GIRLS at a college in York celebrated opportunities available to girls studying STEM subjects to mark Ada Lovelace Day.

Last week at York College female students took part in hands-on activities and workshops in science, technology, engineering and maths dedicated to celebrating the legacy of Ada Lovelace, who is credited as being the first computer programmer.

The day kicked-off with a talk about women in engineering from Kate Godfrey, an environment and sustainability consultant from Amey. Kate inspired students, talking about different routes into engineering, including apprenticeships and specific networks for women in the industry.

A cyber-security workshop, presented by Kat Swannell and Jeremy Needley from the technical services team at SoftBox Ltd, involved students in a fictional scenario; working with an unattended bag found near the College, which appeared to have been hidden. Students helped to create a profile of the person who the bag might have belonged to and discussed what the owner might have wanted to do with the contents. The activity led to a discussion around vulnerability vs risk, digital forensics and other aspects of cyber security.

In a science workshop, students participated in a thought-provoking RACEmisation game, presented by Dr Anne Blyth Hodgson from the University of York’s Chemistry department. They played a game with amino acids to determine the age of specimens – a problem faced by archaeologists and palaeontologists when aging artefacts older than 50,000 years old.

Throughout the day, a logic competition, sponsored by Software Box Ltd had students thinking about how to resolve a logic problem into computer code. Maddie Wood, a musical theatre student, was delighted to have her competition entry picked in a prize draw. Maddie was presented with a £100 Amazon voucher.

Freddie Hopkins, NCOP Outreach Assistant said: “The UK has the lowest rate of female participation in designated STEM areas in Europe. It is a deeply rooted structural issue. Studies show girls and boys perform roughly equally well academically until the teenage years. Girls often continue with science subjects (sometimes outnumbering boys), even to degree level, but often then do not pursue a career in their area of interest. Of those that do, many do not stay. Some areas, like medicine, have made good progress but others have not, such as engineering or computer programming. Reasons for this are complex and lead to girls ‘self-censoring’ themselves out of a career in STEM.”

A-level student Natalia Pilarczyk is studying computer science, maths and further maths. Having a real passion for her studies, she is applying to Oxford University to read maths and computer science. She said: “I first thought I would study law and become a solicitor, and I like creative subjects too, but when it came to choosing my A-levels I decided STEM subjects were my favourite. In maths, I love that you cannot make it up as you go along, you learn theories and apply them, it is so satisfying when you solve a hard equation. There’s only two girls in my computer science and maths classes and I think this is entirely due to girls thinking STEM subjects are stereotypically for males, which is nonsense. It’s a shame more females are not taking up STEM opportunities.”