We spoke with Abigael, a Fire Tech tutor, about all things tech, including her journey into STEM, her teaching experience, who inspires her, and what excites her about the future of technology.
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you studied.
Abigael: I have just graduated with a degree in Material Science Engineering at Imperial College London. A lot of people think Material Science is about fabric, it’s actually to do with physics and chemistry behind everything that you can see and touch and how that all works together. We study everything from metals to plastics to thinking about how you can grow tissues that have the same kind of strength, stretching biological interaction, and other things in the body.
What led you to choose that course?
Abigael: I had a project I started when I was 13 where we had to design a product from smart materials. I found out that there are some materials that respond differently to light and I was just like “WHY?” and ultimately that led to more curiosity and to me studying Material Science.
Where are you hoping that this course takes you?
Abigael: The cool thing about something like material science is that it gives you so many different transferable skills. The fact that you have to think about things not just from the pure science aspect, but also like from a commercial viability standpoint and from a sustainability standpoint, means that I’ve been able to get a grasp on a bunch of different fields. And because of my interest in both technology and business, I’m hoping to use the underpinnings of science to give me an understanding of a bunch of trends in different industries. For instance, the study going on in the semiconductor industry, but also combining my love with kind of thinking about “how can we actually bring this into the world to work”.
What is the best thing about teaching technology to these young people?
Abigael: I think one of the highlights for me when teaching 9 to 17-year-olds is that they have such an amazing array of responses. When you discuss a topic, some of them have experienced it previously, whereas others have this amazing ability to connect, I guess, a very basic concept of technology with a new application, which I just find astounding.
“You experience seeing their minds actively learning how to use technology as a tool for doing things in the wider world. It’s really, really exciting to be a part of that journey and to do that kind of knowledge transfer.”
What advice would you give your younger self?
Abigael: The advice I would give to my younger self would be not to be scared or intimidated by technology, particularly coding. When I look back, I think I thought, “Oh, this is going to be really hard”. So I didn’t enjoy it and never really gave it a shot. It wasn’t until university when it was compulsory that I really had my first taste of the coding language and I discovered I loved it.
“And you think I can do this! Wow, this could actually help me speed up doing very basic tasks.“
Even though I didn’t necessarily want coding to be a big part of my degree, I decided on my semester abroad at MIT, to take on more classes. I used coding to speed up some parts of my dissertation, such as drawing up diagrams. I think it’s important to understand the technology and not to be afraid to at least give it a go. You don’t have to be the person who knows how to code everything. But if you have an understanding of how if you utilise one part of data science or another technology that is useful to you, you can increase your output by so much.
Why do you think that would be important for young people to join us this October half-term?
Abigael: It’s important for young people to have something really fun and interesting to do during half-term and I think there are three main reasons:
- It’s loads of fun: Half-term is supposed to be a break, it’s supposed to be a time to have fun, to have some downtime. And when I look at the amount of fun that the Fire Tech students are having, they just seem to be enjoying it so much that they forget they’re learning. It is a fantastic way to engage their time.
- Your child can socialise: A typical half-term may involve going over to a friend’s house, however for most, this might not be possible with the current restrictions. Fire Tech gives your child the chance to get this social interaction. Kids can join safely and simply just enjoy hanging out and meeting other young people who are interested in similar topics.
- Giving parents a break: As most of our families spent summer at home, I think it’s great to have something lined up to do that’s guaranteed to go ahead. It will make the whole household more balanced with time apart, given that these times are still very uncertain.
Who or what inspires you?
Now, that’s a very big question. I take inspiration from a variety of different figures. I think when you read widely, you discover that there’s almost like a lesson from every person’s story. I really, really like Michelle Obama’s story, even though it’s not particularly tech-related, just because I think she talks about a lot of the emotional journeys you go through in life.
I get inspiration from someone called Adaobi Adibe, she is a tech entrepreneur who is doing pretty amazing things in solar space, but also in the tech space. There’s another lady called Kike Oniwinde who founded a network called the BYP Network. She’s also doing some amazing stuff in FinTech. And when you look at their backgrounds like Kike Oniwinde, she started by studying accounting and was really good at sports, but ultimately started investment banking and then realised there’s a side that she’s really interested in, which is tech. And she made that transition.
I’m inspired by all these different people because it shows that just because you start in one field or area, that the world is still very much your oyster.
“You just need to be curious to learn new things and willing to put in that hard work.”
Do you have a favourite Fire Tech course you like to teach?
Senior Adventures in Artificial Intelligence – simply because it’s a really interesting course as it’s not just completely focused on the programming, but the kids build new real-world skills while learning a new language. It’s a multi-layered course where they’re learning different things and they each come away with different projects. The kids really learn from each other as they contribute ideas and it’s just a really fun and interactive experience.
What excites you about looking forward to the future and technology?
Abigael: I think the future is exciting because there’s so much potential opportunity for finding new ways of doing things, like manufacturing for example. Traditional manufacturing has been highly wasteful and quite environmentally intensive. But when we think about factories that have started using technology such as 3D printing and A.I. to monitor and make different processes efficient, I think we can see that achieving some kind of climate-related goals. These goals could become possible with the right implementation of technologies. So I think that that’s what I find exciting about the future.
Join Abigael this October half-term. Monday 26th to Friday 30th October 2020. Courses booking now.