When I attended Teen Tech back in May, I was asked to judge the "ideas of the future" competition. The children had to think of a possible invention that might exist in 2050 and write it on to a post it note. These notes then formed an "ideas wall". There were two iPods up for grabs so this was a serious competition.
Certain ideas were quite prevalent with several different but similar submissions on the same topic. Machines to record your memories, or your dreams, space age buildings and cities and clothing related apps abounded. One of the more unusual ideas was a set of "power gloves" that allow you to lift heavy objects with ease after you put them on.
Emily from City Academy won a prize for her idea "A watch which changes the clothes on your body. Athletes would be able to use when doing the Trialthlon". As part of the prize, I was asked to go along to Emily's school and explain to them how they could go about making smart phone apps for themselves.
We talked through the stages of coming up with and idea for an application, thinking about how it would be used, designing the user interface and coding it up and deploying.
The City Academy class had come up with an idea at Teen Tech for an app that could combine a photo of a man and a woman to see what a baby that they had together would look like.
Katie volunteered to draw a "storyboard" for how the app would be used and did a great job (see left).
We also talked about how to make a mobile app. I didn't try to teach everyone Objective C in an hour, but I had found a great website called appmakr.com that allows you to configure a mobile application without having to write the code yourself so we had a bit of fun with that.
Mostly I tried to reinforce that nowadays anything you want to do can be learnt by looking on the internet - that's how I found the appmakr site! It's hard to tell how much children pick up in lessons but I'm going to follow up by helping Teen Tech to produce some career pages and tweets to help children keep thinking about what they want to achieve in the future and realise just how possible it is!
Within the BBC 55% of their employees are female with women making up 45% of the board. This is an amazing achievement and the BBC are rightly considered to be leading the way when it comes to having a good gender balance. In the words of Anne Morrison, Director of the BBC Academy, “you might think that the BBC has won this fight and can move on to other forms of inequality”.
But, she continues, if you look at technical departments within the BBC, the percentage of women drops to around 25-30%. At the BBC they don’t just throw their hands up in despair or ignore the issue. Instead they partnered with six of the most influential groups campaigning for an increase of women in technical jobs – WISE, WES, Women in Technology, UKRC, Everywoman and Talent 2030 and staged an amazing event at their White City HQ.
What was so good about this event was that, brief introduction by Anne and Susan Watts of Newsnight aside, the event did not talk about women. Instead the talks were seriously technical (and very interesting) and the audience just happened to be women. The theme of the event was the BBC’s flagship technology product, iPlayer.
Attendees heard first from Daniel Danker, General Manager of iPlayer about the uptake and projected growth plans for iPlayer. Then Marina Kalkanis gave the most technical talk, explaining about the encoding used to stream video and audio content put to iPlayer and how the service copes with the phenomenal demand expected at peak times e.g. during the Olympics. Samantha Grant discussed the iPlayer interface and design and Kirsteen King revealed the secret difficulties of working with Sky to enable access to iPlayer on another platform. Susan Watts, the face of women behind science and technology broadcasting, hosted a panel discussion to round off the evening.
Once again, a triumph by the BBC, giving us all a warm fuzzy feeling that our country is represented all over the world by such a great organisation.
A video of the event will be available on the BBC Academy YouTube site.
Managing Director of Softwire, technology and backgammon presenter. Plus a little bit of new music radio.