Finding (and remembering) Ada

What is Ada Lovelace Day?

Tuesday 14 October 2014 is Ada Lovelace Day, an international celebration of the achievements of women in STEM. It aims to raise their profiles, to inspire others and to create new role models for young and old alike. Ada Lovelace Day began as a day of blogging in 2009 and has grown to become a global activity involving thousands of people worldwide.

Who was Ada Lovelace?

Ada Lovelace was a Victorian mathematician, born nearly two centuries ago, who wrote the first computer programme – yet she lived 100 years before the first electronic computers were built! Instead, she worked with nothing more than plans for a mechanical computer called the Analytical Engine, which was being designed by Charles Babbage.

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Ada’s deep understanding of the Engine and her imaginative approach led her to write the first computer programme and to describe a future for computing that was both visionary and amazingly accurate. She saw that a computing machine could create images and music if it was given the right algorithms, and not just do complicated sums – a view that was much more advanced than those of her male peers. Despite this, although many people remember Charles Babbage as the inventor of the first computer, very few know about his female accomplice.

Celebrating women engineers

Ada is not the only woman in history whose contribution to science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) has been forgotten. In August 2014, the Institute of Engineering and Technology, in collaboration with the Women’s Engineering Society, published the following poster to celebrate women in engineering over the past 100 years.

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In May 2014, the British Computer Society ran a month-long campaign to encourage women of all ages to consider a career in IT. Throughout the month influential women in IT acted as role models and, through blogs and video interviews, shared their stories and thoughts about the profession.

Women have made significant contributions to science, engineering and technology for hundreds of years and, despite low numbers of women in the STEM sector, they continue to make an impact today.

Ayrshire College challenging gender stereotypes

One of the six goals in Ayrshire College’s strategic plan is Tackling Inequalities and a key objective identified for achieving this is to challenge gender stereotyping in career and learning choices. One aspect of this is highlighting the success of female students who choose STEM courses, apprenticeships and careers, which helps other women and girls overcome negative perceptions of what are seen as male-dominated areas. Here are some examples of former and current female students who have chosen to have a career in STEM.

Yvonne Neil studied at Ayrshire College when she was an apprentice at BAE Systems. Twenty years on and now Chief Design Engineer at the company, Yvonne describes in this blog post what attracted her to engineering as a young girl and how she has progressed in her career. Our female engineering students continue to make an impact on Ayrshire-based companies like GE Caledonian, Ryanair and Wallace McDowall.

As a former student of HND Mechanical Engineering at Ayrshire College, Laura McEwen began her career in engineering as an apprentice for GE Caledonian. Passionate about the contribution that engineering apprentices make to the workplace, Laura’s career has come full circle as she is now the Apprentice Co-ordinator at the company. Laura operates a ‘knowledge exchange’ at the College and visits weekly bto mentor, guide and motivate engineering apprentices. Laura said “There are currently 30 apprentices in the program, all of whom are enthusiastic and excited about their futures and desperate to learn and be the best they can be. I am proud to be helping them on their engineering journey.”

Wallace McDowall recruits its apprentices through Ayrshire College and in June 2014 they started six first year Fabrication and Welding apprentices, including two young women. Shelby Mitchell secured her apprenticeship after completing the NC Welding and Fabrication course. She said “During my work experience week I shadowed welders and learned loads from them. I’m really happy to be an apprentice at Wallace McDowall and the support and encouragement I’ve had so far is fantastic.”

Julie Black was the only female NC Computer Games Development class at the College last year and beat off stiff competition from fellow students to win a Computer Games Design competition. The competition prizes were presented by industry expert Iris Lanny from Oracle UK who said the quality of the submissions from Ayrshire College were outstanding, amongst the best she had seen.

Amie Latona was one of just five women out of a total of 289 plumbing apprenticeship starts in Scotland last year. Amie said “Sharing a class with lots of guys was a little daunting at first but in a way it has been a great driver for me to push myself. There is lots of support available from classmates and lecturers.”

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Amie Latona, Modern Apprentice in Plumbing

What can you do to promote women in STEM?

If you have just ‘found’ Ada, remember her and all the other women who have contributed to major developments in science, technology and engineering over the last 200 years. Use the resources referred to in this blog post to share information about what women have achieved in science, technology and engineering, despite the odds stacked against them. Join us in challenging gender stereotypes in career and learning choices in areas like STEM.

Follow Ayrshire College on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and check the News section of our website regularly. And, for more information about Ada Lovelace Day visit the Finding Ada website.


RAISING ASPIRATIONS | INSPIRING ACHIEVEMENT | INCREASING OPPORTUNITIES