year to watch the girls commented: “I was very impressed with the inspirational speakers and the enthusiasm shown for IT during my visit. A thoroughly enjoyable morning.”

The two winning ideas were:
    –    Training Buddy. “Working out how to work out” - A smartphone application designed to offer injury prevention, treatment and nutrition advice to athletes.
    –    Leaf. “The personal best trainer” - A silicone ear piece that moulds to the ear of the user, and allows an athlete to communicate wirelessly with their coach whilst training.

The runners up were:
    –    Morfs - An innovative sports shoe that uses interchangeable soles, so that the same pair of shoes can be used for a variety of sports.
    –    My Grip - A multi-functional grip constructed from a combination of memory foam and a non-slip rubber surface, that moulds to the shape of an athlete's hands.

Emily Halsted-Morton, Maths teacher at Ringwood School for whom this is now an annual event, said: "It's very nice to get the girls into a situation in which they're using their maths skills without even realising it. It gives them a real-life application and provides them with the experience of a true working environment." Angharad Costello, subject leader for ICT, added: "There is a real buzz in the classroom when the girls return to school. They are very positive about the experience, very enthusiastic and it boosts their confidence. We'd like to come back again next year, it's a great opportunity."

Jon Tilt, current European Masters 400m hurdles champion, kicked off the events with an inspirational presentation on "The power of technology in sport". To strengthen their interpersonal skills and further demonstrate the fun and appealing side of STEM subjects, the girls also participated in a number of short complementary activities. The paper chain activity tested a few of these skills. The girls first had to plan how they would create a chain using various materials. Once constructed, they were scored on the length of the chain, the accuracy of the plan and how well they had worked as a team. In another activity, a murder mystery logic problem taught them the skills needed to work in the service and support stages of IT product development. The girls also temporarily took on roles as actors in a short play entitled “Women in Technology – past, present and future”.

Dave Andrews, IBM executive sponsor for think.IT, added: “The sporting ideas and innovations that the girls have come up with over the past few days have been really impressive. They have seen how Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics can present a fun and interesting career path and it’s our hope that this will influence their GCSE selections. Perhaps one day we'll be lucky enough to see them return as graduates.”

Notes to editors

List of participating schools:
Upper Shirley High, Southampton
Hampshire Collegiate School, Romsey
Bournemouth School for Girls
Ringwood School
The Sholing Technology College, Southampton
King Edward VI School, Southampton
Saint Edmund's Catholic Secondary, Portsmouth
Toynbee School, Chandler's Ford
Regents Park Community College, Southampton
Oasis Academy Mayfield

Contact(s) information

John Galvez
UK External Relations
+44 (0)7734-104275
john.galvez@uk.ibm.com

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