Salford schoolgirl stars in animated series to encourage girls into STEM careers

Video report by Granada Reports journalist Ann O'Connor

A schoolgirl is starring in an animation to encourage more young girls to pursue a career in science, technology, engineering and maths.

Ava Roberts, who has cerebral palsy, features in the latest episode of 'The Cloud in A Tech We Can' - a series watched by thousands of primary school children to promote the STEM subjects.

The 10-year-old, from Salford, is cast as herself in a five-minute lesson, and says she was delighted to be able to chose her name and what she looked like.

Ava Roberts stars as herself in the latest animation. Credit: Bold Content Video

Her character was created by the team at the production company Bold Content Video for Tech She Can; a charity committed to changing the ratio of women in technology.

Ava said: "I helped choose her outfit and got to pick my favourite one the animators sent over.

"We had a showing in my class with popcorn and drinks! I loved it."

The series of animations explore different aspects of STEM with an aim to inspire young children to think and talk about technology such as drones, robotics, and AI.

Hannah Collins, the animation and post-production producer who created Ava’s character, said she worked very closely with Ava and her mother, Lyndsey Bennett, to make a character "that represents Ava as accurately as possible".

"Physically – her mannerisms and how she moves and speaks," Ms Collins explained.

"We were given some video footage and photos of Ava in her wheelchair and we asked questions about how she wanted to be shown.

"For example, Ava has a tube coming from her nose so we wanted to ensure Ava would be happy for us to feature this.

"It was very important for us to make sure she was comfortable with how she was portrayed."

It is the first time a character with cerebral palsy has been featured in the animations.

It is the first time a character has cerebral palsy in the animation series. Credit: Bold Content Video

The script was written by the teams at Tech She Can and Bold Content, who gave Ava dialogue as a lab assistant to series regulars Katie and Tex the dog.

For the voice-over, the University of Salford was asked if it had an available recording studio, and it offered the facility free of charge.

"Our Tech We Can animations are designed to encourage young children to be inquisitive about the technology they encounter – giving them a simplified understanding of how it works," head of early education for Tech She Can Becky Patel said.

"We want children from as young as five to understand that people design and create the technology they use on a daily basis."

Ava Roberts is thrilled with her character in the animation. Credit: Bold Content Video

Ms Collins added: "It’s really special for Ava to be involved in a project like this.

"We all want this series to be as inclusive as possible, by creating characters from different cultures and with different abilities.

"It’s really important for children to see someone they can connect with and feel represented by.

"Imagine what this will do for other young children who have cerebral palsy to see someone who looks and speaks just like they do.

"When she leaves school, Ava said she wants to be a teacher and “use tech to support pupils like me."

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