How we founded the Bletchley Park AI Microsoft User Group
Published Apr 09 2024 12:00 AM 741 Views
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How we founded the Bletchley Park AI Microsoft User Group

 

Bridging the Gap: An Idea Takes Shape

Bletchley Park AI Microsoft User Group was born out of a simple idea: to fill a gap in our local tech community. As tech enthusiasts and professionals, we noticed that there was a need for a space where people could come together to discuss the latest advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and share their thoughts on responsible AI practices.

Milton Keynes is a leading tech hub in the UK, and was without a user group for any of the Microsoft technologies, and hence there was a need for a space that like minded community heroes and leaders could come together using.

 

AI Buzz: Spreading Positive Messages

Initially, the idea between Stephanie Stasey and Lewis Baybutt, was to create a Power Platform user group to bring our community friends and local tech heroes together for learning and fun. However, the worlds of automation and AI were merging, and we were finding more and more of our time in work and our reading being AI focussed. We had a gap and needed to upskill, so we thought that we could focus the group on that.

 

AI is a buzzing topic, and we wanted to create a community that not only delved into the technical aspects but that also spread positive messages about responsible AI. Thirdly, we were conscious that tech had excluded many groups of people, since Bletchley Park had closed, women had largely been excluded from tech, alongside many other groups, and we were keen to provide a safe space to get up to speed on technology, and the career opportunities it can present. With the majority of local buses going to Bletchley Station and local trains too, we knew Bletchley Park enabled people to use public trasnsport, especially from underprivileged areas.

Our goal was to foster an environment where everyone, regardless of their background, could engage in meaningful conversations and learn from each other to ensure that in our local community, we played our part in ensuring we use AI tools responsibly.

 

Some evangelism at Santander Work Café in MK

Kicking off the planning and evangelism for what was to become the Bletchley Park AI Microsoft User Group, Stephanie and Lewis engaged over a working lunch in the incredible Santander Work Café at Unity Place in Milton Keynes, to start ideation and evangelism around all things ‘an AI user group for Milton Keynes’.

Ideas were thrown out on a page where we then carefully built a strategy around how we would nurture the local community, taking advantage of an excellent opportunity to reflect on some of the history of our local area, focusing on the legacy of Alan Turing and the Bletchley Wrens as pivotal leaders in the history of technology’s success.

 

Diverse Founders, Shared Vision

Stephanie Stasey and Lewis Baybutt, BPAIMUG’s co-founders, whilst in technical careers, didn’t hold computer science degrees, but their determination to widen participation drove them forward. Recognizing the need for diverse perspectives, we invited data expert Leon Gordon and low-code and AI expert Chris Huntingford to join our team. It was important to us that we had group leaders from various technical backgrounds and communities. Today, AI is being applied to every industry and technology practice, and the risk is that the data used to train these models comes with biases built in. By widening participation in AI to marginalised groups this will help to spot bias in the models before solutions are made mainstream. It was hence our mission to ensure we created a group that was welcoming to different areas of the technology industry by having leaders from different technical spaces.

 

Bletchley’s Legacy: Inclusion Woven into Our Group

Our fortunate location in the city of the home of the codebreakers - Bletchley Park - inspired us. We reflected on the legacy of Alan Turing and the Bletchley Wrens, the majority female workforce who played a pivotal role during World War II. In their honour, we seamlessly wove inclusion into the fabric of our user group ensuring that we provided an opportunity for anyone in our local and broader community to share thoughts on AI and the responsible use of AI with our friends.

 

SCIoT: Our Perfect Home

SCIoT, situated on the grounds of Bletchley Park, is our current home. This education facility caters to students interested in the tech space. Its late hours provided us with an ideal location to bring together technology heroes, community members, and aspiring AI enthusiasts.

You can find out more about the South Central Institute of Technology here - The South Central Institute of Technology - Home (southcentraliot.ac.uk)

 

Engaging with Local Heroes

Engaging with local technology founders and leaders was key. By inviting technology leaders, heroes and community members from the local space and organisations in Milton Keynes such as Santander, Code for Her, Milton Keynes NHS Foundation Trustm RedBull Racing and more, we expanded our reach while maintaining our broad invitation to people across the country. Our discussions became richer, and our audience grew.

 

Expertise and Opportunities

Our user group is continuing to thrive today, thanks to highly talented speakers and experts from organizations including Microsoft, GitHub, and Nordcloud. They share technical expertise, upskilling our community and emphasizing responsible AI practices.

The Bletchley Park AI Microsoft User Group is the home of discussions around artificial intelligence, Microsoft technologies and responsible AI in Milton Keynes. Join us at an upcoming meet up to learn something new about AI soon!

 

Aka.ms/Bletchley_AI

 

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‎Mar 30 2024 11:10 AM
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