Monday, 29 February 2016

Why should girls get involved in tech?

Well, I can answer this question myself, because obviously I know my own reasons. I am not from a tech background, I’m from an arts background – and if you’d asked me when I was in my early teens, in fact, when I was a Guide myself, I’d have told you I wasn’t the technical type.  But, actually looking back on it, that was absolutely untrue. The problem was, I saw science, technology and engineering as something that was more of a ‘boy’ thing (actually, I had no idea what engineering was until I hit my early twenties)! 

Ruth Blayney, Girls Hack Ireland
and former Girl Guide
When I was a teen, the internet was just taking off (yes, I’m THAT old), and the world of online communities and personal websites was emerging.  I’m here to tell you, it was really exciting!   I signed myself up for a hosted web page and started tinkering with how to make it look pretty and change the colours, change the pictures, play with fonts etc. It was really exciting to be figuring out how to make the computer do what I wanted, and there’d be such a great sense of achievement when I managed to figure something out.

I’ll never forget getting completely carried away on my webpage when I discovered how to create the ‘strikethrough’ font (that is, text with a line running through the middle of it). The page was practically unreadable – which taught me a very important lesson – just because I CAN do it, doesn’t necessarily mean I should!

It’s only now, as an adult, I’ve realised that what I was doing was coding in HTML. I unfortunately veered away from the website-building by the time I hit 14/15. Just from watching TV, listening to people around me, I thought it wasn’t really something I, as a girl, should be pursuing. I just dropped it in favour of horse-riding (and perhaps some MTV)!

Now that I’m older, I’ve worked for Dublin City University in a couple of areas, mainly to do with talking to people about the importance of engineering and technology. Through my job I’ve become more and more passionate about the importance of technology and engineering.  Because I work in a research centre, I get to see where things like computer coding can start making a huge impact on society. For example, we’ve a project here in the Insight Centre for Data Analytics that is involved in helping people recover from heart disease.  As part of the project, our researchers are creating a game that helps people keep up with their exercise programme. The people I work with are incredibly passionate and are doing great things for the world.  And me, I want to be part of it.  And I want more girls to be part of it!  Girls are creative, passionate and great multi-taskers (not that I should make a sweeping generalisation) – and when you apply these traits to engineering and tech problems, then you get incredible results. Coding isn’t just for boys, it’s for everyone! It’s a universal language that has an absolutely astounding range of applications.

But I can talk and talk and talk at you about this; far, far better that you come and have a go yourself. I’d like to finish up by inviting you to check out one of our Girls Hack Ireland events.  We’ll be running them in Wexford, Roscommon, Longford and Dublin in the coming months – and they are open to girls (and their parents!) who have never tried coding before. I’d love for you to come along and give it a try. 

There’s no pressure: we just want everyone to have fun, hang out, learn how to build a website of their own or work with movement sensors (making a ‘sprite’ mimic your movements!) or have a go at wearables technology.  We’ll be bringing mentors with us and we’d be happy to chat to you and answer any questions you may have about science, technology, engineering and maths.

Please visit our website - - to find out about booking into one of our events. These are absolutely free, and we even provide the laptops!

12th March - 'Learn how to build a webiste' - Wexford

19th March - 'Learn how to build a website' - Longford & Roscommon

7th May - 'Move it, move it - Working with motion sensors and programming the Microsoft Kinnect' - Wexford

11th June - 'Move it, move it - Working with motion sensors and programming the Microsoft Kinnect' - Longford & Roscommon 

1st October - 'Wearing tech - how you can make wearable technology' - Wexford

8th October -  'Wearing tech - how you can make wearable technology, ' - Longford & Roscommon

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Tweet us: @GirlsHackIRL

~ Ruth Blayney, Girls Hack Ireland

Friday, 26 February 2016

Volunteer overseas and have an amazing experience you will never forget!

Have you ever considered travelling abroad? Maybe living abroad? Have you ever thought of furthering your involvement in International Guiding? Have you ever sought an opportunity of having an amazing experience you will never forget?

These were all questions I once said “Yes” to. Initially, that "Yes" remained in my head and was wishful thinking for a while. Then I decided to act. I filled out the Volunteer Application Form for Our Chalet and I sent it away excitedly. The only thing I was waiting for then was a positive response - a  "Yes" to accept me as a Summer Volunteer …. And they did!

I first visited Our Chalet as a Short Term Summer Volunteer for three months in 2013. Fortunately, I was able to use my time there as the practical experience that was part of my college course. This was ideal as I could
combine my college course with my love of Guiding.

