8 August 2013 Comments Off

Feeding my soul …

One of the fabulous things about heading up TeenTech is the way it brings me into contact with so many great people. Firstly, the teenagers who constantly amaze with their sharp and fresh approach. In our recent TeenTech Awards, the finalists stunned everyone at The Royal Society with their ideas on how to make life better, simpler or easier. As visitors remarked, the projects weren’t just ‘good for their age’, they were brilliant, full stop. Google described one project which won the Education category as having global significance.

Building the TeenTech events means constantly working with people at the sharp end of Science, Technology and Engineering who are pushing exciting concepts forward. Last week Queen Mary’s College London got in touch with their latest idea which they’re hoping to get crowd funded – Touchkeys – a keyboard that has touch sensing (like a smartphone) on the surface of every key. It lets the player naturally control vibrato, pitch blends and other expressive techniques just by moving the fingers on the key surfaces. What’s so brilliant is that the research team will be bringing it along to our TeenTech events to help inspire our students . Another TeenTech supporter, Kate Stone is also crowd funding a project she’s been showing off to enthusiastic teenagers – cool interactive posters

It means being constantly reminded of the great opportunities out there for people with the right skills. I met up with Alstom yesterday – who employ over 6,500 people in UK across the rail and power industries. They pointed out to me their three CrossRail projects will mean taking on over 500 people as they fit out tunnels and install power.The company is also lead contractor on the Carrington gas-fired power station in Greater Manchester and the consortium building the extension to Nottingham’s tram system . Most people will never have heard of them and that’s a great shame when they have so many exciting career paths. They’re currently recruiting in Nottingham, Rugby, London, Radlett, Stafford and Manchester. Get in!

4 August 2012 Comments Off

What the Olympics did for me …

What the Olympics did for me …

I’m really enjoying the Olympics – a superb success – not only for the athletes but for the people who planned, built and delivered the sites on time.

The 2012 Olympics have a real resonance for me because it was standing on a Hackney rooftop  in Dec 2007, looking across at the bulldozers glinting in the December sunshine that I recognised a powerful opportunity to enthuse young people, not only about sport but science, engineering, construction and technology.Here’s a short video we shot for the New Engineering Foundation at the time.

Learning about the physics behind roller coasters at the very first TeenTech event..

Learning about the physics behind roller coasters at the very first TeenTech event.

In 2008 we ran the first TeenTech in a huge empty office building in Reading with 450 teenagers and a raft of tech and engineering companies, keen to show off their latest advances and to insprire young people to consider careers in their areas.

From the word go TeenTech was collaborative, working with global companies, regional companies, start -ups and local education partners to deliver events that were lively and sharply focussed. It is an industry-led initiative.

Last year we piloted the idea of working with regional partners adding events in Humber Region and Kent to the one we’d run for two years in Berkshire.

So far this year,we’ve run five events across the UK, with another four to go in the Autumn.

7194484196_3eaf790c37_sOne of those events was at Cisco House, a venue over looking the Olympic Park and when I stood on the balcony, overlooking the stadium, I couldn’t help reflecting on that cold December day when I decided to stop talking about the need to help young people and to actually do something about it.

TeenTech City - there's a great view out of that window. Honest ;-)

TeenTech City - there's a great view out of that window. Honest ;-)

I feel so proud of the people who’ve worked on TeenTech over the past four years, helping thousands of young people understand their own potential. Over that time, we’ve worked with some inspiring companies responsible for awesome technology and activities and with talented regional teams across the UK which helps us to develop and evolve the event. We were delighted to welcome the Duke of York to our Hampshire event in June.

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He watched young people learn more about the technology which will help our paralympians compete later this month.

We measure the impact of our events and know how they change perceptions – 80% of girls leave TeenTech thinking a career in STEM might just be for them.

We’ve some terrific events coming up in the Autumn and if you’d like your company to be involved do let us know. You’d be made very welcome.

Tonbridge – 25th September, Coventry – 19th October, Folkestone, 25th October, Surrey, 14th November.

18 July 2012 2 Comments

Dr Philbin will see you now ;-)

Dr Philbin will see you now ;-)

I’ve a very proud moment coming up on Thursday when De Montfort University, in my home city will award me an Honorary Doctorate in technology.

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It’s a real thrill and I’m very flattered.

