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Diversity and inclusion

Diversity in the spotlight at Hello World Hack 2021

29 April 2021

University students at Hello World Hack 2021 were set a challenge by the IOP (who co-sponsored the event) to look at improving diversity and inclusion in physics.

A key focus of the IOP has been our work to support young people to change the world and build the future they want – not a future limited by someone else’s idea of what people who do physics look like. 

IOP’s student engagement programme supports a network of affiliated physics societies at universities across the UK and Ireland. Societies agree on affiliation to uphold the values of the IOP as an open and inclusive organisation and are encouraged to promote physics in that same spirit of inclusivity whilst proactively reaching out to physics students from diverse backgrounds to ensure their needs are taken on board on campus. 

Earlier this year, the IOP took the opportunity to co-sponsor Hello World Hackathon, hosted by Edinburgh University Women in STEM and the Edinburgh University Programming Society, in return for setting a challenge. 
The inspiring event, which ran from 12-14 February, saw 70 participants from 16 countries gather virtually to learn various forms of coding, which they could use for web development or game design.  

Towards inclusion – one hack at a time 

The IOP challenge was all about designing ways to counter the specific diversity and inclusion issues identified in any physics-related sector. In the interests of inclusiveness, the challenge was also open to anyone outside of the discipline. 

Four teams took up our challenge and worked tirelessly over 48 hours with their mentor to explore and design their solutions. Cathleen Loh, IOP’s Campus Ambassador for University of Aberdeen, who acted as our representative at the event, said: “The initiative, dedication, and resilience that was shown by each and every one of the participants was incredibly inspiring to see, especially during the current challenges that students face as a result of COVID-19.” 

Solutions ranged from creating a game that could help diversity training programs, a website to connect students with volunteer tutors, and a volunteering website that could be connected to LinkedIn, to a website to track stock market prices so that investors would not be limited by their social class or occupation. 

The event then concluded with a virtual pitching event which saw each team book timeslots to make their project pitch in front of a panel in the hopes of winning a £100 book voucher. 
In the end the diversity hack was awarded to Python’s Pilgrims who created a website prototype to match secondary school students and tutors to one another to support students to help support young physics students whose education was disrupted by the closing of schools in response to the impact of COVID-19.

Cathleen Loh said: “They focused on ensuring students were not at a disadvantage because of their socio-economical situations and I thought that was brilliant.” 

Commenting on behalf of the IOP, Gaynor Gardner, member development manager, said: “Events like these are a fantastic way to showcase students’ creativity in a spirit of inclusivity and community. Despite everything being virtual, the students really rose to the challenge and came up with some novel ideas to improve diversity and inclusion. We were very impressed by how that ingenuity was grounded in addressing some very practical issues facing us today.” 

Hackathons are creative problem-solving events where individuals come together to design solutions to real world problems, typically within a 24-48-hour timeframe. They are also just one of many ways that IOP’s student engagement team supports physics students around the UK and Ireland to play their part in creating a thriving community of engaged students and promoting physics in society for the benefit of all.  

Learn more about how you or your student society can make an impact in your physics community.  

Hello World Hack 2021, Edinburgh's beginner friendly hackathon