Fascinating Ada

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Competition to inspire female students in computing to mark the bicentenary of Ada Lovelace

Female students with an interest in computing are invited to enter a competition to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Ada Lovelace, generally regarded as the first computer programmer.

The competition, run by The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) and the University of Oxford, in conjunction with cs4fn at Queen Mary University of London, asks girls what they would like to communicate to Ada Lovelace about twenty-first century technology. Lovelace was a remarkable thinker and publisher of an historic paper about Charles Babbage’s designs for a nineteenth century computer which contained what many think of as the first ever computer program.

Fascinating Ada Competition microsite

The competition aims to inspire more female students to take up computing as many studies have shown that they are currently hugely under-represented in the industry. Computing is an exciting and rewarding career, and the technological challenges of the future need talented people with a diversity of skills to address them.

Any female (up to the age of 18) is invited to enter using any medium — new technology or old, from a hand-written letter to a YouTube video clip — to show or tell what they think Ada Lovelace would be especially interested in about twenty-first century technology. The competition will be judged by a panel of experts and there will be prizes in three age categories: under 13, 13-15 and 16-18.

Professor Ursula Martin of the Computer Science Department at the University of Oxford, in announcing the competition, said: “Ada Lovelace was a remarkable person, thinking about what computers might be able to do long before computers were actually built. In her writings she explains the basics of programming like memory and loops. She speculates about artificial intelligence, computer creativity and whether computers could compose music long before any of this actually happened. So we encourage our entrants to do the same – think creatively about technology and what you want to tell Ada Lovelace about it.”

Chris Monk, Learning Co-ordinator at TNMOC, said: “Of the 17,000 students who achieved a GCSE in computing in 2014, only 15% were girls. We see this reflected in the educational group visits to TNMOC and we would very much like to play our part in redressing the balance. The computing industry is missing out – in school, girls regularly outperform the boys in achieving the highest grades.”

Throughout the summer of 2015, The National Museum of Computing on Bletchley Park will be extending its activities to promote computer science as a highly suitable career path for girls. The Women in Computing gallery, sponsored by Google and opened in 2013, will be regularly showing To Dream Tomorrow, the video of Ada Lovelace’s life, sponsored by Extra Technology. Women in Computing workshops and events are also planned.

A range of prizes will be awarded to winners of the competition and we are extremely grateful to the prize sponsors: Association of Computer Machinery - Women, the University of Oxford,cs4fn, Dixons Carphone and Penguin Books.

The Competition

Show or tell with any medium from the list below what you think Ada Lovelace would be especially interested in about twenty-first century technology. Entries may be in the form of letters, presentations, dramatized conversations or interactions – anything so long as the focus is communicating to Ada about twenty-first century technology.

The closing date is: 13 October 2015.

The following formats will be accepted:

  • a letter (500 words maximum) - to be scanned, so all entries are electronic
  • an email (500 words maximum)
  • blogpost (500 words maximum)
  • social media text (500 words max) (Not available in the under-13s age category.)
  • a video (3 minutes maximum)
  • graphic (up to A3 in size)
  • photos or images on any software platform (maximum 25 photos).

The competition is open to females in three age categories:

  • under 13
  • 13-15
  • 16-18.

Ada Lovelace microsite: www.tnmoc.org/ada

"Ada Lovelace portrait" by Alfred Edward Chalon - Science & Society Picture Library. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ada_Lovelace_portrait.jpg#/media...

Notes to Editors

About Computer Science for Fun (cs4fn)

Computer Science for Fun (cs4fn) is a public engagement and outreach project based at Queen Mary University of London. Founded by Professor Paul Curzon and Professor Peter McOwan in 2005 it aims to share our passion about all things to do with Computer Science with students, teachers and the general public, and especially to show that it is an exciting subject that is great to learn about just for the fun of it. We deliver talks and shows in schools and at Science Festivals. We produce a free magazine twice a year as well as a series of special booklets, including three magic books on magic tricks and the computer science behind them. We have also produced magazines on Electronic Engineering and Audio Engineering and their links with computing. All are sent free to subscribing schools across the UK. Online versions have been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times from people in over 80 countries through our cs4fn website. The sister project to cs4fn, Teaching London Computing (www.teachinglondoncomputing.org), also develops resources and provides continuing professional development support to teachers to help them in delivering the new UK computing syllabus both in London and across the UK.

We have received significant funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Mayor of London and the Department for Education and Google’s Computer Science for High School Programme. We are a partner to the BBC's Make it Digital campaign (http://www.bbc.co.uk/makeitdigital).

The National Museum of Computing

The National Museum of Computing, located on Bletchley Park, is an independent charity housing the world's largest collection of functional historic computers, including the rebuilt Colossus, the world’s first electronic computer, and the WITCH, the world's oldest working digital computer. The Museum enables visitors to follow the development of computing from the ultra-secret pioneering efforts of the 1940s through the large systems and mainframes of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, and the rise of personal computing in the 1980s and beyond.

A pledge by an individual benefactor of £1 million if matched funding is found means that every pound or dollar donated to the Museum will count double. Previous funders of the Museum have included Bletchley Park Capital Partners, Bloomberg, CreateOnline, Ceravision, InsightSoftware.com, Ocado Technology, FUZE, 4Links, Google UK, IBM, NPL, HP Labs, and BCS.

The whole Museum is currently open to the public from 12 noon on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, spring and summer Bank Holidays and during school holidays. The Colossus and Tunny galleries are open daily. Public and Private Guided tours are available and bookable online - see the website or the iPhone app for details. Educational and corporate group visits are available by prior arrangement.

For more information, see www.tnmoc.org and follow @tnmoc on Twitter and The National Museum of Computing on Facebook and Google+. A TNMOC iPhone App is also now available from the iPhone App Store.

Media Contacts

Stephen Fleming for The National Museum of Computing
01635 299116

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