A Food Piano & Collaboration Video

This week we’ve gone all out and decided to add food to the mixture of STEM and music. We collaborated with booktuber, Stephen Alff of AlffBooks, to create a food piano.

We guided Stephen along the way to create a food based piano using a MakeyMakey and block programming using Scratch. Check out how we got on.

Alongside making our piano, Vanessa spoke to Stephen about STEM over on his channel.


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Coder Girl Hack Day 2016

This Saturday (15th Oct) we headed out to this year’s Coder Girl Hack Day in DogPatch Labs, CHQ, Dublin. Coder Girl Hack day is run by CoderDojo Girls, T.O.G Hackspace, Coding Grace and the University of Limerick.

Having attended the event in the past, we were eager to find out how good this year was. Needless to mention, Echoing STEM founder, Vanessa Greene, was speaking on a panel during the day. Fun Fact: Echoing STEM was founded from a workshop run at last year’s event.

Many thanks to all featured in this special edition Podcast.

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.

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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

Why You Will Want The BBC Micro:Bit

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Article by Suzie Murray


Computers are great. They can save lives, change lives, and sometimes they’re responsible for wasting lives. What could be better?

Microcomputers. Like computers but smaller, sturdier, more accessible. The joy of the Raspberry Pi is not just that ‘A Scientist shrunk your computer’, but the ease with which you can plug in anything you like, and make it do whatever you’d like. By stripping back the surface, microcomputers become much more versatile.

However the smaller size demands compromise on features, and the Pi treads a fine line. The Raspberry Pi errs on the side of complexity, but it comes at the cost of some educational benefit: they’re fantastic machines but they aren’t quick to use without a background in computer science. The Makey Makey Go leans the other way, and opts for über simplistic crocodile clip connections, which I’ll come to later.

The BBC microbit does everything the Raspberry Pi set out to achieve. It’s easy to code, easy to use, and super cute. I thought I was appreciating the microbit, and then I showed mine to two 10 year old girls. I did not give the 4×5 rectangle of magic half of the credit it deserved. If Harry Potter rode in on a unicorn, carrying a candy floss machine, I’m fairly confident they would continue to modify the microbit code. The clear connection between the code they wrote and the results they got made it satisfying to learn with.

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The documentation makes it really easy to learn the ropes. Straying from the usual program doc format, it’s almost bizarrely easy to stay awake during and after reading. These are written for people to learn from. The docs are also a good go-to for if you’re not sure what you’d like to achieve. The code included is easy to modify and learn from, whether you’re happy with computers or technically challenged. Because everything is online (including the program GUI and compiler), everything is in one place and it’s difficult to lose files when they’re auto-saved onto a cloud.

My biggest gripe would be the output pins. Initially I was impressed by the tickling project, and so enthusiastically, naïvely, I made the pilgrimage across school to the physics department to haggle for some spare crocodile clips. Woe is me. Nothing I tried worked. Energy which could have been spent catching Pokémon, wasted. If you’re looking for devices to network, the micro might not be for you.

That said, the microbit is my favourite toy of the summer. I feel that I’m being fair in calling it a toy; not demeaningly but because I truly enjoy using it. The process of investigating, writing, and importing your code is not just satisfying, but painless. I haven’t seen a bad review yet.

If you want to buy a microbit, the best spot to preorder looks to be from Tech Will Save Us for £15.

Was The Ghostbusters Reboot Needed?

There has been plenty of criticism surrounding the remake of the all-around classic, Ghostbusters. I for one was skeptical of it, would it live up to the original? will changing the leads genders work? Is a remake needed?

Article by Vanessa Greene


Having finally seen the film I must admit that I now understand why this remake was needed. It wasn’t for the graphics, technology or refreshing the story line, it was the characters. We still lack the presence of strong heroines in the film industry for young girls to look up to. Personally, I don’t see why we aren’t creating more badass female characters all of the time.

As a child I always liked Ghostbusters, it was good. However I never really felt an attachment to it, I could never aspire to be like any of these ‘middle-aged guys with Ph.D.’s’, how could I relate to them? This time around I walked away with a completely different opinion, one that went something like “Can I please be Jillian Holtzmann! like right now!”, an opinion shared with both my sisters.

Admittedly I got slightly emotionally attached to each character as the film went on. These women are epic, realistic, funny, smart, dedicated, the list goes on. It hurts to see the backlash of comments towards the cast, they were perfect.

We need these women! We need our young girls to be able to look up to strong characters in a time when most are looking up to the next Kardashian beauty trick. Ghostbusters did a damn right good job at not stereotyping these characters to ‘pretty skinny blondes’. All I hope is that we can continue to create quirky food loving scientists like Abby, career driven women like Erin, badass inventors like Jillian and intelligent quirky women like Patty.

On a side note, I must admit I did find the reverse sexism of Kevin’s character rather humorous. It definitely highlighted the way we usually see lead females portrayed and I’d like to see that open minds to how ‘stupid’ those stereotypes are.

So regardless of all the disagreements floating around, Ghostbusters definitely gets a thumbs up from me. May we see much more of these strong heroines in the future.