Wednesday, 9 December 2015

'Ada Lovelace' by guest blogger John Faulkner

"We may say most aptly, that the Analytical Engine weaves algebraical patterns just as the Jacquard-loom weaves flowers and leaves."

This Ada Lovelace quote describes her belief that complicated logical problems could be solved by machine, just as the recently invented automatic loom could weave brocade cloth. 

In 1833, at the age of 17, gifted mathematician Ada became an associate of Charles Babbage the Cambridge University Lucasian Professor of mathematics. He named her The Enchantress of Numbers. Then, tables such as for navigation, were calculated by human 'computers'  but prone to mistakes. Babbage saw mechanical processing could eliminate error and started to design a machine called the Analytical Engine. Translating a Babbage lecture about the engine inspired Ada to produce the very first published computer program. This required a mathematical algorithm to be converted into the sequence of steps necessary for the engine to compute. The program formed a table for punched card instructions. The cards were to operate the engine and in this case produce Bernoulli numbers, for use by mathematicians. Ada proposed that beside numbers there would be no reason why machines could not work with symbols such as musical notes.

Born on 10th December 1815 Ada grew up during the Industrial Revolution. With a scientific upbringing she had a natural desire to find out as much as she could about the world of engineering. She was married to the Earl of Lovelace and lived in Horsley with her three children. At the age of only 36 she died of cancer but her legacy is computer programming which lives on with us every moment of the day in the modern world.

Ada was a visionary and here are some of her quotes:

"A new, a vast, and a powerful language is developed for the future use of analysis, in which to wield its truths so that these may become of more speedy and accurate practical application for the purposes of mankind than the means hitherto in our possession have rendered possible."

"The Analytical Engine might act upon other things besides number, were objects found whose mutual fundamental relations could be expressed by those of the abstract science of operations, and which should be also susceptible of adaptations to the action of the operating notation and mechanism of the engine… Supposing, for instance, that the fundamental relations of pitched sounds in the science of harmony and of musical composition were susceptible of such expression and adaptations, the engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent."

.....and here, much like a modern day spreadsheet, is the first published program:

There is an exhibition at the Science Museum until the end of March 2016 of Ada's life and work...

- John Faulkner, SATRO Volunteer

If you would like to find out more information and/or book tickets for the Ada Lovelace Evening taking place tomorrow in aid of SATRO follow this link. Alternatively call Guildford Tourist Information on 01483 444334

Monday, 7 December 2015

'Are You Ready To Rock n Role?' by guest blogger Dr Elaine Hickmott

Recently I have been pondering the subject of leadership and role models.  When the SATRO team invited me to write a blog post supporting our celebration of Ada Lovelace in December I immediately knew my theme; role models and the part they play in innovation and encouraging future generations.

To explore this further let’s begin with two definitions:

Of all the potential links between role models and innovation, the one that resonates most strongly for me is inspiration; something or someone that stimulates the mind and can foster feelings of confidence and encouragement.  All of which help provide a fertile ground for innovation.

Sharing stories, explaining experiences and interacting with others provide the insights, spark the ideas and bring the human dimension needed to fuel creativity and the desire to make a difference.  Both of which are necessary to bring about innovation.  This is particularly important in STEM.  Science, technology, engineering and maths are part of our lives every day but not everyone appreciates or understands their contribution to society and the economy.  Therefore, we need role models who help raise awareness, showcase innovation in action and present STEM in a real world context.  And the best people to do this?  STEM professionals and their real life experiences.

In The Spotlight. Ready Or Not!
Like most people, scientists and engineers don’t wake up in the morning and declare, “Today, I am going to be a role model”.  It is a status bestowed upon us by others who see us as a positive example to be emulated.  This means it can happen at any time with any person.  Therefore, as STEM professionals and leaders we need to recognise the influence our behaviours and values have on others.  As well as embracing the fact that we have the chance to inspire those around us. 

A great example of this came from one of my clients; a scientist and director in the environmental sector.  During our work together she learnt that she was viewed as a role model by other females in the company who were pleased to see a woman on the Board. She told me, ”When I learnt I was viewed as a role model it was an amazing revelation to me, and made me even more determined to communicate successfully and be a positive example”.