Since that first summer at Our Chalet I have never looked back. I learned so much - the experience of living away from home, which for me was a first, the experience of working with an international team, the experience of a new culture and making new friends. You also develop skills and qualities that will help you in life.

Since my original visit in 2013, I have returned on numerous occasions fulfilling different roles. In January 2014 as Catering Coordinator, in June-July 2014 as a Short Term Catering Coordinator and in June-September 2015 as Guest Services’ Intern .Most recently I have visited Our Chalet in January 2016 as a guest.

Our Chalet gives people the opportunity for personal development in an amazing location. I have made many friends from all over the
world, had wonderful experiences and I have learned many new life-skills.  There is something in Our Chalet for everyone.

I would suggest that anyone thinking "Yes" in their head should go for it: fill in the form and make it a reality. One should consider first what season you would like to go, what role you would like and how long you would like to go for.

So, whether you are looking to travel to a winter wonderland and maybe facilitate a snow shoe hike and then in your free time learn to ski, or if you are looking to travel to a stunning summer postcard location where you are leading hikes up breath-taking mountain peaks and swimming in glacial lakes, I would encourage you to apply to Our Chalet. You will get the training, support and help to make it happen.

The Our Chalet Application Form is just a click away!

Aisling Claffey is a Leader with Carrigdhoun Guides and Ladybirds, a member of Carrigaline Senior Branch and a member of the IGG International Committee, Senior Branch Committee and Media Panel. She loves Our Chalet so much she brought her younger sister on a visit earlier this year!

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Cealla Guides declare science is fun!

When the Leaders and senior Guides started to plan the 2015/ 2016 programme for our Unit all the interest badges were reviewed and the Science Investigator Badge got everyone’s vote!

We started with forensic science, learning all about fingerprinting and how prints are lifted at a crime scene. We examined our own prints and discovered all the loops, arches and whorls in our group. Our fact sheet said that it is possible for relatives to have the same fingerprint pattern; however, our investigation into this matter was inconclusive. We have two sets of sisters in our unit and they had different fingerprint patterns. We learned that you can outgrow your shoes, but not your fingerprints and that koala’s fingerprints can be mistaken for human ones.

It was fun to examine our own prints and compare them to our friends. We did wonder if having the same fingerprint pattern as your friend could actually make you even better friends, although this theory was also unproven! We also learned that the Leaders would be able to track down the culprit who had not washed the ink off their fingers and had left a mini crime scene on the hall floor!

Last week, with the first ever ‘International Day of Women and Girls in Science’ (11th February 2016) fast approaching, we completed our badge. One of our Leaders was able to borrow some very interesting models from the hospital medical school; normally, these are for the student doctors and nurses, but we were able to examine them all. We donned some scrubs, popped on the surgical masks and caps and got ready to learn!

We started by learning about body temperature - what is normal and how to keep your temperature up when it is cold. We checked our own temperatures using a disposable thermometer and then conducted an experiment on heat convection. Babies lose heat very quickly if not wrapped up warm and kept in a warm environment, as they have very little white fat and can’t shiver or jump around to stay warm.

We used two hot water bottles for our experiment babies - Molly and Holly! Molly was kept inside and wrapped warmly while Holly was dressed in a light outfit and left outside in the cold. Heat moves from an area of warm to cold and so Holly (our hot water bottle baby that we left outside) got
very cold very quickly. Molly (our other hot water bottle baby) remained snug and warm for our meeting. This helped us understand the theory of heat convection and why babies get cold very quickly.

A model of the heart, a stethoscope and a model of blood vessels helped us understand heart health. We checked our own pulses, our friends’ pulses and used the stethoscope to listen to our heartbeat and breathing. We learned that the smaller you are, the faster your heart beat, so while your new baby brother might have a heartbeat of 150, your Dad might have a heartbeat of 70!

The university also lent us lots of different bones - some were easy to identify, some were helpfully labelled (the ribs and the clavicle) and there was no mistaking the skull! However, the scapula took a little longer to identify!

The brain was really interesting, learning which part does what. Did you know your brain is divided into lobes and each part is responsible for different things, like your behaviour and your thoughts and feelings? It was challenging piecing the brain together, but Alex (our budding neurosurgeon) was able to do it every time!

Muireann Reilly summed up the science exploration really well: “My favourite part of the Science Investigator Badge was learning about the heart and all the bones in the body.  I enjoyed dressing up in nurse and doctor clothes and wearing facial masks. The thing I didn’t like was the thermometer because it didn’t work for me, but the results looked cool on the other girls’ thermometers.  I learned that the brain is divided into sections - sight, touch, movement, intelligence, personality and hearing and that it is protected by the skull and three layers.”

~ Tracy O'Sullivan, Cealla Guides, Co Meath