IBM inspires young girls to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics

HURSLEY, U.K. - 11 Jul 2011: Last week 100 temporary recruits descended upon the IBM development laboratory at Hursley Park near Winchester, but they weren’t the usual graduates and professionals the facility employs. Girls, aged 11 - 14, were visiting 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 and completed on Friday, was 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 before presenting their idea to a team of judges in the form of IBM executives, senior technical staff and IBM Master Inventors.

The camp began with a brainstorming session during which the girls explored ideas around the One World theme. They chose one idea to take forward and created a flow chart to show how the invention would work. The girls were then taught the basics of marketing and the importance of branding and applied this knowledge to their product by creating a brand logo and slogan. They also created a billboard poster and a mock-up for a webpage. Mentoring on presentation skills helped them prepare for their final presentation to the judges.

Local MP for Romsey and Southampton North, Caroline Nokes, commented: "Encouraging school children, and particularly girls, towards careers in science and technology is important for our local economy. I have been very impressed with the programmes IBM runs with our schools. It is very clear from the reaction of the girls here today that a lot of thought has gone into making science fun - so much so that I was tempted to stay longer and join in myself."

The two winning ideas were:

Another ingenious idea was:

Cllr Barry Lipscomb, the Mayor of Winchester, who presented one of the prizes said: "I was really grateful for the opportunity to see some of the girls on think.IT involved in their projects, as actions speak louder than words. I applaud IBM for both the concept and the delivery of this work, which is so important if we are to attract – as we must – more young women into science and technology careers.

"I was especially impressed by the interaction between staff and students, by the skills of the former in achieving the desired outcome and by the enquiring and receptive minds of the girls. From what I saw over a day at Hursley, this is a very well conceived and worthwhile exercise, thoroughly deserving of the success which I am sure it will achieve."

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.

Dave Andrews, IBM executive sponsor for think.IT, added: “The ideas and innovations that the girls have come up with over the past few days really are what IBM as a business are all about; we develop innovation that matters to make the World work better. The girls have seen how Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics can present a fun and interesting career path and it’s our hope that this will drive them forward into further study into their GCSEs and beyond.”

This year IBM turned 100. In those years IBM has played a leading role in transforming business, science and society. IBM has earned the most US patents of any company for 18 consecutive years, has had the distinction of employing five Nobel Laureates and, with Hursley, has some of the most recognised research and development laboratories in the world.

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think.IT Hursley. One of a number of community programmes run by IBM for local schools.

think.IT Hursley. Caroline Nokes, MP for Romsey and Southampton North, with Karen Barker, IBM project lead.

think.IT Hursley. Winners for the Paper Chain activity.

think.IT Hursley. Female students visiting the IBM research and development facility.

Cllr Barry Lipscomb, the Mayor of Winchester, presenting a prize to one of the winners

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