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Featured Article 14 Nov 2014

“It was really great fun. I didn’t know I was going to win,” says Lauren Boyle, the 10-year-old Irish superstar recently named European Digital Girl of the Year 2014.

“And when I did I just tweeted, ‘OMG! I am Digital Girl of the Year 2014’, and 57 people retweeted it!”

Boyle’s Cool Kids Studio, an initiative she coded herself that now spans three websites, has gained significant recognition in recent months, the culmination of which saw her head over to Rome to receive her latest illustrious award.

Completely undaunted by the storm of interest in herself and her projects, Boyle still smiles as she explains what happened at the European Ada Awards ceremony two weeks ago, which was part of the e-Skills Making a Career with Digital Technologies event.

“It was really fun,” she says. “You got to see the conference, it was called the E-skills for Jobs Conference.” I ask her what the moment was like when the man on the stage read out her name? “It was a woman.” My bad.

“It was great. The morning after we had to stay in the hotel until three o’clock to deal with all the Twitter stuff, saying ‘thank you’, ‘thank you’, ‘thank you’, to all the people who wished me well. People were saying ‘I’m going to tell my girls about you tonight’, or ‘well done …’ There were a lot of 'well done' messages.”

Pride and excellence

Upon her return to Dublin, Boyle’s school principal was very supportive, with her schoolmates, too, happy for her success.

“My principal found out and then told everyone that it’s the second award I had won, ‘Lauren Boyle won the European Digital Girl of the Year!’ People were asking what the award meant, but most said congratulations.”

A website for kids, designed by a kid, Cool Kids Studio has already seen Boyle awarded the Next Generation Award for Excellence at the Irish Internet Association’s Dot IE Net Visionary Awards, while it was also recognised in the websites category at this year’s CoderDojo Coolest Projects Awards. Did we already say she is age 10? She was nine when most of these awards were handed out.

Soon after, Boyle was on a panel at an Intel Women in Tech event in the Science Gallery in Dublin, and was presenting at the Web Summit in Dublin last November to a crowd of 5,000 people, working the CoderDojo stand and no doubt impressing even more tech enthusiasts.

“I was on a panel on the schools’ summit. Then on the Wednesday I was on the CoderDojo stand, then I was making a presentation that afternoon and the next day I was on the CoderDojo stand again,” she says. For the presentation, Boyle was mic’d up, “and the doors to the stage just opened up themselves … ‘In comes Lauren Boyle’.”

The power of STEM

Perhaps Ireland’s youngest advocate of STEM in schools, Boyle has her own ideas of how the next generation can be encouraged to enter the areas of science, technology, engineering or maths.

Most kids, Boyle explains, see a laptop and think of it as a finished product, they don’t think of what was done to create it, what coding was required, what engineering.

“Kids would be more users than makers,” she says, before explaining a fine project a friend of hers in the US did when in school.

“My friend in the States, her class made a business where they were selling sweets. So they had to work out the maths behind how much the sweets cost, how to make a profit,” she says. 

Leaders’ questions

The practical side of maths is clearly what’s key, and there’s plenty of people in power out there who would do well to listen to what Boyle has to say, with a particularly impressive political meeting lined up in the near future.

“I’m going to be teaching the Taoiseach how to code to open the Hour of Code,” explains Boyle. Her influence on politics isn’t anything new, either. Boyle was Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation Damien English’s first meeting upon ascension to his position, discussing coding and getting it on to the curriculum.

“I’ve also met Mary Mitchell O’Connor, TD. I’ve not met the Taoiseach before, I’ve seen pictures. I’m just going to try and teach him.” 

Women Invent Tomorrow is Silicon Republic’s campaign to champion the role of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. It has been running since March 2013, and is kindly supported by Accenture Ireland, Intel, the Irish Research Council, ESB, Twitter, CoderDojo and Science Foundation Ireland.

Gordon Hunt

This article was originally published on www.siliconrepublic.com and can be found at:

http://www.siliconrepublic.com/innovation/item/39327-wit2014/

(Caption)

Lauren Boyle, European Digital Girl of the Year 2014

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