I won an award!

Something really, really exciting happened this week, which you’ll find out about later in the post! Let’s start from the beginning. It’s fair to say that I like Computer Science, or even that I love it, so after the Cambridge Raspberry Jam in September I decided to nominate myself for an award called European Digital Girl of the Year. It recognises a girl(s) – spoiler alert – who distinguishes herself in her community by influencing women to take up STEM subjects, or actually increasing uptake. Personally I give up 3 lunch times a week in our Computing department at school to run clubs, plan lessons/club sessions and talk to the staff about what to put in the curriculum. On top of this I talk and run workshops at events such as Raspberry Jams, MozFest and  BETT 2016 (still to come!). I didn’t really expect much, as there are literally millions of girls in Europe, but if you don’t enter you don’t win I suppose!

On November 14th I was announced as one of two finalists for the award! The other was Niamh Scanlon, aged 13 from Dublin. Ireland. She is awesome! Niamh teaches at Coderdojo DCU in an all girls class, so girls can learn to code without thinking it’s ‘just for boys’. She also built an app which has a map of all of the electric car charging points in Ireland and tells a user whether they are in use or not. As a result she won awards at the Coderdojo coolest projects! Niamh is just generally awesome.

So, on Monday I boarded a train at 4am(!) to London City Airport in order to get on a plane to Luxembourg for the awards dinner. After two hours of walking around a terminal full of business people waiting for our delayed plane, it arrived and we were soon in Luxembourg! It is a really beautiful country, with old yet modern architecture. We arrived pretty early, so busmy mum and I managed to figure out the bus timetable and went to the city centre. Just a side note, the buses are rainbow coloured!! The town is again, really beautiful and as it is December, there were Christmas markets! The main, and most attractive things on sale were ‘gluwein’ (mulled wine for mum) and ‘chi chi’ which are basically a cone full of really tasty cinnamon churros with either icing sugar or nutella on top. There were also lots of waffles too. Luxembourg is really cool in the sense that there is really no border as to where a specific language is spoken (they speak French and German), so at one market I had to speak German, and at the other French (considering they were about 100m apart!)

After coming back from the markets, my mum had a quick power nap in the hotel before getting ready for the awards dinner. I waited in the hotel lobby for others to arrive who were attending the dinner and met Cheryl Miller, the person who organised it all (thanks!), who was really intrigued in what I do which was awesome. A little while later I changed into my dress (the dinner was incredibly formal) and went to a reception where I did some networking. The most notable person I met was Monique, who was a finalist for the Digital Woman of the Year Award. She does such amazing work and was overall a really cool person to talk to. After this, Niamh arrived from the airport after a delayed plane (Luxair seemed to be having a bad day) and we took some photos which are now all over twitter! At half six, the dinner began with both the Ada Awards and the ESkills for Jobs awards taking place. There were some really great keynote speakers to kick off the ESkills for Jobs conference which took place the next day, such as the VP of Amazon Web Services, talking about how cloud computing will be the future. In fact, cloud computing will create 15 million jobs next year! The ESkills award had a category for best young coders, which were won by Sara, Beatriz and Nuno from Portugal. They coded some really thought provoking animations in what looked like Alice, on topics such as the Syrian Refugee Crisis. Beatriz and Sara won a trip to a conference in Berlin (THE place for startups!) and Nuno won a Samsung Galaxy tablet. After some food (the starter was horrible- lots of fish, the main was chicken, potatoes and veg which was delicious) it came to announce the winners of the Ada Awards. VHTO won the award for Organisation of the Year, for their amazing wotrophyrk. In the Digital Girl category, the jury couldn’t decide and there were two winners, both me and Niamh! It was honestly surreal, as my phone was blowing up with twitter notifications. We won a Kindle Fire HD8 tablet, $100 for Amazon Web Services and a pretty glass diamond (I haven’t smashed it yet, honest). The awards dinner finished at half ten, so I went to bed (well tried to) but I seemed to have contracted “that cold” that everyone in the Pi community had got, so I basically got no sleep all night (yay). On the second day I was invited to attend a pop up CoderDojo affiliated with Microsoft. We created a program to create pretty shapes using angles provided by the user. Then, we had to code it in python, and make it as efficient as possible! I got lots of Microsoft swag including stickers, pens, t-shirts and powerbanks which all feature the new official European language, ‘code’. Afterwards we went back to the Christmas markets to buy lots of stuff for friends and family, including create your own cookie mix for my sister, which airport security thought was drugs due to the flour at the bottom! Our plane was delayed by two hours again and I arrived home at 11:30pm, I didn’t go to school the next day 🙂 but I had loads of stories to tell on Thursday (my computing teacher had no idea I;d won an international award!)

Needless to say I had a great couple of days and my mum and I would really like to go back to Luxembourg (well I’ve been invited to run workshops at their new makerspaces). Thanks to everyone who made it possible and I really hope that I can inspire more girls through my coding adventures. I wish every one of you a great holiday season and a happy new year. Keep on coding!