The woman believed to have written instructions for the first computer program in 1835 and others were the focus of an art and research competition to mark International Women’s Day at St Joseph’s Catholic Primary Moorebank.
The students’ works will be displayed for parent visitors the day after the global March 8 event, which celebrates the contributions women make to society.
“As a school we’ve been looking at how we can ensure our girls are achieving in Maths, so we asked the students to research women who were inspirational in the fields of either Science or Maths,” Assistant Principal Sean Brown said.
“I think it’s important because a lot of people see those Maths and Science subjects as boys’ realms. This gave all of the students the opportunity to see that girls are just as influential in these areas and just as talented. The initiatives that some of them have started are amazing, so hopefully the girls here see they have the potential to do those things as well.”
Among the figures students could research for the competition were British mathematician and first female president of the London Mathematical Society Dame Mary Cartwright, and 2012 Young Australian of the Year and Robogals founder Marita Cheng. The not-for-profit organisation aims to increase female participation in Engineering, Science and Technology through educational initiatives for primary and secondary school girls.
Maryam Mirzakhani, an Iranian mathematician and the first woman to win the coveted Fields Medal, American computer scientist and Navy rear-admiral Grace Hopper, and Engineer Debbie Sterling were also on the students’ list.
Year 5 students Selina Powderly and Scarlett Reith were among the students who researched influential female mathematicians. Selina chose to deliver a Powerpoint presentation on Ada Lovelace, the daughter of poet Lord Byron who introduced the concepts computer language is based on before she died of cancer at age 36.
“Her interests were Mathematics and she liked to do Science,” Selina said. “She wrote the first computer program, or is believed to have. I chose to research her because she’s inspirational to me. She was a great mathematician and her life was really interesting.
“They’re both interesting subjects, especially Science. I love researching things and doing experiments.”
Scarlett presented a poster on Debbie Sterling, whose ‘Goldiblox’ book and construction series introduces girls to the field of engineering.
“When she was in high school and was doing Science she decided to make a girls engineering group because she believed that girls can do engineering like boys,” Scarlett said.
“It’s one of the most popular girls’ toys, in 6,000 stores worldwide, and a stepping stone for girls into a future in engineering. With the game, you read the story and after that you have to create a prop from the story.
“I knew I wanted to do this person for the project because she inspires little girls. That’s why I chose her. Experiments are really fun because you get to try new things.”
Year 3 student James Tsaousis, 8, chose to do a water colour painting of his mother.
“I chose her as an inspirational woman because she gives me the ability to have courage, to believe in myself and to do the right thing and new things,” he said.
“I chose pink for the shirt because it reminds me of her love. I chose rainbow in the background because she’s like a rainbow in the sky how beautiful she is. She teaches me new things and goes through them a lot of times so I completely understand them.”
Shelley Crotty, also in Year 5, created a diorama of Mary. “I chose Mary because she gave birth to the baby Jesus and she cared for him very well,” she said. “She’s an inspiration because she believed in God and prayed a lot.”
The projects will be displayed in St Joseph’s library during Catholic Schools Week.