As the six-week Outbox Incubator hits its midway point, Elle Loughran tells us how the Irish girls are getting on in London.
I think a lot of Outbox Incubator, a first-of-its-kind incubator for girls in STEM, is about developing independence. So it was appropriate that my journey began with being dropped off outside Dublin Airport and negotiating my own way through check-in and internet disasters before finding Christine, an Outbox friend I’d met at Inspirefest earlier this year. We flew together – the Irish STEM teen circle is tight – and met Kate, Ciara and Aileen at Gatwick Airport, plus a Stemette.
Outbox, at least in week three, has been dominated by Irish girls.
I originally applied because friends and people I knew were tweeting about it. People from CTYI, from BT Young Scientist and other competitions, from different work experiences, from conferences. It’s funny how often I unexpectedly see the same people at STEM events, but I guess Ireland is small and the subset of Irish teenagers who are into tech is smaller (but growing!).
Science, technology, engineering and make-up
We were given a house tour on arrival by some friendly Outbox executives, then settled in for a movie and some roommate bonding time. I was quite impressed by the ridiculous amount of food in the pantry – we once used 6kg of spaghetti in one meal.
‘The Irish STEM teen circle is tight. Outbox has been dominated by Irish girls’
During the week, we had two sessions a day from various speakers, focusing on marketing and branding. Many were from Salesforce and Cloud Sherpas.
One of my favourite sessions was one where people from Steer taught us HTML and CSS. That was great because I needed to brush up on those.
We had talks on pitching, notably from one of our interns who told us how MIT Launch does it. We had activities with both Sue and Emma Black. Dr Black told us about Bletchley Park and Emma helped us cook spaghetti Bolognese.
We also had a make-up artist come in one evening and show us some techniques (quote from Elizabeth: “We’re at STEM camp learning science, technology, engineering and make-up”). Most of us went down the wacky route. Here’s Christine Costello (@Costello179) as David Bowie:
Outbox Demo Day
As the week went on, preparations for Demo Day on Saturday intensified.
On Demo Day, we would pitch to investors from O2 ThinkBig for funding and mentorship. Many of the girls had been around for a week or two by the time I arrived, so they had business ideas and got to pitching quickly.
It was really interesting to watch the improvised pitching sessions we held in the garden and see everyone’s ideas. The house culture is very supportive, so we could pitch to each other in a friendly environment before meeting the investors.
We ended up with 29 pitches on Saturday, including apps for getting into politics, making responsible purchases and understanding the law, medical devices and social networks, to name a few. I pitched Flaxim, a range of smart bands to make allergies safer.
Awards were given afterwards, and then we left for one of my highlights of the week: Olympic Park!
Craic agus ceol
It was really cool travelling around London, seeing the Tate Modern, the Thames, London Bridge and this awesome funfair, which I think was a well-deserved way for us to let off steam and, for the non-English people, a great way to get some tourism in.
Another huge highlight has been the jam sessions we have here. Sure, we get lots of brilliant business expertise and are surrounded by talented, ambitious teenagers, but music is another thing that helps us all connect. I have to say, bringing my ukuele was a great idea.
Sometimes we sing well, and sometimes we sound like Pickles (the house cat), but it’s all for the craic. (Speaking of craic, the English girls don’t know what it means and it’s hilarious.)
— Aoife (@trebletotheclef) August 14, 2015
There have been plenty of birthdays during Outbox, which are fun. I turned 17 on 11 August and we all had cake.
It’s been amazing meeting all these girls with diverse, interesting ideas and experiences and ambitions, and talking to other people who’ve done unusual things in STEM. It might be a bit skewed – my only introduction to English universities has been all the people here who want to go to Oxford or Cambridge and are disappointed with above-average grades. But hey, why not set your sights high?
I didn’t know exactly what my aim was when I came here, but I think, as I enter my second and final week, I’ve discovered it.
My experience this summer has been one of interlinked opportunities. I do some cool, unusual tech thing and then out of that come one or two more. That’s what I want to do at Outbox: accumulate threads so there’s always one to pick up on.
We’re bombarded with so many amazing experiences and meet so many people here who we never would otherwise that it can be easy to forget their significance. So I’m really glad that the Stemettes will continue to support us over the next year while we have time to reflect and put what we’ve learned into practice.
I have another week here, and I’m going to be very sad to leave. Hopefully, I’ll get to come back in some capacity soon. Now, I’m off for more adventures.
Elle Loughran is a soon-to-be sixth-year student in Our Lady’s College Greenhills in Drogheda. She blogs daily at frizzyroselle.blogspot.ie and is currently researching the use of graphene for cancer diagnosis. She is also a freelance writer and enjoys reading and playing the ukulele.
Women Invent 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 Intel, Eircom, Fidelity Investments, ESB, Accenture and CoderDojo.