The Brains Building Technology: Meeting the Greats at Inspirefest 2015

Shannon Chance with the founders of STEMettes (Anne-Marie Imafidon, center) and Black Girls Code (Kimberly Bryant, right).

Shannon Chance with the founders of STEMettes (Anne-Marie Imafidon, center) and Black Girls Code (Kimberly Bryant, right).

Silicon Republic hosted the first ever Inspirefest last week in Dublin, celebrating women’s achievements in STEM. A world-class line up of speakers of all ages from across Europe and the Americas graced Dublin’s Bord Gais Theater stage for two information-packed days proving many inspirational and eye-opening discoveries for an architect and educational researcher like me. Many thanks to Ann O’Dea for creating Inspirefest for us to enjoy!

Kerry Howard described women codebreakers at Bletchley Park.

Kerry Howard described women codebreakers at Bletchley Park.

Offering lessons from history, Kerry Howard talked about women codebreakers at Bletchley Park, and in the evening we viewed the documentary “Code-Breakers” and had Q&A with its director.

Kathy Kleiman described the women “computers” who helped break the German codes in WWII and developed *the* first programmable computers.

Dr. Nina Ansary presented the new book, The Jewels of Allah: The Untold Story of Women in Iran.

Hamming it up on an evening tour of Merrion Square with Intel VP Margaret Burgdorff.

Hamming it up on an evening tour of Merrion Square with Intel VP Margaret Burgdorff.

Margaret Burgraff, a VP for Intel discussed leadership, Bethany Mayer (CEO of Ixia) gave pointers on navigating the “glass maze,” Shelly Porges talked about working with and for Hillary Clinton, and Carolan Lennon shared experience from her work as Managing Director of eircom Wholesale.

At this conference, 30% of the audience — and the speakers — were men. They included panelists like Prof. Brian MacCraith, the president of DCU of whom I’m a fan due to his knowledge about pedagogy.

The keynote by Steve Neff of Fidelity Investments pinpointed the ways diversity pays. His points were extended by panelists John Basile (Fidelity), Ryan Shanks (Accenture), Marie Moynihan (Dell’s Diversity Chief & VP of Talent), Prof Mark Ferguson (SFI), and Fionnuala Meehan (who leads a team of 450 at Google).

Lauren Boyle, EU's Digital Girl of the Year

Lauren Boyle, EU’s Digital Girl of the Year

Then some truly amazing young people joined the stage.

Ten-year old Lauren Boyle, EU’s Digital Girl of the Year, demonstrated her new website, Cool Kids Studio, for developing new life skills.

Emer Hickey and Ciara Judge, who founded Germinaid Innovations

Emer Hickey and Ciara Judge, who founded Germinaid Innovations

High school student Emer Hickey, along with her classmate Ciara Judge, recently launched Germinaid Innovations. This company provides “agricultural solutions for a brighter future.” Emer and Ciara developed technology that is drastically increasing crop yield using natural bacteria and won a global science competition.

They were on a panel with Anne-Marie Imafidon, founder of STEMettes, who is running a summer program for which I recently recruited participants. I’m thrilled that at least five girls who I connected to the program (from Ireland and Poland) have been accepted for the upcoming Outbox Incubator business development program in London. In all, 118 girls ages 11-22 will participate in this 5 week program.

Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell discovered pulsars

Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell discovered pulsars

Can you believe that we heard about all this in just the first 5 hours of the conference?!

During a break I had the chance to meet Anne-Marie, Mary Carty (a major contributor to the Outbox Incubator), and Kimberly Bryant (the founder of the Oakland-based Black Girls Code).

Later in the conference we heard from Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, the astrophysicist who discovered pulsars and Susan McKenna Lawlor (of Space Tech Ireland) who developed equipment that is collecting data on a comet that is hurling through space at this very moment. MC Leo Enright and panelists Dr. Lucy Rogers and Ariel Waldman (who once worked for NASA and later founded spacehack.org) rounded out the session on space exploration and science.

Highlights from the second day included:

Ireland’s Taoiseach (i.e., prime minister) Enda Kenny, who described Ireland’s position in the tech world.

Robin Hauser Reynolds who described the life of Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer.

Dr. Sue Black who wrote the book Saving Bletchley Park, actually saved this historic campus, and founded TechMums.

Suraj Shah with Intel's

Suraj Shah with Intel’s “She Will Connect” project

Intel’s Suraj Shah who works in Africa on the “She Will Connect” project.

Louise Kenny founder of the Irish Centre for Fetal and Neonatal Translational Research in Cork.

Panelists Mary Moloney head of Coderdojo, Sheree Atcheson founder of Women Who Code, and Kimberly Bryant of Black Girls Code, who all shared their passion for coding.

Prof Linda Doyle and panelists Kathryn Parkes (SWRVE), Dr Annie Doona (President of the art college IADT), Susan Schreibman (Irish Research Council) coined a new term that I’ve adopted to describe the union of Design and STEM. D-STEM! Ain’t it grand?!

We learned about objects and wearables that collect data to help planners, policy makers, and designers from Gaia Dempsey (CEO and co-founder of DAQRI), Philip Moynagh (VP of Intel’s Internet of Things group), Jessica McCarthy, and students Laura Browne, Alex Casey, and Oisin O Sullivan.

Brianna Wu (co-founder of Spacekat Games) discussed intense challenges (and opportunities) for women in the digital game industry.

Niamh Bushnell, Dublin Start-up Commissioner

Niamh Bushnell, Dublin Start-up Commissioner

We also heard from business founders Elena Rossini and Elian Carsenet (of GapGrader), Laetitia Grail (of MyBlee Math), Ciara Clancy (of Beats Medical), and Niamh Bushnell (who is now the Start-up Commissioner for Dublin).

Investors and venture capitalists provided advice: Sharon Vosmek (ASTIA), Adam Quinton (Lucas Point Ventures), Nnamdi Okike (645 Ventures), and Julie Sinnamon (Enterprise Ireland).

Cindy Gallop, founder of Make Love Not Porn, provided a riveting final keynote on Making Money while Doing Social Good. She also has a TED talk.

Inspirefest 2015 lived up to its promise. It sent us back into the world full of new ideas and networks and knowledge!

3 Comments

  1. PS I so enjoy the BBC program on the women code breakers at Bletchley Park–after the war when (in the program) they become involved in solving crimes via their knowledge of codes.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s