Talking LoRa at Hull University

As you can see, there was a lot of publicity for the seminar….

As you can see, there was a lot of publicity for the seminar….

Today I did my LoRa talk at the university. It was great fun, and the audience were lovely. I was in a lecture theatre I know very well from many hours of teaching there in the past. Good to see a few familiar faces and a few new ones. I hope you found the material useful/interesting.

Azure Rather Useful Seminar from Caitlin and Peter

Caitlin and Peter looking relaxed at the start

Caitlin and Peter looking relaxed at the start

Caitlin and Peter, two of our students,  gave a Rather Useful Seminar today all about Azure. I like it when students give seminars. There are a few good reasons for this:

  • students tend to know what is relevant to other students and can pitch the material accordingly
  • It's a great experience for the students to actually give a presentation to an audience
  • I don't have to do any talking, I can just sit and watch

Anyhoo, they showed us how easy it is to build a cloud based service that your program can then use, and that all this cloudy goodness is available for free via Microsoft DreamSpark

At the end of their talk I asked for a show of hands for anyone interested in learning more, and perhaps taking part in an Azure jam session in one of our labs. Pretty much every hand in the room went up. Including mine. 

So, in the next week or so we'll see about booking one of our labs for an hour or so and having a go at building a web application from scratch. Should be fun.

Thanks to Caitlin and Peter for putting Azure into context so nicely. 

Research Rather Useful Seminar

Yesterday, before the excitement of FameLab, we had our first Rather Useful Seminar of the new semester. It was all about research. The thinking behind seminar was that folks don't necessarily understand what research is all about at a university.  So Darryl gave a talk about what you do.  You can find his slides here

Turns out that you can get started during your Final Year project, if you pick a project that is allied to our research efforts. Then you follow a trajectory into postgraduate study, finally emerging with a PhD. The system works, because lots of our PhD graduates are home grown Hull students. 

Darryl did a great talk, but for me the best talk was the one that followed, when one of our PhD students, John,  gave a session about  his research into the effectiveness, or not, of telemedicine technology. For me the absolute best bit was the discussion at the end, where we had all levels of the department, from First Year students all the the way to Readers in the subject discussing the best way to analyse the data and what it really meant. 

We should do more of these. 

Rather Useful Research Seminar this Wednesday

The students are back, and with them we have the return of the Rather Useful Seminar series. The first one is on Wednesday 3rd of Feb at 2:15 (usual time) in Lecture Theatre A on the ground floor of the Robert Blackburn building (one of the usual places). 

The subject is "Research at University"; what it is, how to get started and how to create a Final Year Project that lines up with it. Darryl Davis will be talking about the business of research and then we'll have an actual research presentation from one of our PhD students, John Stamford will be talking about his research into Home Telemonitoring. We will be having more research seminars during the semester.

Next week (February 10th) we'll be having a seminar about Cloud Computing with Azure, and how you can get to do this for free.

Windows 10 on Raspberry Pi Rather Useful Seminar

We had a Rather Useful Seminar today. I talked about Windows 10 on Raspberry Pi 2. Great fun and all the demos worked. It is rather impressive to be able to flip a switch and swap from PC to Pi deployment, and still have all the Visual Studio loveliness including  breakpoints and full debugging support.You can find the slides here.


Paul Talks Security at a Rather Useful Seminar

I bumped into Paul Orlowski a while back. Apparently I taught him something about computers in the 1980's. Paul was studying electronics at the time, but now he is into security. Proper, full on, big company to government security. Of course I asked him to deliver a Rather Useful Semnar. And today he did. 

It was great. Security is a big thing. A big big thing. And it is going to get bigger. Paul made the point that as a career security is an increasingly interesting (and lucrative) choice for a Computer Science graduate.

Paul also explained that security is all about governance and process. If there's nobody at the right level in an institution to ensure that security policies are are properly enacted, or if systems are built without having security at the heart of the development, then we won't get the secure systems that we need. 

We had a really good turnout and everyone went away with plenty to think about. 

