British schoolgirls make robotic waves

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Firing young girls with enthusiasm for technology can be an uphill struggle, but an Open University computing tutor seems to have found the magic formula.

Firing young girls with enthusiasm for technology can be an uphill struggle, but an Open University computing tutor seems to have found the magic formula.

Nicky Hughes, who guides OU learners through the course "You, Your Computer and the Net", also teaches robotics to teenage girls at Amberfield School near Ipswich - with such success that they made two major competition finals in the US and Japan.

The seven girls, all aged 12-15, went to Atlanta last month to take on teams from across the world after winning the UK final of the First Lego League Robotics Competition. And in July they will be jetting off to Osaka for the world finals of the Open University-sponsored UK Robocup competition.

"We encourage the children to take part in these robotic activities to show them that science is just as much for girls as it is for boys - and they're certainly proving that," said Nicky, who has worked part-time at the school for three years.

As part of their challenge in America the girls have to build a robot entirely out of Lego to carry three missions in just two minutes. Their opponents will come from countries including Brazil, South Africa and Germany.

"The machines will be built to go up steps, lift items off tables and perform other tasks," says Hughes. "It's really great for the girls because regular ICT teaching in schools doesn't include programming, but this does. They are all so passionate about it and their expertise is amazing."

Amberfield School, in the village of Nacton, has had to raise sponsorship to send the girls to Atlanta Osaka. Any individual or company who would like to sponsor the girls should contact Nicky at n.a.Hughes@btinternet.com

* The Open University is offering a free course to qualified women returning to science, engineering or technology after a career break. Science, Engineering and Technology: A Course for Women Returners (course code T160) is designed for women who would like to find a job that reflects their skills. Free places funded by the Department of Trade and Industry and the European Union are available until February 2007.

"There are approximately 50,000 women with science degrees who do not work in the sector," said course chair Clem Herman. "This course helps them to analyse their previous experience, identify opportunities and develop a plan to find an appropriate job." For details visit www.open.ac.uk/courses and search for T160.

Comments