See it and be it

The GDST Techathon on 12 March 2020 focused on environmental issues, showing girls how technology is key to improving their communities

The event exposed students to tech-related careers and showed them how they could shape the sustainability of their communities. The ‘Smart Cities’ theme gave students access to positive action in the face of the challenges posed by climate change and other environmental issues.

“We have a significant skills gap, and it is really important that we encourage women to consider careers in science, technology and engineering”  — Amy Icke, Online Learning & Innovation Manager, GDST

Students from 23 GDST schools attended, with each school bringing five Senior School students.

First, the girls listened to a keynote speech from Julia Muir, an alumna of Sheffield High School, GDST and Founder of the UK Automative 30% Club, which aims to achieve a better gender balance within the automotive industry. And they heard from Sarra Pardali, Head of Infrastructure & Sustainability at the GDST. These talks introduced key themes such as: what is a smart environment? What are the potential opportunities and challenges of smart cities, and what skills are needed to build and power smart environments?

“We can get more girls interested in STEM and tech industries by meeting the women who already work in those sectors. And by taking them to their working environments. If they see it then can be it” — Julia Muir, Founder, UK Automative 30% Club

The day’s main event was a ‘Dragon’s-Den’-style innovation challenge, supported by industry mentors. Girls, grouped in teams of ten, had a few hours to create a product, service or application to encourage sustainability in a smart environment. The students pitched their idea to judges, and the winning team was selected by the mentors and other students.

Top prize went to team ‘Sustainable’, made up of students from Birkenhead High School Academy and Brighton Girls, for their ‘Biopet’ idea, designed to reduce food waste in households, supermarkets and restaurants by putting food waste to good use and ensuring further value is extracted from resources before they are discarded.

It was a hands-on and stimulating day for the girls, and many said they had an interest in making a change themselves. As one participant commented:

“Now I find in our education, ‘environment’ is linked with so many subjects and I feel I am fully aware of what is going on. And I think, as girls, we should say something and act on it instead of just sitting and watching.”