Friday Headlines

the weekly newsletter from Dr Ruth Weeks, Headmistress

EHS Welcomes Lord Winston to GSA STEM Day

18 March 2016

We were delighted to host a STEM Day event on behalf of the Girls’ School Association (GSA) on Wednesday. Over 100 girls from eight schools across the country travelled to EHS to join our Year 10 girls attending two keynote speeches, four workshops and a Careers Fair. The day focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics opportunities available to girls as they think about their further education and careers. After Dr Weeks welcomed our guests in the Octagon, they were treated to an hour-long speech by our opening Keynote speaker, Lord Robert Winston.

Lord Winston is Professor of Science and Society at Imperial College and Emeritus Professor of Fertility Studies. He runs a research programme at the Institute of Reproductive and Developmental Biology based at the Hammersmith Hospital Campus. Following his opening speech, Lord Winston conducted an informal question and answer session. Girls were invited to ask questions about his research, experience and philosophy and to engage in conversation about a range of topics. Ideas which were discussed included what had been the most important advances in saving lives in the last century, why is animal testing important and whether IVF treatment had made a significant difference to world population. The issues were all discussed in a positive and thoughtful manner and the pupils enjoyed this opportunity to engage with such a renowned doctor and scientist. When asked what he hoped to achieve, Lord Winston said that he wished for pupils to be more valued, as their attitudes and wisdom were our future, and that our behaviour is more important than achievement. He touched on individuals’ focus, determination, interests and experience of life as being a guiding factor. Finally, he stressed that failure can equal success, mistakes teach us to try again and do things better.

An EHS girl said “My favourite part of today was the talk by Robert Winston. I found it really insightful and thought provoking, as it was something different to usual school activities. There were also exciting activities such as building as well as the opportunity to see liquid nitrogen in action which was really interesting.”

The Complex Structures workshop was led by Jo Haskins and a team from Atkins Engineering. They had a number of challenges to overcome in a very hands-on workshop. The brief was for each team of four girls to design a structure out of a wide variety of materials set out on a table. The finished design was then swapped with a second group for construction, each group building another team’s design.  The structure had to be capable of supporting a number of sugar cubes. Not only did it have to be functional, but it had to have an aesthetic appeal as well. The materials available included straws, lolly sticks, paper, tin foil, sticky tape and string. The best results were achieved by teams that were able to work collaboratively and were good at communicating their ideas. A wide variety of imaginative structures were created in a very short time, demonstrating some excellent teamwork and some inspiring designs from potential engineers of the future. 

This workshop was presented by Dr Richard Lissaman from Warwick University. With the help of some clever equations, he showed the girls how Google produce and use algorithms to crawl the web to find all the publicly accessible websites, arrange the data it finds so that it can be searched quickly and then rank the websites in order of importance, so that the most important can be presented to the user first. The presentation then looked at graphics in computer games and the use of triangles to enable coders to create an interactive game.

The Liquid Nitrogen workshop was led by Lynne Long from the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Birmingham. An EHS pupil said “I found the talk on nitrogen gas really exciting and interesting. I especially enjoyed watching different objects being dipped into the gas to see the different results and I learnt a lot about the different areas of Physics, and all the possibilities if you were to study it. The talk was very well presented and has encouraged me to participate more in Physics in the future. However I would have liked more opportunities to experiment with the nitrogen as I found it so interesting!”

This workshop was led by Ali Parandeh from Atkins Global, a civil engineering company based in Birmingham.  The girls had the opportunity to make a Lander, similar to the Beagle Lander which has been used on Mars, from straws, paper and sellotape. The design brief was clear: the structure had to be able to land upright when dropped from a height and not damage the cargo of marshmallows inside it. The activity gave girls the opportunity to take part in discussion and to work as a team, as well as using their imagination to come up with ideas for their ‘Lander’. This activity was enjoyed by all especially the testing of the designs by dropping from the balcony to the Octagon floor beneath.


The day finished off with an enlightening speech from Dr Tilly Blyth, Keeper of Technologies and Engineering at London Science Museum. Dr Blyth studied a Physics degree at Manchester University and went on to complete her Masters in Policy Research into Engineering, Science and Technology (PREST). She shared with us her passion for the history of computing, and gender and computing by talking about Dame Stephanie "Steve" Shirley and Ada Lovelace, both eminent female pioneers in technology.

We would like to thank Mr Smith and Mrs Shutt who have led the organisation of the STEM Day and Careers Fair together with the Science and Maths Departments.  We are also very grateful to the presenters and companies who gave of their time to present their workshops and provide the Careers Fair to educate and inspire our Year 10 girls.


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