Gosh. Where to start.
The 16th BCSWomen Lovelace happened a few weeks ago, and I was the event chair. Again. After retaking the reins and leading some events in lockdown, it was time to go face-to-face with the best women undergrads in computing in the UK. Again.
Should I start on the day, with my brain waking me at 4, then getting me up at 5, for a stroll around a lake to clear my head before facing all the people?
Or should I start three weeks earlier, when I took delivery of a badge machine to make a load of pronoun badges so we could try to be more inclusive?
Or earlier still, when we were planning, and deciding on what pixelated beast to make for Sheffield (in our lockdown incarnations we got quite into the pixelated animals). Peregrine falcon, was the answer.
It’s probably best to start with our arrival in Sheffield. The out-of-town Lovelace team converged on an Airbnb about 5 minutes walk from the uni, and on the day before the event we met the in-town Lovelace team to do some bag stuffing, and general pre-event faff.
This included sharing plans and info about the layout of the rooms to support attendees who like to visualise things before showing up, checking we had everything printed, and fiddling with a number of other glitchy fixes. An event of this scale doesn’t go off without a few last minute tweaks.
The conference has held a pre-event social for a few years now – we have students arriving from around the UK and it’s useful to give a focus to the night before. It also helps people get over some of their pre-event nerves and for those who are traveling on their own, meet a few people. This year SWICS (Sheffield Women in Computing Society) put on a quiz with a human bingo element then a names, films and places picture round. Frankly, the staff corner did badly on all of these, but the students got talking and everyone seemed to enjoy the chips.
On the day we had all the ingredients of a good conference. Fascinating posters, interesting talks, an inspiring keynote, plenty of cake, too much food, and sponsors with captivating stands. Our gold sponsor Ocado even brought a robot arm to the event.
I ended up skipping most of the talks as I had too much to do (and was also avoiding the stage – I don’t like being called up on the stage and as chair that’s an occupational hazard). Fortunately for me the team of organisers is amazing and I could entirely trust them to manage things in the talks room whilst I dealt with sponsors, registrations and poster contest matters. Indeed to be honest, with two poster rooms, a sponsor/lunch zone, a registration desk and a talks room it’s a five-or-six person conference to manage now whichever way you cut it.
We are very strict when managing the student poster contests to ensure that nobody ever has anything to do with the feedback or judging of any of their students. So I never see any Aberystwyth abstracts, and can’t judge any contests with Aberystwyth students in them. This means I am able to be joyful when Aberystwyth win, without feeling like I’ve influenced anything at all. So one of the real highlights for me was seeing that Darya Koskeroglu of Aberystwyth won the best final year student prize.
Food wise we went for a buffet of veggie stuff, with a lot of vegan. This meant everyone should have been able to find something they can eat, and we catered for the dietary requirements with a separate table of sealed meals for the allergy people, and special Iftar take-away packed lunches so those observing Ramadan could break their fast later. Looking at the feedback forms the food was a theme – both negative and positive – some people really like to have meat sandwiches. “I selected Omnivore but didn’t see any Omnivore food” said one, ho ho ho. Anyway I ate loads, and it was great.
Stallholders are a big part of the event for me and provide students with an experience which is a bit more like an actual tech conference than a student event – getting to speak with employers and find out about jobs and opportunities really does make the attendees feel like they’re in demand. We had quite a few companies present, industrial robotics, science, engineering, consultancy, games…
Opteran and the Alan Turing Institute both won in my head as they both had chocolate. However I am easily pleased. The Keysight group had some cool demos and seemed to have a lot of conversations going on, DARE were getting a lot of interaction and provided Haribo, SUMO digital had computer games, and I’ve already mentioned the robot arm at Ocado. STFC had lego. Amazon had bags for life and quite honestly the best hairdos.
At the end of the day, after the prizes, there was wine and soft drinks and more sandwiches. I ordered a bunch of cupcakes (Sheffergrin falcon, Sumo Digital and Ada Lovelace flavoured) which went very very quickly indeed.
Who won? Well it’s listed on our official website: https://bcswomenlovelace.bcs.org/?page_id=478 along with their actual posters, but here’s the names:
First year contest, sponsored by JP Morgan
Genevieve Georgiades Lancaster University wins 1st place with Could IoT Solve the Care Crisis?
Erin Watson University of Stirling wins 2nd place with Will my Doctor become a Robot?
Second year contest, sponsored by Amazon
Qiuye Zhang wins 1st place with Can Artificial Neural Networks Learn like Brains?
Georgina Parker The University of Sheffield wins 2nd prize with ChatGPT: Plagiarism’s Worst Nightmare
Final year contest, sponsored by Oxford AIMS
Darya Koskeroglu Aberystwyth University wins 1st place with Pysgodyn Wibli Wobli – Can a Robot Do “wibbly wobbly” Like a Fish? A Look into Fish Robotics and its Ability to Mimic Fish Movement
Jasmine Brown University of Warwick wins 2nd place with Tappyography: Generating Tap Dance Choreography using Artificial Intelligence
MSc contest, sponsored by Oxford AIMS
Srimoyee Ghosh University of Bath wins 1st place Artificial Swarm Intelligence in space debris clearance
Radina Kraeva University of Strathclyde wins 2nd place with Tracking and Early Diagnostics of Endometriosis | Empower HER
People’s choice prize, sponsored by STFC
Saxon Partridge-Smith University of Wolverhampton wins 1st place with Navigating the Risks: Securing Artificial Intelligence in the Face of Cyber Threats
Sophie Dillon The University of Sheffield wins 2nd place with Can Antidepressant Side Effects Be Predicted Using Modern Technology?
I got back to Aberystwyth to find on my kitchen table a delivery of 600 Ada Lovelace stickers. Looks like we’re already gearing up for 2024: Liverpool, April 4th. Put it in your diary. I’m not going to be in the chair (again, ever) but I will be there!