A great event that I was part of in May was the Manchester Girl Geeks MiniBarCamp hosted by AutoTrader in the new part of town First Street!
So...What is a BarCamp?
Well it is a day where people come together and share interesting information with everyone else. So essentially you have no idea what you are going to find out about until the day of the show/presentations, as anyone who comes for the event is encouraged to give a presentation about any particular topic they feel passionate about. It is most commonly known as and ‘unconference’.
Most of the talks presented are STEM related but don’t have to be, they can just be a piece of fun/interesting/cool information you want to share with everyone else. And the best part is it’s all free. So all you have to do is turn up and take part either as an audience member or to give a presentation.
Program of the day:
b. Receive a goodie bag filled with great swag(free stuff)
c. Have tea/coffee and snacks.
d. Sign up to give a talk on the day.
2. During the day:
a. Attend a variety of talks/presentations going on in different rooms at the venue.
b. Present a talk of choice, if you are feeling courageous.
c. A number of people decide on the day to give a talk.
3. Lunch provided by the organisers.
a. Get chatting to new people you’ve met/ friends.
b. Network and get new connections.
4. A few more talks/presentations after lunch.
a. Cake and drinks during breaks provided by both attendees and the organisers
5. Finally a raffle prize draw takes place at the end of the day and some thanks yous are presented.
As a member of the MGG I volunteered to be part of the organising committee for this years’ MiniBarcamp. This was a great insight to the process of organising a completely free event with the help of many organisations to sponsor everything! It was such a great experience and with every Girl Geeks events I got to make new friends in the process. What a fantastic opportunity – learning new skills and making new friends.
A short summary of some of the talks I attended:
Something I have only ever heard of once before but didn’t really understand the concept until now. It is becoming a worldwide phenomenon, getting people outdoors exploring their surroundings and new areas.
The whole idea is to go outdoors and search for a box... it goes something like this:
1. Visit the Geocaching website and enter your location.
2. The site then produces a number of ‘caches’ for you to find by giving you some GPS co-ordinates.
3. With your co-ordinates in hand you go out and find the ‘cache’. And what you usually find is a box with a list of people who have also found the box and recorded the date they found it. Then you just do the same – add yourself to the list and simply put the box back where you found it. And the nest person can find it.
The aim is to have fun exploring and getting out-doors and discreetly find the box so that it’s not obvious for the next person. You then go back online and write a report on your experience by sharing it on the website.
I think you can sometimes find items to take away as a prize or swap...
*A top tip from an experienced Geocacher is: wear good walking shoes if you’re going out far.
Being off the grid...
A young lady decided to start a new life in a new city, so with the last bit of her savings she gets a first class train to Manchester. Without any money or income she became a (legal) squatter, living in an empty house that a friend owns but couldn’t afford to run.
Life was tough during this time – living on the very basics and trying to change the situation.
Throughout the talk many questions from the audience came up that led to group discussions about living off the grid, getting benefits or struggling to survive without benefits on basically nothing by choice. As well as the stigma and judgements that go along with any personal life choice one may make.
What I learned: Everyone has their own opinion about other people’s life choices but ultimately it’s up to you to decide what will lead and control your choices. Being determined and self-confident helps you make choices for yourself and not for others.
PhDs – no filter...
Two women in STEM revealed to us the reality of completing a PhD. A real eye opener to me and many others.
It is a challenging experience that requires a lot of your time and energy. You need to be focused, driven and highly self-motivated throughout the whole process. Some great benefits include: researching something you’re passionate about. Carrying out experiments and discovering new concepts that no one else has found. Having your work published and being able to collaborate with many other organisations/researchers/scientists/engineers...etc.
The drawbacks however include: stress and loneliness during the few years of your research, as in most cases you are the only person researching a specific idea and you don’t have many people around you to talk to about it.
Everything that you present is constantly judged and scrutinised and you have to justify everything you state. Some of your published work will include a long list of other authors, claiming they helped you with the work, when you did most or even all of the work.
It is a strange state that you find yourself stuck between a student and a member of university staff when you are neither. And if you are paid during your research, it is as they described: essentially a low paid job that you have to do all year round, sometimes with very few holidays.
One major piece of advice that I came away with from this talk was that if you want to successfully complete a PhD you have to be good at managing your own time effectively. Everything you do during the research years is up to you so you have to be able to drive the project forward.
A few other fascinating talks on the day were:
· The internet of things. Free software. New things to try out for fun. Mathematical Comedy
Summary: Final Review
It was a great day to experience for the second time (my first Barcamp was in 2014) and it was even more exciting for me to attend this year as I was part of the organising team. So I got to experience both the completed event and the planning stages – behind the scenes.
And I got to meet some super, cool, intelligent people on the day who are passionate about STEM just like I am and thus could lead to working on some future projects.
It takes a lot of coordination of like-minded people to come together and be part of creating something as fun as a Barcamp. It also makes you realise the awesomeness of human kindness by working together with many different organisations willing to be part of the event it was a great success.
This years’ event was a miniBarcamp as it was smaller than last years’ event due to our venue capacity. Some people might have thought there weren’t enough people there but I felt that it made the whole day even more exclusive, as we got to have more relaxed discussions in smaller numbers.
I would highly recommend being adventurous and attend an event like this one. I learnt so much on the day it felt like I had a talking encyclopaedia introducing me to new ideas and information.
A huge thanks to the MGG team I worked with and a special mention to the ladies I met on the day and had great conversations with: @ a woman with super cool advice on security on your mobile devices. @ UX developer with a passion for science and tech. She promotes STEM to everyone particularly with the intent of getting women of colour to be part of the movement. @upsideteach a great ambassador for STEM and science teacher. @ TEAM: @ZoeEBreen, @stecks, @samheadleand, @emilylovedhim, @Gem_Hill, @NatCLiberty
Image source: @mcrgilgeeks
PS: just a note, men are always welcomed to Girl Geek events!!
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