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Competition to inspire female students in computing to mark the bicentenary of Ada Lovelace


Female students with an interest in computing are invited to enter a competition to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Ada Lovelace, generally regarded as the first computer programmer.

The competition, run by The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) and the University of Oxford, in conjunction with cs4fn at Queen Mary University of London, asks girls what they would like to communicate to Ada Lovelace about twenty-first century technology. Lovelace was a remarkable thinker and publisher of an historic paper about Charles Babbage’s designs for a nineteenth century computer which contained what many think of as the first ever computer program.

The competition aims to inspire more female students to take up computing as many studies have shown that they are currently hugely under-represented in the industry. Computing is an exciting and rewarding career, and the technological challenges of the future need talented people with a diversity of skills to address them.

Any female (up to the age of 18) is invited to enter using any medium — new technology or old, from a hand-written letter to a YouTube video clip — to show or tell what they think Ada Lovelace would be especially interested in about twenty-first century technology. The competition will be judged by a panel of experts and there will be prizes in three age categories: under 13, 13-15 and 16-18.

Professor Ursula Martin of the Computer Science Department at the University of Oxford, in announcing the competition, said: “Ada Lovelace was a remarkable person, thinking about what computers might be able to do long before computers were actually built. In her writings she explains the basics of programming like memory and loops. She speculates about artificial intelligence, computer creativity and whether computers could compose music long before any of this actually happened. So we encourage our entrants to do the same – think creatively about technology and what you want to tell Ada Lovelace about it.”

Chris Monk, Learning Co-ordinator at TNMOC, said: “Of the 17,000 students who achieved a GCSE in computing in 2014, only 15% were girls. We see this reflected in the educational group visits to TNMOC and we would very much like to play our part in redressing the balance. The computing industry is missing out – in school, girls regularly outperform the boys in achieving the highest grades.”

Throughout the summer of 2015, The National Museum of Computing on Bletchley Park will be extending its activities to promote computer science as a highly suitable career path for girls. The Women in Computing gallery, sponsored by Google and opened in 2013, will be regularly showing To Dream Tomorrow, the video of Ada Lovelace’s life, sponsored by Extra Technology. Women in Computing workshops and events are also planned.

A range of prizes will be awarded to winners of the competition and we are extremely grateful to the prize sponsors: Association of Computer Machinery - Women, the University of Oxford, cs4fn, Dixons Carphone and Penguin Books.

The Competition

Show or tell with any medium from the list below what you think Ada Lovelace would be especially interested in about twenty-first century technology. Entries may be in the form of letters, presentations, dramatized conversations or interactions – anything so long as the focus is communicating to Ada about twenty-first century technology.

The closing date is: 13 October 2015.

The following formats will be accepted:

  • a letter (500 words maximum) - to be scanned, so all entries are electronic
  • an email (500 words maximum)
  • blogpost (500 words maximum)
  • social media text (500 words max) (Not available in the under-13s age category.)
  • a video (3 minutes maximum)
  • graphic (up to A3 in size)
  • photos or images on any software platform (maximum 25 photos).

The competition is open to females in three age categories:

  • under 13
  • 13-15
  • 16-18.

Further information: