How Ava is Encouraging Young Girls into STEM Studies

    We’ve not even completed the first month of the year 2023 and we’ve been hit by tech companies laying off employees by the thousands. In the first three weeks of January, there have been 56,500 people laid off.

    And, the news trickling in is that it is women and people of colour who are most affected.

    This has come in spite of efforts to encourage more women to enter the world of technology. It might come as a surprise but apparently, we don’t have enough women in tech! (That was sarcasm. It’s not news at all. It’s been a fact for a while now.)

    As a result, there have been several efforts to encourage more women to take on tech roles and get promoted.

    Tech She Can: Encouraging Women in STEM Studies

    According to a report by McKinsey, most women tend to drop out of STEM studies either during the transition from primary and secondary to university or in the transition from university to the workforce.

    Therefore, most efforts focus on encouraging girls in school to take up STEM. One such effort is by a charity called Tech She Can. Among the many resources it offers, there’s one called Animated Lessons

    These short animations discuss various technology topics and how they play a role in our lives. They encourage primary school students to think and talk about these subjects.

    Some of the stories in these lessons include talking about cashless payment, drones, robotics and AI, and virtual reality.

    Whilst the effort is commendable in itself, the charity recently came into the news for the latest video in the series. 

    The earlier videos featured Katie (a young research scientist) and Tex (a robotic dog created by Katie). The latest video—which talks about the cloud and how it is useful for storing and accessing information— introduces a new character, Ava (Katie’s research assistant), who was the focus of this ITV News article.

    Ava, the character, is being “played” (voiceover and character inspiration) by 10-year-old Ava Roberts. This young lady is a resident of Salford and has Cerebral Palsy. 

    Ava was reported to have been delighted to be able to choose the name and what the character would look like.

    How Ava Made Ava Come to Life

    Hannah Collins is the animation and post-production producer at Bold Content—the company that created the animation—and the creator of the character. 

    Ms Collins says she worked closely with Ava and her mother, Lyndsey Bennett, to ensure the character was as close to her namesake as possible. 

    Making the character as similar to Ava as possible included incorporating her mannerisms, and the way she moves and speaks in the animated Ava. That included the nose tube that the girl wears, but only after it was established that she was happy for the character to be shown with it.

    The idea was to ensure that Ava was completely happy with the character. And, according to the article, she was!

    She is quoted as saying, “I helped choose her outfit and got to pick my favourite one the animators sent over.

    “We had a showing in my class with popcorn and drinks. I loved it!”

    Now, if you thought this heartwarming tale ends here, you’d be wrong.

    The character design and animation were just the first part of the process. The next step was recording the voiceover. The script—written by Tech She Can and Bold Content—had to be recorded.

    So, they asked The University of Salford if they could use its available recording studio. Not only did the University acquiesce but it also offered the facility free of charge.

    It seems like everyone involved in this project wanted to do their part to encourage girls in STEM studies. Including Ava. Who says she wants to be a teacher and “use tech to support pupils like me.”

    If that doesn’t inspire you, what will?
    (The video might. You can watch it here: The Cloud)

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