IBM inspires girls to continue studying Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)

Hursley, U.K - 11 Jul 2014: This week IBM's (NYSE: IBM) development laboratory near Winchester hosted 100 Year 8 girls (aged 12-13), from ten different Hampshire and Dorset schools during a two day event known as think.IT. The aim of the event, which was repeated twice over the week and started on Monday 7th July, is to encourage girls to continue studying Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). The activity supports the Government's recently launched campaign ‘Your Life’ whose aim is to grow the number of women working in these areas of 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 the Internet of Things, and culminating with a mini Expo at which they presented their ideas to IBM executives and IBM Master Inventors. The number of devices in the world connected to the Internet is dramatically increasing, they are predicted to reach 30 billion by 2020. There are some you can see and interact with like laptops and smart phones, but many more, often invisible to the eye, which will help improve our lives in ways, in which until recently, we could only have dreamt of. The girls were encouraged to create new ideas in areas such as transportation, healthcare, efficiency in the home or personal safety.

Cllr Sue Blatchford, the Mayor of Southampton, said: "'I was delighted to attend the think.IT event at IBM Hursley Park, it's great that IBM supports such an activity to challenge girls' perceptions of the STEM subjects. From the work I could see in the various rooms, the girls were certainly inspired and challenged by the tasks they were presented with and worked collaboratively. There was a buzz and excitement heightened by the opportunities offered including watching a 3D printer in action. 

Whilst one girl I spoke with already had a career aspiration in the Armed Services, she indicated that the event had made her think about possible technology careers in those Services which is great. 

There have been great women in the past who have worked in technology, so let's hope that one of the young women attending think.IT may be inspired to be a great technologist of the future. It is incredible that 2015 marks 200 years since the birth of Ada Lovelace, who introduced many computer concepts, and really was the first computer programmer. Women are capable of doing great things."

To break the ice, the girls embarked on a Murder Mystery in which they explored the historic Hursley House using specially designed software, logic and communication skills to solve a 'crime'.  This activity enabled them to gather useful information from a variety of sources, whilst strengthening relationships with their new team-mates. The teams were then given a choice of three problems to solve and began with a brainstorming session to select one to take to market. Next the girls were taught the basics of marketing, the importance of branding and engaged in other exercises that mirror the software development cycle consisting of planning and project management - which they applied to their products.

The girls were joined by the Stemettes who gave them an inspirational talk and led some of the activities. They were also given an introduction to Mozilla X-ray Goggles and IBM's NodeRed software and shown how to develop applications that control and share data between different types of electronic devices. They used their new skills to develop the eventual voting system, offering electronic buttons, barcode scanners, tweets and even a banana to entice potential voters.  

Peter Whitehead, IBM Program Director for Service and Support and executive sponsor for the event, added: "The theme for this years event was "Everything Connected" and the girls really embraced the high level concepts of sensor networks, messaging, analytics, social and mobile. It was fantastic to see how the teams collaborated to innovate and refine an idea, develop a tangible product design and then eloquently describe this to IBM employees who attended the event exposition. There was an amazing  positive energy throughout the event and it was great to see the teams having so much fun whilst exploring careers in technology."

For more information follow us on Twitter at @IBMthinkIT and join the conversation #YourLife. 

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