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Manchester High School for Girls

HONOURING TRAILBLAZERS OF THE DIGITAL WORLD

Talented Art and Graphics students from Manchester High School for Girls have recently been involved in a not so top secret creative project, as the Home Office opened their newly refurbished Cyber Security Operations Centre (CSOC) on September 7th.

Two rooms at this fantastic facility based in Salford, have been named after two pioneers of computing and cryptography; Ada Lovelace and Alan Turing. This summer, A-level Fine Art students, Axelle Sibierski, Connie Baxendell and Michelle Ameh, joined A-level Graphics students, Hannah Farnell and Bethany Woodhead, in the once in a lifetime opportunity of producing a series of artworks to represent each of these important figureheads of the early tech industry.

In an era when women were routinely denied an education, Ada Lovelace not only broke with protocol but also pioneered what we know today as a computer. As an articulate and strong mathematician, Ada’s work on Charles Babbage’s ‘Analytical Engine’ gave us what many consider today to be the first ever computer programme, recognising the full potential of this type of machine decades before most others.

Michelle described how she felt about creating a piece for the Lovelace room: “I was so excited to be given the opportunity to create a piece of work to represent Ada Lovelace, she was an incredible woman who exceeded expectations for her gender in the 19th century.”

Turing’s work at Bletchley Park, the top-secret home of the war’s codebreakers, is widely celebrated and Manchester High alumna, Lilian Nanette Wise, was a ‘Hut 6’ employee supporting the work of cracking the Enigma code during World War II.

When asked about her creation for the Turing room, Axelle explained: “I wanted my piece to be a nod to all the dimensions of Turing, not just his incredible work with Enigma and his cipher, but to represent his whole story and include reference to him being posthumously pardoned after being convicted due to his sexuality in a time when same sex relationships were illegal.”

Manchester High School for Girls currently works with tech giant UKFast and earlier in the year also hosted a National Cyber Security Centre ‘Cyberfirst Day’, searching for the next generation of cyber security professionals. These STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) activities help pupils understand the importance of computing and technology through the ages, the growing significance of cyber security across all industries and the need for women to stay involved.

The Cyber Security Operations Centre monitors the Home Office IT estate to identify and respond to cyber security incidents. Security Minister Ben Wallace visited the CSOC to hear about the work that the staff carry out on cyber security.

The Minister said:

“It was a pleasure to meet the students from Manchester High School for Girls and to see the impressive artwork they’ve produced. I know the team working at the centre will enjoy the results of their efforts.

“As they work at the cutting edge of cyber security it’s great they will be able to reflect back on the careers of Ada Lovelace and Alan Turing – such inspiring pioneers in their fields.”

Oliver Quaye, Head of Operations at CSOC explained why he thinks MHSG students were a great fit for this project:

“I am delighted that the school was so interested in helping us make these rooms feel special and that the girls have been so passionate about the project from the beginning. 

“We know the history of the school in terms of Bletchley Park, with alumna Lilian Nanette Wise having been instrumental in the code breaking effort during the war. What better choice for a commemoration of the Enigma programme than to have modern day students produce artwork of what these two pioneers mean to them!

“The fact they were prepared to spend time during their summer holidays in testament to this and we are so impressed with the high standard of work they have produced.”  

More photos of the event are on our Flickr