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Our 5th Ada Lovelace Day!

We were delighted to be back at MediCity this October celebrating Ada Lovelace Day for our fifth year!

This was our first year back in person following two years online over the Covid-19 lockdown. We kept the celebrations going online but we can all feel how different it is when the students, teachers, scientists and our team get to meet in person. Not to mention what a pleasure it is visiting Medicity with its Art-Deco architecture and interior design, the building itself gives a warm welcome and instantly dispels any ideas of careers in science and technology being cold or sterile. The team at MediCity had pulled out all of the stops this year hosting us in a large central room with tables signposted with images of Ada Lovelace with each of the schools names and decorated with vases of flowers, colourful confetti and bunting!

While the 90 students and 12 teachers from six schools arrived in anticipation for the day they found their places and played an Ada Lovelace inspired poetry game, which led to them making poems from binary code. Everyone was welcomed with an introduction from Megan, Ignite!s Programme Manager, who outlined the plans for the day and introduced our guest speaker Dr. Susannah Lydon - Assistant Professor in Plant Science at the University of Nottingham.

Dr. Lydon gave a fantastic introduction to her research with a presentation to the entire group - she discussed the fact that it took her a long time to find her own path into science and has now found a career that fascinates her. She showed the students how from a plant fossil she can reconstruct an entire ecosystem from the past. The students found this inspiring and It gave them the encouragement to believe in their own interests in science.

The students were given Ada Lovelace Bingo cards packed with questions and prompts to encourage investigative conversations with each of the scientists. Following this the day's activities got underway with inspiring women scientists from five different companies, leading talks and workshops at stands across two large rooms. The students were split into smaller groups and rotated across forty minute activities with each company.

Agility Life Sciences lead a workshop creating medicines to cure the students chosen ailments, this included designing packaging and noting possible side effects, they conducted experiments with the scientist to create their own medicines. Students were surprised by the processes of making their own medicines and learning about the endless possibilities of their effects, they particularly enjoyed the hands-on activity where they got to mix their own chemicals and witness the reactions.

NuVision was a very popular workshop with the students. The team showed the students the entire process of cleaning placenta tissue to process and create medicines including eye treatments. The students here were inducted into lab-like conditions by wearing hair nets and gloves and they understood the level of precision needed to complete the task. In the students' feedback they commented on how much they enjoyed this workshop and how much they had learned from and been surprised by it. They learned how and why people sometimes eat placenta and were fascinated by its use in medicine. This again was an activity with hands-on practical learning that they really focused on and enjoyed.

We were joined by Locate Bio who led an informative and engaging activity looking at colour changing in chemical processes. In groups the students were each tasked with keeping their chemical vials still or shaking them to instigate a colour change process which became a kind of game or competition between them all. They really enjoyed seeing the process take place in their own hands and being able to manipulate and control the reactions.

Porterhouse Medical introduced imagined speculative diseases from popular fictional films and TV programmes that the students were tasked with inventing their own medicines to create cures. This tested their creative skills as they were asked to create marketing campaigns for each of their medicines by designing packaging and posters that displayed the positive and negative effects of their miracle cures. The students enjoyed using their imaginations and creativity on this task and came up with some surprising ideas.

Charnwood Molecular led the students in exploring techniques for chromatography using coloured inks and filter papers, demonstrating how and why they separate and define chemicals from their mixed states. The students again thoroughly enjoyed this activity and were able to learn about complex processes through a creative and visual representation that again got them thinking creatively using hands-on techniques.

The purpose of the event is to inform young women and girls about the history and legacy of Ada Lovelace's ground-breaking work as the first ever computer coder - work that has had huge influence on our lives today, well as to introduce them to inspiring women scientists who are practising research and development in their fields right now. Inviting the students to MediCity for the day gave them an insight into the research and career opportunities available to them in their own City and attempts to help them see past any barriers they might think of as preventing them from pursuing these types of careers. We believe that with the help of the talented scientists who joined us on the day, that we achieved this! And we are grateful for their help in doing so.

The feedback from the event was overwhelmingly positive and it was clear that students and teachers alike see this as a valuable opportunity for their learning, and they want us to continue to make Ada Lovelace day bigger and better each year! We want to thank everyone who joined us for the event and made the day so special and we can not wait to come back and do it again next year!


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