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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…

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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!