Monday, 29 February 2016

Why should girls get involved in tech?

Well, I can answer this question myself, because obviously I know my own reasons. I am not from a tech background, I’m from an arts background – and if you’d asked me when I was in my early teens, in fact, when I was a Guide myself, I’d have told you I wasn’t the technical type.  But, actually looking back on it, that was absolutely untrue. The problem was, I saw science, technology and engineering as something that was more of a ‘boy’ thing (actually, I had no idea what engineering was until I hit my early twenties)! 

Ruth Blayney, Girls Hack Ireland
and former Girl Guide
When I was a teen, the internet was just taking off (yes, I’m THAT old), and the world of online communities and personal websites was emerging.  I’m here to tell you, it was really exciting!   I signed myself up for a hosted web page and started tinkering with how to make it look pretty and change the colours, change the pictures, play with fonts etc. It was really exciting to be figuring out how to make the computer do what I wanted, and there’d be such a great sense of achievement when I managed to figure something out.

I’ll never forget getting completely carried away on my webpage when I discovered how to create the ‘strikethrough’ font (that is, text with a line running through the middle of it). The page was practically unreadable – which taught me a very important lesson – just because I CAN do it, doesn’t necessarily mean I should!

It’s only now, as an adult, I’ve realised that what I was doing was coding in HTML. I unfortunately veered away from the website-building by the time I hit 14/15. Just from watching TV, listening to people around me, I thought it wasn’t really something I, as a girl, should be pursuing. I just dropped it in favour of horse-riding (and perhaps some MTV)!

Now that I’m older, I’ve worked for Dublin City University in a couple of areas, mainly to do with talking to people about the importance of engineering and technology. Through my job I’ve become more and more passionate about the importance of technology and engineering.  Because I work in a research centre, I get to see where things like computer coding can start making a huge impact on society. For example, we’ve a project here in the Insight Centre for Data Analytics that is involved in helping people recover from heart disease.  As part of the project, our researchers are creating a game that helps people keep up with their exercise programme. The people I work with are incredibly passionate and are doing great things for the world.  And me, I want to be part of it.  And I want more girls to be part of it!  Girls are creative, passionate and great multi-taskers (not that I should make a sweeping generalisation) – and when you apply these traits to engineering and tech problems, then you get incredible results. Coding isn’t just for boys, it’s for everyone! It’s a universal language that has an absolutely astounding range of applications.

But I can talk and talk and talk at you about this; far, far better that you come and have a go yourself. I’d like to finish up by inviting you to check out one of our Girls Hack Ireland events.  We’ll be running them in Wexford, Roscommon, Longford and Dublin in the coming months – and they are open to girls (and their parents!) who have never tried coding before. I’d love for you to come along and give it a try. 

There’s no pressure: we just want everyone to have fun, hang out, learn how to build a website of their own or work with movement sensors (making a ‘sprite’ mimic your movements!) or have a go at wearables technology.  We’ll be bringing mentors with us and we’d be happy to chat to you and answer any questions you may have about science, technology, engineering and maths.

Please visit our website - www.girlshackireland.org - to find out about booking into one of our events. These are absolutely free, and we even provide the laptops!

12th March - 'Learn how to build a webiste' - Wexford

19th March - 'Learn how to build a website' - Longford & Roscommon

7th May - 'Move it, move it - Working with motion sensors and programming the Microsoft Kinnect' - Wexford

11th June - 'Move it, move it - Working with motion sensors and programming the Microsoft Kinnect' - Longford & Roscommon 

1st October - 'Wearing tech - how you can make wearable technology' - Wexford

8th October -  'Wearing tech - how you can make wearable technology, ' - Longford & Roscommon

Join us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/GirlsHackIreland

Tweet us: @GirlsHackIRL

~ Ruth Blayney, Girls Hack Ireland

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