Inspirefest – 5 Things that Really Inspired Me

At the end of last month, I was very lucky to be offered the chance to attend Inspirefest. Inspirefest is a technology and science conference, but one which not only shows a lot of merging with the arts, but also issues about diversity and gender. As someone who hasn’t studied science since her Junior Cert exams in 2006, I was definitely much more driven towards the diversity and gender side of things. Who’d have thought by the end of it I’d be rethinking my entire vision of future careers?

I’ve a lot to write about Inspirefest, I could write about it for an entire blog series, such was it’s level of inspiration imparted. However, just for today, to clear some of them out of my head, here are my top 5 most inspiring segments during InspireFest 2016.

 

Lottie

Let’s start with the doll. The doll that made me cry. I was far from the only one too, so I can’t even blame a sleep deprived hormone surge. If you’re not acquainted with Lottie dolls, they’re a fantastic Irish company who design dolls that are child-like and spread a more realistic message of body image to young children. Lottie is a nine year old girl doll, she’s not a grown woman with a perfect hour glass figure. She stands on her own two feet and comes in a variety of costumes depicting a variety of careers. So how does a kids doll fit with a science and technology conference? Enter Stargazer Lottie. She’s an astronaut, a collaboration with the European Space Agency and inspired by one six year old girl Abigail whose dream is to go into space herself. Stargazer Lottie has been the first doll in space, having spent 6 months of 2015 in the International Space Station. The video was incredibly touching, I compel you not to tear up!

Brenda Romero

Brenda Romero, game designer and developer, spoke confidently about the role of women in gaming – not just in working in the industry but in how they are portrayed in the games we play. In contrast to the societal assumption that games are mostly played by younger males, she advised us that 43 year old women are actually the largest group of game consumers with the advent of mobile games, both playing and spending more money in the industry. The over-sexualisation of women and their portrayal as damsels in distress instead of confident able characters (if they are given as character options at all) does not reflect this and Romero’s speech, which included the phrase “water balloon boobs”, was hopeful of a shift in coming years. A well deserved standing ovation followed her segment, which led into a Q&A between her and her husband and fellow game developer John Romero about diversity in gaming. Despite knowing little about the gaming world (a very basic knowledge of the goings-on of Gamergate was all I had), I was fascinated by her and these talks and definitely left a whole lot more interested in the industry than I would have thought beforehand!

Sinead Burke

Sinead was one of the only names I recognised on the billing for the conference. I’d recently listened to her podcast with Roisin Ingle on “Roisin Meets…” and thought she had a lot of really interesting things to say, so I was excited to check out her talk. Sinead is a blogger, a Phd candidate, a qualified primary school teacher and a really lovely lady to boot – it was a pleasure to meet her in the foyer during the break! Sinead spoke about the impact of social media and how it has changed her life. “Often social media can get a reputation of being very negative… but for me it has been a powerful source to amplify women’s voices… and I’m so fortunate that it has had such a monumental influence on my life, and I know for sure I wouldn’t be here today without it.” she told the room during her keynote. It’s a really great speech, make sure to check it out in full below!

The Next Generation

Want a surefire way to feel like you have accomplished NOTHING in your life? Find someone half your age who has a billion more accomplishments by noon than you’ve had in your life. This was the segment of Inspirefest dedicated to showing off the greatest of the Next Generation in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, The Arts and Mathematics). For the Future Leaders segment, Mary Carty of Outbox Incubator, an incubating programme for girls under 22 who want to work in STEM, started off with a keynote. The EU Digital Girl of the Year 2015, Niamh Scanlon was definitely my “wow” moment from this section (and probably one of the MAJOR wow moments of the whole thing) – at 13 she is so accomplished, so focused, has achieved so much and is an incredible public speaker to boot. Both women were joined on stage by
Edel Browne, Co-founder of Free Feet, Vanessa Greene, Founder and Host of Echoing STEM and Elle Loughran, STEM Student and Blogger. They spoke about projects they are passionate about, the Outbox Incubator process, and different challenges that have come up along the way. It was definitely a “What am I doing with my life” moment watching them, and I’ve even been inspired to try learning some coding. Even if it is just with Anna and Elsa.

Beyond 12. 

The very inspiring Alexandra Bernadotte spoke at Inspirefest about how she drew inspiration to create the organisation Beyond 12 from her own experience as a first-generation college graduate. Beyond 12 is increasing the number of low-income, first-generation, and historically under-represented students who graduate from college. In partnership with high schools and colleges, their technology platform and coaches together provide students with the academic, social, and emotional support they need to succeed in higher education and in life. Her talk was really thought provoking and was definitely one of the highlights for me. (This video is roughly the same talk but at a TED conference).

 

Those were my top 5 inspiring moments from this year’s Inspirefest offering. It was definitely an experience which I much appreciate having the opportunity to have, and I left feeling so many more doors opening in my mind for what to do with my life! Definitely recommend it to anyone with an interest in Science, tech or diversity as a must-attend for next year!

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I received a ticket to attend Inspirefest, however all opinions are my own.

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Some other somewhat inspiring stuff winds up on Facebook.

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I am one of the finalists in the Boots Maternity and Infant Awards in the “Best Parenting Blog”. Thank you to everyone who voted in the first round, it really does mean a lot. Voting for the final is open until 28th August and isn’t restricted to just Ireland, so wherever you are, you can take part.  You can vote by clicking here or on the purple button above and choosing BadMammy.com – that’s the first option, nice and easy! Use the Facebook option and it takes five seconds – that’s your good deed for the day done! If you like the blog, I’d really appreciate your vote (and sharing with others in your life to do the same always shares the warm fuzzy feelings). Thanks!

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