IncubateLON Hackathon

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At the beginning of August I had the pleasure of being asked to judge a Hackathon, more specifically, the IncubateLON. This was the London edition of a series of 19 hackathons happening in 19 cities across the world, all on the same weekend.

IncubateLON is a coding competition where a group of young people were asked to design and build a start up within 24 hours, aiming to bring young people together to code. Not only were they asked to design and build a startup in a short amount of time, but it was key for them to have real market value.

Myself and another judge were asked to assess three teams of young entrepreneurs who worked tirelessly through the night to create their concept and execute and built their app. It would be an understatement to say that I was impressed with what these young people came up with in such a short period of time.

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The winner designed and built a fully functional app with an amazing concept, encouraging people to think about the amount of water they are drinking, be cautious about the amount of high-decibel noise they are exposed to and to regularly apply sun screen.

Little Buddy was not only a great concept, but it was professionally executed – in just 24 hours!

All of the amazing young people from the IncubateLON competition have qualified to the international round of the competition, with $45,000 worth of prizes up for grabs.

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Events like IncubateLON are a perfect way of encouraging kids and young people into STEM. When you think of science, technology, engineering and maths, there are certain careers that spring to mind and narrow the potential career paths young people associate with STEM subjects.

Hackathons like this show how valuable STEM skills are to any industry, and showcase the pure talent young people have.

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Gray Matter

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In my last blogpost, One-way ticket to Science Capital, I talked about the importance of trying to make science accessible to those not from a science background. So, I have decided to tackle this problem myself, and embark on a new project – Gray Matter.

I wanted to start a venture that stripped down scientific matter to the bones and made it tangible to the general public. I aimed to create a series of YouTube shorts which help people from a none-scientific background to access an area of science which can often be seen as quite academic, and turn it into something less intimidating.

So I have created Gray Matter, a series of regular five minute videos that will explore new topics of neuroscience in a way that is understandable to those who have never studied the subject before.

Unsurprisingly, as it is one of my biggest passions in life, this project will also help to raise the profile for women in STEM. By presenting the series, I want people to learn something new about neuroscience; and, without even realising it, learn it from a woman.

One of the most powerful ways of increasing the representation of women in STEM is to simply show up. By getting women to talk about science in the public sphere, we can help to re-address the balance. 70% of the world still associate being a scientist with being a man, so let’s show women doing science to correct this!

To help improve the number of women in STEM seen by the general public, Gray Matter will also feature interviews with women in the industry. They will add their specialist knowledge to my series, and help to raise the profile for research done by women in STEM, which can often be under-publicised.

Please join me on a journey to talk all things brain and crack all things cranium, bringing Science Capital into the home and raising the profile for women in STEM.

You can catch the first episode of Gray Matter here:

 

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A one-way ticket to Science Capital

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Scientific thinking doesn’t really come into everyday processing of young children. A child isn’t going to dissect the physics of the ball they are throwing, or the biology of their pet hamster, or the mechanics of the toys they are playing with.

For kids, the introduction of scientific thinking and participation in science relies upon a parent-child interaction, they need someone to bring science to them. And some children are significantly more likely to have science brought to them than others – inline with a concept called Science Capital.

Science Capital is the likelihood that a young person will interact with science, and the levels of Science Capital are often interlaced with social factors. Class, race and gender all play a huge role in how likely a child is to interact with science on a daily basis.

If you are from a family where you are related to someone who is in the scientific industry, are middle-class, white, or male, you are significantly more likely to be encouraged to think scientifically or talk about science than those who are not.

This means that a very large proportion of the population is less likely to experience Science Capital. But why is this a problem?

The more a child interacts with science or science thinking at home, the more likely they are to have confidence in those skills in the classroom; and they are more likely to consider STEM as a potential career path for them.

The lack of Science Capital for those from broad classes in society contributes (along with many other factors) to the STEM workforce being heavily male dominated, and constructed of those from the same background – white and middle class.

This is a huge problem as a lack of diversity can affect the quality of scientific output, because there is only one perspective being brought to the same problem. Science is not a case of ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ – we need as many people as possible, from a range of backgrounds and with a variety of perspectives, to solve big issues.

Therefore lack of Science Capital for those who don’t normally interact with science needs to be addressed. Otherwise, we will continue to produce scientists who all come from a similar background and will address scientific hurdles from a similar perspective.

Here is the big question; how do we generate Science Capital?

Firstly, we need to get parents talking about science. If you don’t have a parent or relative who is a scientist, this doesn’t mean you cannot experience Science Capital. We need to give parents the tools to talk about science at home, whether that is because they saw a documentary or program on TV, or whether that is because they have taken their child to a museum.

There is a timeline of families being lost to a lack of Science Capital. If you grew up with a lack of Science Capital and don’t feel confident in discussing science, you would be less likely to talk to your own children about science.

By helping science become more accessible (and less intimidating) to adults, you are giving them the keys to Science Capital. If they feel comfortable going to a science museum and interacting with the exhibits, without concern that they are doing it wrong, they will talk to their children about science. This will make their child feel that they can also interact with the exhibits, without concern that they are doing it wrong.

However, stereotypes also play a big role in Science Capital. Even if you give the tools to parents to make them feel like they can talk about science conformably, they are significantly more likely to talk to boys about science than girls.

At a science museum, studies found that parents were three times more likely to discuss the exhibits with boys than they were with girls (Crowley et al. 2001).

Not only do we need to ensure that parents feel confident talking to science with their children to help develop more Science Capital, we also need to make sure that they are aware of their learnt social bias to ensure high quality Science Capital.

So lets generate more interactive science museums, which target parents and children equally, and are accessible to those from working class backgrounds – so that we can all get on board to Science Capital.

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