I grew up in Leicester and from a sixteen year old’s perspective, the Poly, as it was then, was the place to hang out. I met one of my first boyfriends there and hold him responsible for shaping much of my musical taste by dumping his LPs on me while I was revising for my A levels.

My ‘A’ levels weren’t in Science subjects but in English, History, French and German. I’d wanted to be a vet or a doctor but had struggled with Chemistry. No-one ever mentioned my strengths in Maths and Physics could lead to other opportunities – so to the distress of my Physics teacher and my Dad, I made a last minute change to my ‘A’ level line up.

The doctorate comes for “outstanding contributions to the intellectual and cultural life of the nation and region” and for “bringing about a greater understand of and interest in science and technology”

Which sounds a bit grand when really it has all been a very happy accident.

images-14Being invited to join Tomorrow’s World was without doubt one of the best moments of my life. It felt like coming home – and I relished every minute.For ten years I reported on some of the most extraordinary advances in science and technology and shared my enthusiasm with a keen audience, many of whom were really waiting for Top of the Pops but found themselves drawn into an exciting and often astonishing world.

I might not have realised my own dream of a veterinary or medical career but unwittingly really, along with my fellow reporters and producers, I inspired a raft of young people to take up careers in all areas of science and technology.  I’ve since had the pleasure of meeting many who have credited Tomorrow’s World with sowing the first seeds of their passion and interest. It is always thrilling to hear these stories. Many can reel off items that particularly fascinated them.

Those young people are now in their thirties and forties and often heading up tech companies or University departments and their affection for Tomorrow’s World has come in very handy.  I’ve been overwhelmed by the way leading companies and individuals have now got behind our  TeenTech initiative to create a powerful collaborative effort which inspires and enthuse young teenagers. I’m very proud of what we’re doing and will do in the future. If you want to support or join us, we’d welcome your involvement.

So in my mind, the doctorate really goes to ‘Tomorrow’s World’ and ‘TeenTech’ and I am proud to accept it on their behalf.

25 March 2012 3 Comments

Hard hats and Trim phones

Hard hats and Trim phones

You’ll have to forgive the murky pictures but I’ve had a fabulous experience this week. One of the real perks of the job.

I was invited to explore the BT Tower, a building that has real resonance for me. As a kid, I watched it being built and was astonished something that shape could stand without toppling over. As a grown up, I still love it. A functional, striking and brave icon of Sixties London and still the hub of live pictures and digital data.

IMG-20120322-00891I joined a group of people who work for BT – they were as excited as I was to explore the parts very few get to see. Even my fear of lifts, heights and ladders couldn’t spoil the experience. For the record, I climbed right to the roof and even scaled the ladder on that spindly lattice tower on the very top.

The building gives up secrets at every turn. The original staircase to the “cocktail bar” viewing deck, wittily altered signs, riggers with deep affection for the building keen to share their memories of working there.

Tower Facts

The building was officially a secret until the mid 1990s and did not appear on official maps.

The QE2 Bridge is the furthest landmark you can see from the Tower

It had to be so tall so that it could beam calls over the Chiltern hills on the north rim of the London basin.

The building moves less than 25 centimetres  in wind speeds of up to 95 mph

I collected a ew of my own factoids as I went along. 99% of live football pictures come through the Tower. The outside of the windows were last cleaned in 1994 but no-one can remember the insides ever being cleaned. (In Bob the Rigger’s office where we collected hard hats, I can vouch for this).

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The building is just as curious inside as out. The service lift might look like a padded cell with protective cladding over the glass walls but shot up the building in 30 seconds.

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The Media Centre on the Second Floor. When 'X Factor" dropped off your screen, these people would have leapt from their desks

IMG-20120322-00906You leave the high tech control room, with banks of people pouring over monitors, to floors that time forgot, hosting wonderful racks of original 60s telecoms bakelite equipment, still there because they’re too costly to remove.It’s Marie Celeste like –  pin boards with references to radio stations and Codex. Seventies trim phones. A geek treasure trove.

Yes, he's looking where the sat dishes used to be but I'm looking at the drop

Yes, he's looking where the sat dishes used to be but I'm looking at the drop

I walked on terrifyingly open balconies looking at the empty “horns ” where the microwave dishes were once bolted. Or rather the others did. I was mesmerised by that flimsy metal balcony.

Then it was down to the very foundations. To the reinforced concrete”pyramid” on which the tower sits and to an eerie quiet. If you have memories or facts about the tower, do share them.

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