CRACKING THE CODE

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How coding's growing appeal is bringing gender diversity back to tech. Photography by Arvida Byström Words by Ellen Groves

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How coding’s growing appeal is bringing gender diversity back to tech.

Photography by ARVIDA BYSTRÖM
Words by ELLEN GROVES

“We designed and built a very low cost, 3–D printable, asteroid–hunting telescope. That you can control with a smartphone.”

Meet Eleanor Harding, a developer and designer who has worked with the Open Space Agency to help NASA track near– earth asteroids. From attending her fiƒrst hackathon (collaborative programming events rather than hacking banks) two years ago to having her work presented at the White House, at 23, Harding is proof of where technology can take you—and fast. If you know how to code.

Harding, whose start–up consultancy won a design contract with Twitter this year, has been named a One to Watch 2016, as part of an initiative by London–based Code First: Girls to help change programming’s man’s–world image. The project was conceived to promote 25 women under 25 making an impact in tech, and provide the kind of role models Harding herself lacked on her journey into tech. “I felt a massive gap for a female Mark Zuckerberg, a female Elon Musk,” she tells HONORE.

“With coding you can really use the tools to express your creativity and build something that didn’t exist previously,” she says. “It’s that wonderful indescribable feeling of turning an idea into a thing over a few hours.” One of ƒfive female graduates on her Computer Science course in her native South Africa, Harding is happy she chose Computer Science over Information Science. Most of her female course mates switched over to the latter which tends to be more “documenting” than creating, she says.

Being on the creative side has taken Harding from being just another recent graduate in London, to coding and designing the interface for the app for the Ultrascope, a telescope to help NASA locate all asteroid threats to human populations. The Ultrascope, currently in testing, will be 3–D printable, to eœffectively crowdsource asteroid–hunting. “There is a bunch of incoming asteroids,” Harding explains, “but before ƒfiguring what to do about them you have to know where they are and what they’re made out of. You ƒfigure it out by staring at them for about six hours with a telescope. That’ll tell you what it’s made out of and that’ll inform what you can do with it. But because it’s six hours per asteroid, it’s like there’s almost a six million–hour bottleneck NASA has to deal with. They don’t have the capacity to work on that scale.”

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Read the full story in HONORE #2