Year 9 girls from six schools around Blackpool and Fleetwood attended the event in the university’s Library and Infolab building, and had the chance to learn about technology, throw take a look at state-of-the-art scientific research facilities and discover the career opportunities available in the fields of IT and cybersecurity.
The students in attendance came from Cardinal Allen Catholic High School, Fleetwood High School, Montgomery Academy, Armfield Academy, Highfield Leadership Academy and St Mary’s Catholic Academy in Blackpool and Fleetwood.
The event brought together academic experts from the School of Computing and Communications and the Department of Physics at Lancaster University, and was supported by the Lancashire Cyber Foundry and Cyber Girls First, led by Lancaster University, an organization dedicated to inspiring school-aged girls to study computing, computing, and other cyber fields.
Dr Kelly Widdicks, lecturer in computing at Lancaster University’s School of Computing and Communications and chair of the school’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion group, said: “There is a significant gender imbalance in computing and the digital technology sector in general. As a university, we want to help redress this imbalance by encouraging girls to get into IT from an early age and inspirational outreach activities with groups such as Cyber Girls First are key to achieve this.
During the day, students enjoyed an interactive tour where they could try out virtual reality headsets and create motorized vehicles with robotics kits, followed by a cyber Lego activity that saw them role-play in a cybersecurity game where they ran a business.
Next, the girls were able to visit the university’s IsoLab, a state-of-the-art special laboratory where vibrations, noise and electromagnetic disturbances have been greatly reduced. It is used for research in quantum physics, a pioneering field in cybersecurity. Students also took part in a business networking lunch and heard from inspiring visitors such as Microsoft’s Marie Hamilton, a Lancaster alumnus.
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Rebecca Robinson, Program Manager of the Lancashire Cyber Foundry, said: “I am passionate about helping young people and showing them that the world of cyber offers many career opportunities. Cybersecurity role play shows girls that they can be leaders capable of making financial decisions about the security of their business. It is hoped that experiences like this will encourage other young people to get into computing.
Pat Ryan and Cyber Girls First’s Wendy Parmley, who is also a Lancaster alumnus, attended the event. Pat said: “This event was what we hope will be the first of many visits by girls from Blackpool schools to Lancaster University to see the incredible facilities on their doorstep. Wendy Parmley and I were hoping for a positive response from the girls, but nothing prepared us for the excitement of the visit. This was only made possible by the generous time given by the speakers and staff to make this event such a success.