May 4th, 2010 | Published in Google Student Blog
Did you know that the term ‘debugging’ was popularized by computer scientist and US Navy Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, after she found and removed a moth from her Mark II Aiken Relay Calculator? How about Frances Allen? She was the first ever female IBM Fellow and Turing Award winner. Ever heard of Augusta ‘Ada’ King, Countess of Lovelace? As if being Lord Byron’s only legitimate child wasn’t interesting enough, she also created the first algorithm intended for machine processing. Some consider her the world’s first programmer!
Augusta ‘Ada’ King, Countess of Lovelace: the ‘world’s first programmer’Ada provides the namesake for the Lovelace Colloquium, an annual conference chaired by BCS (the Chartered Institute for IT), organized by female students and hosted in various universities throughout the UK. This year’s event, held at Cardiff University on April 8th, was a forum for networking, sharing and collaborating on topical computer science issues.
In addition to providing support and speakers for the event, Google also had a hand in the Colloquium’s planning and development. Lovelace organizers tried something new this year; holding virtual meetings, tracking outreach, publicizing the event and finalizing the agenda--all via Google Wave! Said lead organizer Dr. Mikhaila Burgess (Cardiff University): ‘It worked really well, particularly since our organizers and speakers were spread out around the country. People could simply log on to the Wave, comment and make adjustments in real time. This structured approach to publicity allowed us to reduce spam by contacting people directly, keeping the planning phase dynamic.’
The planning paid off; Lovelace speakers were united in their ability to bring inspiring personal experiences, anecdotes and examples to the table. For instance, Dr. Sue Black of the University of Westminster used her involvement with the Saving Bletchly Park campaign as basis for a comparison of traditional versus social media in raising awareness. Similarly, Google’s own Eve Andersson (Technical Account Manager) gave a talk on ‘The Wonderful World of Web Analytics’, in which she analyzed her personal website! (We hope this post drives some traffic her way :)
Great events like Lovelace generally lead to great, concrete results. Here’s an example: Google-sponsored speaker Prof Catholijn Jonker (Delft University of Technology), who attended the Colloquium with three Dutch engineering students, is already planning to set up a Lovelace-style event. This would be the first of its kind in the Netherlands. ‘I was really impressed and inspired by my fellow Lovelace speakers--they are truly adding value and supporting the cause of women in technology,’ said Jonker, ‘I was very interested to learn that the BCS’s intake is currently 20% female. This is a major step forward, we’re getting to the point where people start thinking of it as normal to have women in technical occupations. I thought, if the UK can do it, so can we!’
Planning will shortly get underway for the 2011 Colloquium, to be held in Birmingham. We look forward to another inspiring celebration of female technical achievement...and hope Google Wave comes in handy again next year!
Posted by Vicky Greaves, University Programmes