By Michael Lopez/reporter
Faculty and volunteers hosted an event to celebrate the life of Ada Lovelace, an important figure in computer programming, and to introduce students to programming Oct. 9 on NW Campus.
Lovelace was arguably the first computer programmer in the world, NW computer science instructor Judy Pennington said. She lived during the 1800s and used a crank calculator to print out the language for computer programming.
“Since we use computers so much in our society, we should know more about the development of them and the people behind it,” Pennington said. “It is important for women to recognize the effort she put in, especially in such a male-dominated field.”
Lovelace, though intelligent and pivotal in the development of technology, is often overlooked, especially at the time she lived and because she was a woman.
“She created the first actual programming language before computers were even invented,” NW computer science instructor Steve Smiley said.
Lovelace used a “difference machine,” an early calculating machine created by Charles Babbage. With this machine, she created the language used in computer programming.
Multiple computers were set up in the WTLO theater lobby, so students could get a “hands-on” experience. Each had the computer game LightBot set up.
“The game is used to represent computer programming – as the player sets up the symbols, the robot will move in that specific set up,” Pennington said. “It is mainly trial and error to finish the game.”
The game represented coding in the sense that the arrow symbols were the command lines and the robot was the program, she said.
“Sometimes you have to go back and see what you did wrong, but the correct outcome feels very rewarding,” Pennington said.
The event included a coding competition where faculty and students competed for a chance to win a certificate and a $25 gift card. Chocolate candy at each station sweetened the deal, and winners picked their favorite candy bar.
“Women weren’t up to high standards at the time, but she [Lovelace] broke the social norm, and I think her being the first computer programmer inspires other women in the STEM program,” NW student Edrik Aguilera said.