Jon Moss from C4DI at a Rather Useful Seminar

Jon Moss from C4DI came along today to give a Rather Useful Seminar. We had another great audience and I was really pleased to see so many First Year students turning up. I'd asked Jon to come and give some tips for success, and to talk about the new C4DI and what it means to our undergraduates.

Jon gave a fantastic talk, drawing on his experience of life to set out a really good agenda for success. I'm not going to steal the content of his entire talk (although it is tempting) but I did make notes of the ten important points that he made.  I hope you can read my handwriting.

The C4DI is entering a really exciting phase, with a new building and lots of local interest in startups and technology. It's going to provide a really great trajectory for students who want to stay in lovely Hull and build something great. The reason I can say that with confidence is that it has already done this.

Thanks again Jon for an excellent talk.

Code Club Rather Useful Seminar

We had Linda Broughton come to see us today and deliver a Rather Useful Seminar about Code Club. Code Club is an awesome non-profit organisation with the aim of getting more kids into coding. Linda pointed out that this is not just so that they can go into computing (although that would be nice), but it is also because knowledge of code makes you a more effective person. Pretty much everything around us is powered by programs and knowledge of how they are made to work is very useful.

Just before the session started I was a bit concerned as we only had five people in the lecture theatre. But I needn't have worried. Everyone was waiting patiently outside the theatre waiting to come in. We had loads of folks wanting to get involved and so I'm now going to sort out another meeting to make up some teams and match them up with some local schools. I was particularly pleased to see lots of students from the First Year turn up.  

The great thing about Code Club is that they do all the hard work before you even turn up at the school. They'll  give you the content  you need to work with the 9-11 year olds that will be waiting for you. The sessions last an hour or so. The kids who are there have specifically asked to turn up after school and take part and you also work with a teacher from the school. Linda says it works great if a team of three or four are assigned to a given school. That way you can go in "mob handed" to help and don't need to worry if have to miss the odd week due to other commitments.

The first step to getting involved is to sign up on their web site and then register as a STEM Ambassador. Being a STEM ambassador is a great way to get involved in promoting science and technology and it also provides you with a route to a DBS check, which you'll need to work in schools. You can find out more here


Suicidal Robots at the Rather Useful Seminar

I did the first Rather Useful Seminar of the semester today. Thanks for turning up and being a great audience folks. I was talking about the joys of just "Making Stuff". We had various flavours of coloured lights, the ThingOMatic and my balancing robot. Which promptly leapt off the desk and smashed itself on the floor.


As I said at the time, "If only I had some kind of device which I could use to 3D printa new part to replace the broken one...". In the next couple of days I'll knock out a design and then get Una to print a new chassis. Only stronger.  


HIVE Rather Useful Seminar

Some of the audience, suitably attired

Some of the audience, suitably attired

Today Jon Purdy from HIVE (the Hull Immersive Virtual Environment) gave a great talk on how 3D displays work, followed by a demonstration of the HIVE systems. It was great to see so many first year students come along because we'd love them to come up with ideas for final year projects and the like using all our shiny toys.

 I took some pictures..

Using a virtual torch to send virtual light into simulated scene on the HIVE wall

Using a virtual torch to send virtual light into simulated scene on the HIVE wall

Using the HIVE cave to check out wind turbines

Using the HIVE cave to check out wind turbines

Video Game Ratings at the Rather Useful Seminar

Today's Rather Useful seminar was all about sex, violence, gambling and drugs. Or rather the precise amounts of these things that can be present in video games and how this affects the age ratings assigned to them. Gianni and Joanna from the Video Standards Council came along and gave a fascinating talk on the origins of ratings and the way that video games are assessed.

Gianni started off with a discussion of the way that Victorian concerns about the effect of "Penny Dreadful" publications had on the minds of the masses have led to the creation of institutions to manage the way that media of all kinds is classified before distribution.

Gianni explained that this is not about censorship as such, but more about allowing people to make informed choices on the content that they purchase. Joanna then filled in the details, doing an excellent job of mapping the various levels of content onto the rating scheme used by PEGI for games released in Europe.

There was some great discussion about the way that the rules apply to different kinds of game and what you can and can't do. If you want to find out more about this fascinating field you can take a look here.