A Stereotype-free Zone
Finally, there is an assumption that role models are people older and more experienced than us.  This is not necessarily the case.  Inspiration doesn’t have such a narrow outlook.  Personally, I continue to be inspired by the young people who I meet through working with SATRO.  Their ideas and fresh perspectives on the world add a new dimension to my own view; something I cannot achieve alone.  Plus meeting them makes me strive to be even better myself.  If by chance they see me as an example, I certainly don’t want to let them down!

Regardless of age, background, experience and aspirations, we all have the ability to inspire others to be their best, to innovate and to make a difference.  It’s a gift and it’s powerful.  How are you going to share your gift today?

by Dr Elaine Hickmott, Development Director and founder, EH Enterprises

If you would like to find out more information and/or book tickets for the Ada Lovelace Evening in aid of SATRO, follow this link. Alternatively, call Guildford Tourist Information on 01483 444334

Friday, 4 December 2015

'Are there sufficient women in non-traditional roles today?' by guest blogger Keisha Smith

The Ada Lovelace Discussion on 10 December is titled ‘Are there sufficient women in non-traditional roles/careers today If not, why not?’

I’m mostly familiar with my field of STEM and engineering and based on current statistics, the answer to the first question seems to be no. The latest figures (August 2015[1]) for the UK suggest that women make up 14.4% of all people working in STEM occupations and 8.2% working as engineering professionals.

So why aren’t there more women? My recent 6 week secondment with WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) has helped me with this question. Even though girls continue to do out perform boys at GCSE/A-level STEM subject, many areas of research suggest that some girls still don’t see non traditional STEM careers or engineering for people like them and many aren’t progressing with the subject options, such as physics, that are required for the engineering profession. Although it’s about 50:50 at GCSE level for boy and girls doing physics, at A-level it approximately 80:20[2] and therefore this has a knock on effect in the work force.

Work force figures are also affected, not only by the limited number of women entering the profession, but also by retention issues whereby women leave the profession because of lack of progression/training due to the culture of some companies.

I believe that one of the actions we can do to increase the numbers in the workforce is to try and encourage girls, both at primary and secondary level, to see engineering as a career for them. As a STEM Ambassador I go into primary schools and show students (both boys and girls) what civil engineers do, the varied nature of engineering and the positive impact engineers have on shaping the society.

Working with organisations such as SATRO also helps in encouraging girls into engineering. The company I work for was recently involved in a SATRO programme where an A-level student was given the opportunity to undertake research based on an actual project. CGL provided the student a brief based on one of our major brownfield sites in London and during the 2 weeks with the company she gained an understanding of what ground engineering (both geotechnical and geoenvironmental aspects) is all about. I supervised this work placement and it was very encouraging to see the enthusiasm she had for engineering and she helped to show me that with the right encouragement more girls could be driven to consider a career in engineering.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015


Unum are hosting a reception at the House of Commons to launch their report ‘ Making a Difference in Our Communities’ which highlights their extensive Corporate Social Responsibility programme. SATRO members of staff Jules Hall and Dr Beccy Bowden will be attending.  Unum say ‘we believe that helping our communities is a natural extension of the commitment we make each and every day to our customer. The launch of this report is the perfect opportunity to celebrate the charities, educators, voluntary organisations, sportspeople and performers who have inspired us locally and nationally’. Unum sponsor the SATRO Maths Challenge and also a mentoring programme at Therfield School which they support with many volunteers. Beccy Bowden said ‘Unum is an absolute pleasure for a small charity like us to work with because they care about what we do as much as we care – and that means that together we can achieve fantastic things!’

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Giving Tuesday - why give? by guest blogger and SATRO Patron James Dubois

At a time when our minds are full of the recent horrific terrorist murders in Paris, it is perhaps good to focus on what we, personally, can do to help others. Rather than sit back and leave actions to others, we should consider what difference each of us could make to the lives and opportunities of those less fortunate than ourselves.

Material objects and hedonistic pleasures are but a fleeting pleasure: how much better to give to worthy causes with which we can identify. Whether it be £1, £100 or £1,000 – start with some gift, of any amount, to help others. It’s a good habit that rewards the donor as much as it enriches the recipient. Gifts freely donated will probably not change your standard of life, but they may make a big difference to those who need the funds.

Are you ready to make a habit of giving and, in the process, enrich your own life?

- James Dubois, SATRO Patron

If you would like to give to SATRO you can do so by texting SATR11 to 70070 or visit our website to find out how else you can support us.