Why I’m Not Watching Robot Wars

If I watch one more token woman on Robot Wars delegated to “snacks”, “morale” or “aesthetics”, I am going to cry. I know I’m probably preaching to the congregation in here, but there are so many reasons this needs to be said:

  1. Setting an Example

Nobody is accustomed to women in STEM spaces. Even before we dive into the world of pay gaps and office sexism, people simply aren’t certain of a woman’s position in that room, and whilst we can vaguely apportion blame to society instead of any tangible human threat, it doesn’t make it less true. We are not used to seeing women occupying STEM roles without it being viewed as an exception, inspiration, or token. In short; we’re not used to seeing female scientists as normal. So when I open up iPlayer to scope out which cluster of metal will reign supreme over the plebiscite robot community, it frustrates me to see that cliché being played out in a world where even personified spinning knives can be powerful.

  1. Reinforces the idea that engineering isn’t normal for women

I’m not arguing that there’s a lack of women on Robot Wars. The representation isn’t an even keel yet, but there are definitely women on the show. My frustration lies in their positions. Multiple father-son duos are accompanied by “Mum, who does the snacks, “Mum, who got the t-shirts”, or more than one “Mum, who boosts morale”, as well other named women (lucky them) occupying similarly described roles like ‘aesthetics’. What better way to show that the women who are privileged enough to be allowed into the boy’s club of engineering classes, aren’t there to engineer.

  1. Belittles the roles these women occupy

Nobody even stops to acknowledge the value of these roles; it’s a joke that we’re all in on, because everyone is meant to know that ‘snacks’ or ‘aesthetic’ is just an excuse to have a girl on your team- a girl who’s lucky to be there.

Have you ever looked after people? I spent one evening responsible for my sisters (15, 8) and their two friends, which included walking to the high street for dinner I didn’t even make, and they honestly need to move to a different continent before I get enough space to recover from my irritation. Catering for a full family, day on day is hard. Catering for a family which includes a father-son duo, building a fighting robot and tagging you on as “Mum who does the snacks” must be infuriating.

Cookery is just something women are expected to know; until a man tries it, it’s easy. Same thing goes for house work, team work, and patience.

fba9bce6b991c59c6465137f4f502eabea0f520e241232a763047caabf4220ea

I’ve always felt a pang of pseudo-feminist guilt when I couldn’t get through all Robot Wars, or Top Gear, or anything else lacking well represented women, without falling asleep. However recently I met a girl at an event for girls in computer science where I was mentoring, who told me she aspired to become Felicity from Green Arrow. I was ever so slightly crushed by the fact that in the whole world – a world which has developed an entire society – this girl had only one supporting character that represented her dreams. Thinking about it, I know only two: Willow, from Buffy; and Kaylee from Firefly. It is so hard for women to break into engineering, and when female STEM role models aren’t even represented in fictional worlds, a message is sent that female engineers aren’t something we can even imagine to exist.

So, I’ve stopped watching Robot Wars. I can’t stomach another episode of waiting to see a woman on a team, only to have her diminished by a job description nobody recognised as a challenge in the first place.


Article by Suzie Murray

Phi, The Golden Ratio

Maths has a bad reputation as a school subject. Probably the most common complaint uttered in a maths class is that “I’m never going to use any of this!” Almost everyone understands the vitality of basic arithmetic (addition, multiplication, etc..) but draw a line when confronted with algebra, trigonometry and calculus.

However, many people don’t realise that there is a number that appears everywhere in our daily lives. This number is present when you look at a portrait or a flower, listen to a song, even in DNA and astronomy!

And that number is PHI.

PHI (pronounced fie {like pie}) is the number , which is approximately 1.618, and is also known as the “Golden Ratio”. Phi is not pi (3.1416, the number plaguing students as they calculate the area of a circle), but a completely separate irrational number.

Phi can be derived through the Fibonacci series, a numerical series where each number is the sum of the two numbers prior to it (excluding the first two numbers in the series.)- 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55….

This ratio is supposed to be the most aesthetically pleasing for a rectangular shape- i.e. if one side of a rectangle is 1 unit, the other should be 1.618. This ratio was used in the Pantheon in Greece due to these aesthetically pleasing properties. The Renaissance artists called it the Divine Proportion and used it for beauty and balance in designing their artwork. The ratio is also found in the Notre Dame in Paris.

Even music has a basis in the Fibonacci series, as there are 13 notes in the span of any note through its octave. A scale is composed of 8 notes, of which the 5th and 3rd notes create the basic foundation of all chords.

The dimensions of the Earth and Moon are in Phi relationship, forming a Triangle based on 1.618. Many flowers have petals that total a number in the Fibonacci series: Lilies have 3 petals, buttercups and roses have 5, marigolds have 13 and daisies have 55 or 89.

The DNA molecule measures 34 angstroms long by 21 angstroms wide for each full cycle of its double helix spiral. These numbers, 34 and 21, are numbers in the Fibonacci series, and their ratio 1.6190476 closely approximates Phi, 1.6180339.

This number, phi, and its relative, the Fibonacci series, provide the very building blocks of the environment around us. No one knows why this mysterious number appears so frequently, but it is an example of how numbers form the foundation of the world we live in.


Article by Aoife Kearins