Lovelace in lockdown

A selection of conference attendees at the virtual BCS Lovelace Colloquium 2020

A selection of conference attendees at the virtual BCS Lovelace Colloquium 2020

17 June 2020

The UK’s leading conference for women undergraduates in computing moved its entire programme online this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Organised by staff from the Department of Computer Science at Aberystwyth University working alongside colleagues from other UK universities, the BCS Lovelace Colloquium takes its name from the mathematician Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, who is known as the world’s first computer programmer. 

Now in its 12th year, the one-day conference brings together women students, senior women in technology and employers.

This year, facing the rapidly evolving Covid-19 crisis, and just four weeks before the conference was due to be held at Stirling University, the organisers made the decision to instead host a virtual event.

The online conference took place on 8 April 2020, with over 200 people joining the event for part or all of the day.  A number of different technologies and platforms were used in order to facilitate talks, chat, networking and posters, and accommodate the large number of participants.

The programme included six technical talks and 45 student poster presentations ranging from "Help, a robot took my job!" to "Next day delivery healthcare", infectious disease tracking, formal grammars and emotional AI chatbots.

Dr Helen Miles, a lecturer in the Department of Computer Science at Aberystwyth University, and the chair of the event said: “Women undergraduates in computing are currently a minority, and we hold this annual event to boost their confidence, build their networks and support their ambitions, and thereby retain their upcoming skills for the future. We were determined to make this year’s event work, despite the challenges we faced.  We are so grateful to all those who ‘attended’ and made it such a fantastic event.  I think Ada Lovelace, who imagined the future of computers back in 1843, would have been fascinated to see such a gathering take place online.”

Sponsors of the 2020 BCS Lovelace Colloquium included Microsoft (Silver Sponsor), JP Morgan (Best 2nd Year prize), STFC (People’s Choice prize), Scott Logic, BCSWomen, GitHub Education and Whitbread.