It’s Time For Peterborough STEM Festival 2018

October is always a big month for me. It was the month that I originally started working for myself full-time, eight years ago. And by the end of the month, I’d realised that there didn’t seem to be a local network for people working in digital, particularly those working alone at home. So I happened to contact web developer Jonathan Frascella, and that led to the first Digital People in Peteborough meetup.

Almost a decade later, and DPiP has continued to grow. The monthly meetup has expanded to 700+members and a non-profit company to support it. A few years ago, the very talented Tia from WhoAteMyCrayons got involved in Digital People in Peterborough, helping it to gain a lot of momentum. And then came up with the seemingly insane idea to create a free STEM Festival for children in the local area. Around a year later, Peterborough STEM Festival arrived in 2016.

After great success in 2016 and 2017, it’s time for Peterborough STEM Festival 2018. And if you’re connected to me on social media or know me offline, you’re hopefully aware of it already. I think I’ve managed to shoehorn it into every conversation I’ve had for a few months now. Because it’s an amazing achievement for everyone involved, and this year more than 3,000 free tickets have already been booked.

Peterborough STEM Festival 2018

If you’re able to make it, I highly suggest coming along. You just need to be accompanied by a child if you’ve over 18, so they can explain all the complicated science, tech, engineering and maths to you. There’s a huge amount happening, from TV presenter Maddie Moate and Horrible Science author Nick Arnold giving interactive talks to F1 simulators, forensic science, engineering experiments, virtual reality, retro gaming and more.

And if you’re interested in volunteering, exhibiting or sponsoring, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s incredibly rewarding to see children inspired and encouraged to get involved, ask questions and learn while having a great time.

It’s an amazing tribute to the current organising team of Jonathan, Andy Reedman (at Mind of Design), and Liz Randell (at LizCreates). And to Tia, who has since emigrated to New Zealand, and is now organising the Tauranga STEM Festival for 2019.

I’m pleased to be volunteering again for the third year, accompanied by my son. And he’s already coming up with ideas for how to market and promote the event for this year, and in 2019. Which makes me incredibly proud of my small contribution to DPiP and the STEM Festival.

And in a strange turn of events, Liz and I met via DPiP and began dating earlier this year. We now live together, and I’ve seen first hand how much time, effort and commitment it takes to organise an event of this scale and magnitude. Plus how it’s brought my family together with Liz and my son swapping marketing ideas. Which generally end up with him finding new ways to have fun at the event, and more work for her!

I can’t give enough credit to the organisers, sponsors, exhibitors and volunteers that make the STEM Festival and DPiP happen every year, but hopefully this blog post goes some way to saying thank you to everything they do.


Big Success for Peterborough STEM Fest 2016

It’s almost a week since the first Peterborough STEM Festival. And to be honest, I’m still getting over how good it was.

I didn’t have any doubt that my chums from Digital People in Peterborough would put on a great event. But I didn’t realise quite how big and exciting it would be.

First, the venue was great. The Allia Business Centre is relatively new, and is built into the Peterborough United Football Ground with offices, co-working spaces and a feel that wouldn’t be out of place in a London innovation hub.

Secondly, the events, talks and demonstrators were all really interesting. It was all pretty impressive (like the child-size robot from Peterborough Regional College), but also really accessible. Everyone was keen to chat to all the children, including mine, and spend as long as was needed to answer the questions which shot forth from kids and parents. It’s not too often my son gets to discuss space with a Senior Spacecraft Thermal Engineer working on the Solar Orbiter. And that was just a chance encounter before the actual speaking sessions began!

And thirdly, there was a great turnout. Hundreds of children and parents came through the doors, and from witnessing some of the feedback, I think everyone was impressed at the fact such a great event was put on for free. I’m not sure it we hit the capacity limit for the event, but we must have been pretty close…

That was partly down to the kind sponsors who rightly saw a great opportunity to get involved in an inspiring community event. And also down to the great bunch of organisers and volunteers.

Peterborough STEM Festival Volunteers

Spot the Dan. And then wonder how I managed to look in the wrong direction at precisely the wrong moment….

Everyone was kind enough to donate their time, patient enough to deal with anything that came up, and well led and organised by the core trio behind the whole thing.

Even my son and I managed to run the reception desk for a couple of hours without major mishap. Mainly due to the help of other volunteers, and bribing him with a hot dog, Babbage bear in a Raspberry Pi shirt, and some Minecraft pixel sunglasses.

Just awesome…


Supporting the First Peterborough STEM Festival

Peterborough holds a few special memories for me. As a cathedral city, it’s not known as a particularly exciting or glamorous location, but it’s a site of rich historical value. It’s also where I moved to become a full time journalist for a publication I’d always dreamed about working for.

Having gone on to start a family in East Anglia, it’s also the place where I first began working for myself. And after a short period of solitude, it’s where I suggested one or two freelancers I knew came down the pub to chat about work and technology. And that became DPiP, a monthly meetup which has become hugely successful despite my early involvement.

Peterborough STEM Festival

So I’m hugely excited to be traveling up to Peterborough at the end of the month to be a volunteer at the first Peterborough STEM Festival, which is a day of family-friendly events to celebrate Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, inspired by Ada Lovelace Day.

When it came to DPiP, my biggest success was getting out of the way once I’d persuaded talented designer and organiser Tia to get involved. Besides securing the best cupcakes in the county to encourage people to come along, she also transformed something a bit ramshackle into a well-oiled machine.

So I confess to chuckling when I got an email explaining that she’d had an idea for a STEM Festival and was worried that it might not all come together. Because I knew it would – and lo and behold, it looks like it’ll be an amazing day.

There are a full day of workshops, doing stuff with Raspberry Pis, MakeyMakey boards, Cambridge Science Centre and Microsoft.

And a similarly impressive range of speakers – including spacecraft engineers, scientists, mathematicians and programmers covering space, robotics, and game theory.

Plus a load of exhibitors running Minecraft competitions, explaining genetics and demonstrating humanoid robotic companions.

Basically the DPiP team of Tia, Jonathan and Andy have recruited a great team, sorted out a load of fantastic speakers and events, and put it all together in an area which has been increasingly embracing technology over the last few years.

And did I mention it’s all free?

I’ve been to a lot of events over the years, and it’s probably safe to say that all this entertainment could have come with a price tag. But instead, it’s all available for free to encourage more children, and particularly girls, to consider STEM subjects.

Some of the workshops etc will require booking online in advance, so check out the website and see what might take your fancy (or be the best to inspire your kids).

And hopefully I’ll see you there!