Bloomington's Professional Theater Company

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HT: Bloomington Celebrates its First Ada Lovelace Day

Emily Cox | HT Reporter

October 9, 2019


On Tuesday, there were more than 100 events going on in 18 countries on six different continents to recognize and celebrate Ada Lovelace Day, according to Kate Galvin, Cardinal Stage’s artistic director. One of those events took place in Bloomington.


Lovelace is considered the mother of the modern day computer due to her work in computer programming. Lovelace envisioned the computer being used for more than numbers. She viewed it as a way to explore music and language, said Jane Martin, a host and sponsor of the event.


“She is symbolic of what is distinctive about Bloomington, because we embrace the arts and we embrace diversity,” said Martin. “We have a different kind of tech and innovation culture and Ada, I think, is iconic for that.”

Cardinal Stage and The Dimension Mill hosted a celebration of women innovators at the Mill. Panelists talked about the impact of Lovelace, how art can work together with science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and what can be done to encourage more women and minorities to pursue STEM careers. The event was moderated by Teri Willey, executive director of the Indiana University Philanthropic Venture Fund.


While Lovelace was born at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, her legacy continues, and panelist Laurie Burns McRobbie, IU’s first lady, said a lot of this has to do with her social and economic class. Lovelace was white and well educated, she said.


“There are all kinds of brilliant women of color and men of color out there that may not be getting recognition because of our unconscious and conscious stereotypes,” she said.


When talking about the future of STEM, Katy Börner, Victor H. Yngve Professor of Engineering and Information Science at IU, said artificial intelligence has and will continue to impact jobs.


Indiana is one of just five states in the country to have implemented all nine policies promoted by the Code.org Advocacy Coalition with the goal of providing a foundation for K-12 computer science education. By 2021, all public school districts in the state must include computer science in their curriculum from kindergarten through 12th.


Christine McDonnell, CEO of Codelicious, which licenses and uses a curriculum for K-9 educators to teach, said Lovelace looked at computer science comprehensively, which is a way it can be taught.


“You can teach them so that students of different learning styles, of different interests, can embrace a piece of computer science, and see themselves in it in the future,” McDonnell said.


She said computer science is applicable to many jobs, including being doctors, farmers, programmers or athletes.


“When we begin to show them computer science is more than just sitting behind a computer, it’s about getting out there and problem solving and analytics in a field that you love, computer science is everywhere,” McDonnell said.

Panelist Nathan Ensemenger, chair of the School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering at IU, said most early computer programmers were women. He said by letting people know this and sharing stories, more people may feel like they fundamentally belong in the field.


After the panel discussion, Mayor John Hamilton read a proclamation to recognize the inaugural Ada Lovelace Day in Bloomington. The inaugural Ada Lovelace Day award was given to Börner.


One reason the city celebrated Ada Lovelace Day is because Cardinal Stage is doing a production of “Ada and the Engine,” a play written by Lauren Gunderson, in the spring.


“Part of the reason we decided to do the show was because of this connection, and the fact that there is this internationally celebrated Ada Lovelace Day,” said Cassie Hakken, Cardinal Stage marketing manager.


“We specifically wanted to emphasize the relationship between STEM and the arts and how those can work together.”


Cardinal Stage hopes to raise enough donations through a fundraising website to have 450 students come see the play, which will open in March.