Rather Useful Seminar : Joe Stead Talks Cross Platform C#

We really like it when past students come back and tell us what they are up to. Yesterday Joe Stead came in to give a Rather Useful Seminar all about portable C# development. Turns out that you can use C# on pretty much any platform these days and Joe gave an excellent talk on the best ways to do this, how to get started, and any issues you might encounter.

As you might expect, Xamarin featured quite prominently in the talk and it was very interesting to get Joe's perspective on the platform. Joe showed how you can use a variant of XAML to design the screen and showed how to take a single application and deploy it on IOS, Android and Windows Phone.

Keep an eye on Joe's blog for a copy of the slide deck and the example application he built.

Rather Useful Seminar - What to do when you are stuck

The final slide....

The final slide....

Today David Grey and me gave a Rather Useful Seminar all about "what to do when you are stuck". I think everyone who was there got something out of it. You can find the slide deck here. If you want a quick summary, here goes:

  • Remember that everyone gets stuck on things every now and then (including me). The important thing is what you do when you get stuck - it's all about coping strategies.
  • The first step is owning the problem. You need to attack it. It will not solve itself, it will just end up owning you.
  • One way to own problems is to write them down. Rather than sitting trying to count how many things you've got to do, write down a list and then you can start dealing with each in turn.
  • Once you've written down the problem, decide whether you need to seek help. It is surprising how many students are shy of asking staff for help because they are concerned that we might think less of them, judge them for being stupid, or whatnot. We simply don't have time for this. What we want is as many students as possible to do really well. This is not because we might get paid a bonus. It's because that way we feel like we are doing something useful with our lives.
  • When you ask for help, rather than saying "I've no idea what to do, help me!", as for help with a plan. This can be as simple as getting a copy of the assignment highlighting the terms you're having the most bother with and getting them explained. Or it can be identifying a couple of next steps and asking which is the best one.
  • Break a problem down into chunks. Nobody does anything all at once. So you should find out what the intermediate steps are and then work on each in turn.
  • Give yourself time to fail. Start on work as soon as you get it. That way you can afford to walk away from a problem for an afternoon and then go back and solve it. If you are under time pressure you can't do this.
  • If you hit a problem coding, try to explain it to somebody else (or even the cat). If that doesn't work, take a break for a while and go back to it.
  • And finally, do what it says on the slide at the top.

Charlotte Talks Industrial Placements

As soon as I found out that Charlotte Godley, one of our students, had landed a placement at Airbus Industries I made a mental note to ask her to do a Rather Useful Seminar on her experience when returned to the department. Today she came along and gave that seminar.

It was excellent.

Charlotte started with reasons why you should take a placement for a year. (it just makes you all round more awesome) and reasons why not (it is hard work, and you might get out of step with chums in your cohort who will graduate just as you come back). Then she spoke about the best way to get a placement. I think her approach really boils down to three words.

Have a plan.

Having a plan means things like finding out about a company and tailoring your CV and accompanying letter to chime with what they do. It means thinking about the kind of questions you might get asked at interview and coming up with some really good questions of your own for the company. It means preparing for careers events and making hit lists of companies to target. But most important, it means giving some thought to what you really want to do in your future.

A placement is a great way to find out if you really want to work in a large company, or write Python programs, or travel the world in a van solving mysteries (my favourite). It is also a great way to learn the ways of work, where suddenly everyone around you is not the same generation as you and everything stops at 5:30 leaving you exhausted but looking for things to occupy yourself with.  

Charlotte gave a very good description of these issues and the fact that there were so many detailed questions at the end of the session was a testament to how well the material had been delivered. She has put her slides up on her blog, and I've asked if she wouldn't mind doing a screencast of the deck, as I'm sure it would be useful to all our students.

We are having a Careers and Internships Networking event in two weeks. Hull students can sign up here and get a set of free business cards that they can pass around. We'll be releasing the list of companies coming along so that you can prepare your "hit list".

Students from any year really should come along. First years can be thinking about internships over summer (we have some developers in the cohort who would be well up for this) and second and onward years can be thinking about taking years out or finding employers.