Tag Archives: Turing Centenary

Google’s Luvvies and Boffins at the Science Museum

Google's Luvvies and Boffins

Last night I attended the second Google Luvvies and Boffins event at the Science Museum, after the inaugural event at Google’s UK HQ near Victoria in December.

The context for these events was Eric Schmidt‘s MacTaggart lecture last August, in which he spoke about the importance of bringing the worlds of art and science back together if Britain’s creative industries are to succeed in the digital era:

There’s been a drift towards the humanities –- engineering and science aren’t championed. Even worse, both sides seem to denigrate the other. To use what I’m told is the local vernacular, you’re either a ‘luvvie’ or a ‘boffin’…

Luvvies and Boffins badges

Luvvies and boffins, he said, need to work together, identifying the idea of STEAM (rather than just STEM) education: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. While the idea of a ‘digital luvvie’ may conjure up images of Nathan Barley, it is an interesting concept, especially in light of the Next Gen. report published in February 2011 (which, amongst other things, advocated the teaching of computer science in UK schools) and the wider importance of the digital and creative industries in the UK.

This event (which coincided with the monthly Science Museum Lates) was also celebrating the opening of the Science Museum’s new year-long Codebreaker: Alan Turing’s Life and Legacy exhibition, with tours from the curator. There was also the opportunity to see a demonstration of the Babbage Engine (video), as well as some hands-on science with the Technology Will Save Us team, creating your very own Lumiphone from scratch:

Lumiphone kit

Overall, an excellent evening — where else could you solder and drink cocktails? — thank you to Google and the Science Museum for hosting.

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BCS Education Bursary projects announced

Today, the BCS Academy of Computing announced the successful applicants of the BCS Education Bursaries, which aim to promote computer science as an academic discipline, in celebration of Alan Turing’s centenary year.

Over 200 schools, colleges and universities applied for the £30,000 fund and I had the pleasure of being on the judging panel, an exceptionally difficult process with so many high quality applications. After several hours of debate, we were able to fund 31 projects across the UK that we believe will enthuse and engage the next generation of technologists about computer science. A brief description of the successful projects can be found here.

I’d like to say a massive congratulations to the successful projects; I’m looking forward to seeing what impact they have over the next year!

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Will 2012 be the Year of Computer Science?

2011 was a promising year for computer science in schools, with government ministers (even the Prime Minister) appearing to recognise its importance from both an educational and economic perspective; all in the midst of a uncertain large-scale education review in England. 2012 is shaping up to be just as promising, starting with the publication of the Royal Society’s 18 month study on computing in schools in a fortnight. Computing At School (CAS) have been busy on a number of fronts over the past year, but in particular advocacy at national policy level (along with the BCS Academy of Computing).

However, we have to remain grounded — there is still a huge amount of work to be done (and nothing is yet guaranteed). As well as continuing the policy work, one of the priorities for CAS is to further connect with and support the network of Computing and ICT teachers across the UK, as well as changing the wider public’s poor perception of computer science — into a rigorous, practical and intellectually useful academic discipline (and as a pathway to a wide range of careers). There are also a number of excellent initiatives to support that focus on developing the key skills of computational thinking and programming, as well as genuinely engaging young people with technology: Young Rewired State, Hack to the Future, Apps for Good, Codecademy et al.

After a recent conversation with @BringBackCS, it seemed an opportune time to coalesce Twitter discussions under a unifying hashtag:

I will be using this hashtag to promote Computer Science in 2012; please use and spread the message!

And why is 2012 especially important? It’s also the Turing Centenary, a celebration of the life and scientific influence of Alan Turing on the centenary of his birth on 23rd June 1912. A number of major events (such as the Computability in Europe 2012 conference) will be taking place throughout the year, with many linked to places with special significance in Turing’s life, including Cambridge, Manchester, Bletchley Park and Princeton. 2012: The Alan Turing Year and the Year of Computer Science.

We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.

Alan Turing, Computing Machinery and Intelligence (1950)

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