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Mad Scientess Jane Expat

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British Science Association: The Big Bang Fair [20090304|21:44]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
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Today, I met a 14 year old girl who had taught herself to program a PIC chip so that she could help her 15 year old sister build a calibrated UV absorption monitor.

I helped to judge the national science fair put on by the British Science Association in the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre across from Westminster Abbey this afternoon. If that sounds impressive, check out the view from the ladies' loo on the fourth floor:

View from the conference center rocks! on TwitPic


My partner and I visited five projects to be judged at Bronze level and one at Silver. The categories, from Bronze to Gold, simply related to age group. The Bronze were 13 and 14, the Silver 15 and 16 and the Gold 17 to 19 years of age. Most of the projects we saw were better at enthusiasm than science or engineering, but the two girls who did the Silver project stood out a mile. They'd come up with an original idea, they'd done all the design work for the circuits, sourced the components and done the soldering themselves. They'd calibrated the monitor against the Met office standard for exposure to UV light from the sun.

If that weren't impressive enough, they'd miniaturized the circuit and integrated it into a stand with iPod speakers. The prototype was a little clunky, but not that bad aesthetically.

They had a business plan for producing and marketing their idea. There were costing spreadsheets. With overheads.

I had to go back after the judging was over to tell them how impressed I was. We put them forward for the prize in their category (Silver, Technology). I'm going to the award ceremony tomorrow evening because I want to see how they do. Even if they don't win I want to encourage them to keep on, because I expect to see those two little earnest red heads at Imperial or Cambridge or Oxford or possibly on telly telling the story of their successful business launch in six or seven years.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: becala
2009-03-04 22:15 (UTC)
If there is meant to be a picture there, I am not seeing it.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-03-04 22:26 (UTC)
Try it now? (Twitpic is annoying. Will have to upload pic elsewhere, but am too tired to do it now.)
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[User Picture]From: becala
2009-03-04 22:29 (UTC)
Yes, much betta.
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[User Picture]From: becala
2009-03-04 22:19 (UTC)
And also, sheesh... What kids are up to these days makes me feel extra old and stupid.

At that age I was drinking too much coffee at a diner and wondering what color to dye my hair. Well, and making fanzines and teaching myself to program C, I guess. And participating in Junior Achievement and winning scholarships as a result. But still. What impressive young ladies.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-03-04 22:30 (UTC)
They really were exceptionally good. Keep in mind that this was the UK national competition, too. These were the best students from each region. (These girls were from Northern Ireland.) Most of the students their age weren't even close to this sophisticated in terms of their level of organisation and commitment, let alone technical ability.
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[User Picture]From: smallfurry
2009-03-04 22:45 (UTC)
they must be Weasleys!
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[User Picture]From: anthrokeight
2009-03-04 23:48 (UTC)
I was just thinking the same thing myself... Weasleys mucking around with muggle technology to very good effect.

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[User Picture]From: nationofsheep
2009-03-04 23:09 (UTC)
That's awesome! I want to see that project.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-03-05 11:25 (UTC)
You just might see it as a finished product if they can keep their determination as strong as it has been so far.
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From: tdj
2009-03-05 03:28 (UTC)
When I was 14 I was fiddling with a TRS-80.

Today's kids have the best toys!
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-03-05 11:23 (UTC)
Oh yeah! Remember how exciting graphing calculators were? Being able to plot stuff on that little screen? Wow.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-03-05 11:26 (UTC)
I forgot to mention that we also saw two projects where the students had used CAD programs to do their designs and then used a laser cutter to make the pieces. Man, I wish I'd had access to that stuff when I was a teenager!
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[User Picture]From: smallfurry
2009-03-05 04:28 (UTC)
p.s. I feel like i should congratulate you for the discovery of the new moon around saturn, or at least offer the internet version of a high five...
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-03-05 11:29 (UTC)
I like how it's being called a "moonlet". D'aw.
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From: alice_mccoy
2009-03-05 10:22 (UTC)
Wow.
Did you happen to chat and find out if they come from an engineering family? They Must have support for that kind of passion.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-03-05 11:30 (UTC)
I had a chat with their mum & aunt (who'd accompanied them) but we didn't talk about that, more just about the girls and how excited they were to be in London, etc. If I can get up the energy to go to the award ceremony tonight and find them, I'll ask then.
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[User Picture]From: senusert
2009-03-05 10:55 (UTC)
What would society be like without earnest little red heads? Also, I'm ashamed to say that their electronics skills are certainly MUCH better than mine.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-03-05 11:31 (UTC)
It would a sad, gingerless universe indeed. (They're better than mine, too! I still have to look up resistor colours. I know the mnemonics, I just seem to manage to compute the wrong values half the time anyway. :-/)
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[User Picture]From: nimoloth
2009-03-05 11:57 (UTC)
Little engineers! When science meets hands on applications. I was always terrible at hands on applications *g* - I'm a theorist! Electronics was probably my worst area.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-03-09 11:54 (UTC)
Electronics seems to be one of those things that people either really "get", almost instinctively, and enjoy, or they really don't. I started off disliking it, but familiarity has unexpectedly bred fondness!
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