It’s Confirmed: Women Love Tech!
And the participants of ACM-W Europe womENcourage Celebration of Women in Computing deemed that the Celebration was a huge success! Over 180 participants from 28 countries attended the womENcourage Celebration which exceeded their expectations from the lively socializing during the career fair and the poster session before the opening Keynote on Friday 25th September until the ending Keynote on Saturday afternoon. The attendees participated in several interesting activities including keynote talks, panel discussions, technical paper sessions, workshops, case studies, unconference sessions, and the hackathon. See the photos taken by our photographers, Kristina Lidayova and Tomas Oravec, and view the recorded sessions.
In the opening, Virginia Grande welcomed all womENcouragers attending the celebration at the impressive main building of Uppsala University. She also thanked all of our wonderful sponsors ACM, ACM-W, and Uppsala University, and supporters: Google, Inria, Oracle, Bloomberg, Cisco, Facebook, IAR Systems, FreeBSD, Informatics Europe, Intel and Microsoft Research. As a result of their generous support, 53 students were able to attend the Celebration with travel scholarships. Virginia did not omit to give special mention to all men in the room. The first speaker ACM President Alex Wolf welcoming everyone to womENcourage, effectually pointed out that “We would not be here at all if there was not a problem in our community. I want to make sure that all of us understand that this is not a women’s problem! This is a community problem! And it takes everyone to solve this problem.”
Vicki Hanson opened womENcourage with a keynote address on her research, highlighting Inclusive Technologies. Computing has often been envisioned as a way of augmenting human abilities. Nowhere is such a computing goal more evident than in the field of accessibility where researchers seek to create devices and software to address needs of people who through age or disability face exclusion from full societal participation. In creating accessible technology and novel accessibility tools, research has not only facilitated digital interactions and quality of life needs for many, but also has served to advance the field of computing more generally. By talking about her career and how she advanced, she encouraged the audience to think about opportunities in computing.
Åsa Cajander’s keynote “On Grit and Being the Token Figure”
Åsa’s talk about “On Grit and Being the Token Figure” brought up many of the topics that most of the women in the audience have experienced. Many a somber faces listened to her tell her story, each knowingly nodding as they were reminded of similar situations they had experienced.
Many kinds of grit are needed to survive in our current environment, Asa confirmed that we are not alone when faced with such circumstances. Asa said “Change comes slowly, but it is changing, we all need to continue to encourage these changes.” The recording for this talk is here.
Marie-Paule Cani’s keynote “Towards Expressive 3D Modeling: An example of Career in Computer Graphic”
Through examples and videos Marie-Paule taught us why graphical design is essential for human creativity, including the fact that graphical simulation is difficult to control, and she described the new methodology which is emerging to ease the interactive design of complex shapes, objects and characters, possibly in motion. During her summary she advised everyone to collaborate with others to succeed. She also talked about being flexible when looking for a career. And she emphasized that you should choose your own field, twist your work to be what you want and to be open to opportunities. You can watch the recording here.
Sitting on the red chair is symbolic. People sit on the red chair to recognize the stories’ and contributions of women in computing.
During the entire celebration, the attendees enjoyed writing their quotes and having their photos taken while sitting on the Red Chair supporting the SitwithMe campaign. Read more about the SitwithMe website and see the pictures taken during the celebration on their website.
WomENcourage hosted three panel discussions which provided participants with substantial insight into the following interesting topics from varying perspectives:
Thanks to our fabulous panelists, attendees were given the opportunity to actively participate, ask and discuss questions during the panels. All panels have been recorded and are available here.
Through the papers sessions, undergraduate, MSc, and PhD students were given the opportunity to present and share their current research work and their achievements with researchers and professionals who were attending the conference and receive valuable feedback by them. The womENcourage programme included 4 sessions of technical talks which aimed at sharing research ideas and discussing exciting new research directions.
The topics of the presented papers belong in the following four categories:
- Computing to Assist Disabled Individuals or Older Adults,
- Computation and Graphics,
- Human-Computer Interaction, and
- Gender issues in computing education.
All presented papers were interesting and they represented a decent range of topics in computing research. Their presentations resulted in four active paper sessions with several questions and interesting discussions following each talk. The papers are posted on the womENcourage website here.
The unconference sessions effectuated interesting discussions on one or more subjects suggested by their participants who are also actively involved in the discussions. Thus, they were organized, structured, and led by their attendees. Once the idea of the Unconference was introduced to womENcourage attendees (at the beginning of the conference), they enthusiastically reacted by suggesting interesting topics that they wanted to discuss. Based on their suggestions, womENcourage hosted five unconference sessions on the following subjects: Feminism in computing, Women in computing: work-life balance, Improper Syndrome, Data mining, and Learning analytics on the second day of the conference and lasted for an hour each. They were all very successful with a lot of attendees being involved in them which resulted in lively and interesting discussions.
‘The workshops were brilliant, I really enjoyed the hands on experience” echos the resounding message from the participants. Each of the 7 workshops were well attended and they all learned something new from basic electronics to creating wearables to understanding open source code. Each of the workshops were created by dedicated volunteers who put their time and money into teaching something new:
- Making Your Ideas into Reality
- Coding for All
- Prototyping: Wearable Electronics
- ACM ICPC
- Introducing Alice
- Contributing to Open Source
- Queer Women in Tech
- ACM-W Volunteers
Results of the feedback shows that this was the most requested part of the program, each of the sessions were full and even had waiting lists.
ACM-W Europe and Coddess Hackathon sponsored by Intel and Microsoft Research
The Hackathon kicked off the womENcourage Celebration in Uppsala. At around 8:30 on Thursday morning, the participants, who came from 17 different countries, began arriving and they were immediately encouraged to mingle and discuss projects. Quickly we saw teams forming and project enthusiasm grow. After a short introduction and some technical instructions, they perused the hardware, collecting sensors and boards, and began with the discussion planning and the implementation of their projects. Team members collaborated nicely and we could see that they became fast friends.
The winning team came from 4 countries: Palestine, Burma, Russia and Sweden. Their project, called “Free Fall”, created a device which can be attached to a person’s wrist or belt and alert if the person suddenly faces a fall. Specifically, in case of a fall, the proposed device takes the following actions:
- If the person is unconscious it will contact the person’s primary contact stored in the device
- If the person is conscious, s/he is given the capability to push a button to cancel the produced alert
- The capability to contact a secondary contact, stored in the device, is also provided.
The second award called “SAfeHome” went to a portable CO2 and gas alarm system which would be used in houses that have no electricity and that heat with propane. The idea was that this could save many people in impoverished areas of India and Africa. The device would be inexpensive and easily able to carry with you to use in any situation.
The third award was given to the project “Be My Eyes” which designed a device useful for visually impaired people. The device can be put on their walking stick to provide information about the site they are on, obstacles that they have to avoid, or tourist attractions that are nearby. The device uses GPS which interfaces via Bluetooth to other devices.
At the end of day, there were participants that admitted: “This is the most fun I have had in one day EVER!”
Thanks to celebration committee, who worked hard to make womENcourage 2015 a big success!
Following this big success, plans are set in place for the next womENcourage 2016 in Linz, Austria, next September.