The Department of Computer Science offers a number of paid 8-week research internships, usually running over July and August of each year. These positions are open to University of Hull Computer Science students who have attained good grades and can demonstrate good programming abilities, and who are interested in finding out what research in computer science is like.
This year we had a group of 18 interns, including students from first, second and final years, working on projects including: Apps and Augmented Reality; 3D Printing; Robotics Control; Using Electro Encephalograph interfaces; Raspberry Pi and other “Internet of Things” devices; Online MOOC development; Domain-Specific Language exploration; Shipping data tracking; 3D Immersive reality and graphics software experiments.
Student interns were able to use: the Department’s HIVE Immersive Reality CAVE system; Oculus Rift 3D Goggles; Google Glasses; tablets and watch devices; driving simulator systems; 3D printers; and various robots including quad-copter flying drones. Interns work with an academic supervisor and are located at computer workstations alongside postgraduate students in the research laboratories within the Department.
Available internship project topics vary from year to year depending upon the Department’s strategic research priorities. Typically a number of specific internship projects will be advertised in Mid/late May each year and students will be able to apply to take part.
For the last year we’ve been teaching teachers to write Python programs as part of our “Wrestling with Python” programme. In July we invited the teachers, along with their kids, to show us what they could make in a one day hackathon in the department.
This is team “Headlands Blue” with their quadcopter prize. Each team was given three “things” to base their game on. Team Blue chose “Teddy”, “Monkey” and “Saxophone”.
This is a screenshot of what they made. Their "Bleeding Gums Teddy Invasion" game has the player as a monkey frantically grabbing bananas to fling at the approaching evil teddy who is bent on stealing the saxophone.
The event was a great success and we will be running it again next year. We will also be running further courses for teachers too. You can find out more at www.threethinggame.com and www.wrestlingwithpython.com
The department is has now acquired a rather nice quadcopter. We intend to use this in teaching and research, and as part of our internship program which is starting soon. In the meantime we took it up for a flight around the campus and it came up with some stunning results.
Three Thing Game is an established game development competition that we have been running in the department for several years. Teams have to create a game based on three “things”.
When we first ran the competition the things were randomly allocated but in recent years we have run a “Thing Auction” where teams can bid what they’d like to work with. We give each team some “Bank of Thingland” money to bid with and turn them loose. Then we have a 24 hour hackathon where the games and all the assets are created.
It is always great fun, and this year the Summer competition was won with an awesome game based on “flying fish”, “underwater” and “Eiffel Tower”. You can see videos of some of the games that were produced at www.threethinggame.com.
We are already planning the next Three Thing Game for the end of October 2014. Microsoft will be coming along and bringing the MonoGame team along with them.
Peter Robinson and Rob Miles from the department are running hardware meet-ups at the Centre for Digital Innovation (C4DI) in Hull. The C4DI is a place where local software developers meet up and share expertise and ideas and it also serves as an incubator for start-ups in the area. It runs a number of activities for local developers and it is now branching out into hardware.
Peter had even provided a bunch of 3D printed parts that support the flex sensor target, and some cows (taken from milk cartons) to use as targets.
Today the department took part in the first ever Hull University “Big Bang Science Fair.
We had 3d Virtual Reality displays that let you discover what it is like on top of a wind turbine tower out in the North Sea. We also had interactive computer generated art.
We also set up our 3D printer. We are going to use the printer to support student projects and staff research, we have already been using it to print components for our “robot swam”.
The department has just acquired its first 3D printer. Some of the staff have obtained 3D printers already, and Peter Robinson has even built his own. But up until now we have not had one in the department.
That's changed, with the arrival of a brand new Ultimaker. We are going to use it to produce parts for our robot swarm and also to investigate uses of this fascinating technology.
For the second piece of programming coursework each year we let the students choose between a line of business application or a game. This year the theme was banjos for some reason.
You could either build a stock management system for the "Only Banjo Hire Shop in the Country" or you could create a space invaders type game where you use your trusty accordion to fire notes at deadly attacking banjos coming in from above.
The exercises have been designed so that the learning outcomes for the module can be attained by creating either program and there is a detailed specification for each application. And there is a lot of fun being had with attacking banjos just at the moment.
These guys are the winners, Team "121 Gigabits". Their retro-style shoot-em-up had the players trying to find and eliminate their opponents in a world of coloured clones. It was great to play and looked ready for market as far as I could see.
Global Gamejam is great. It stops your world for 48 hours while you create a game from nothing. It's astonishing what people end up with. Last year was the first time that we got Hull students involved in the competition. We said at the time it would not be the last. And so, in 2014 we settled down for another weekend packed with game development daring do.
As before we had students from Hull College, Grimsby College and Hull Studio School as well as from our courses. As before everyone had an amazing time. The theme this year was:
"We see things as we are, not as they are."
Profound stuff. But not profound enough to stop the production of 22 games on a huge variety of platforms, with some amazing gameplay. From a Leap Motion controlled cat simulator to a procedurally generated slaughterhouse, with pretty much everything else in-between. Great fun.
We tried a few new things this year for the Christmas Bash. Firstly we had some micro-talks (thanks to Microsoft for the prizes – above) from students and staff about things they are working on. Danny Brown started with a talk about contributing to Open Source software, then we had talks about app development for Vulcan Bombers, augmented reality that puts meaning into the countryside and why you should all sign up for Hull Global Gamejam next year.
Then we played a game called Werewolf. It was hilarious. If you think that Computer Science Students are all reserved and shy then you should have seen the debate and the way accusations were flying around the room by the end.
Then we had some pizza and mince pies and went off to play Team Fortress, PS4, Xbox One and Wii U games.
Ask any of our First Year students what is occupying their minds just right now and they will probably give you the response “Hyperspace Cheese Battle”. This is the assessed coursework that they are grappling with for our C# programming course. Above you can see the lovingly drawn board.
The game is played in Hyperspace, which means that the directions of movement are given on each square, rather than everyone following the same route around the board. There are special “cheese squares” and you can shoot at other players and cause their engines to explode.
And our students have to make the game work in C# and they will be demonstrating their implementations at the end of the semester.
We had a student powered Rather Useful Seminar today. Tom Forbes is one of our third year students and he has a side-line in computer security. So a while back he offered to give a Rather Useful Seminar about his experiences making the web a more secure place. In fact he wanted to go beyond just talking, and actually set up a web site, just for the hacking of. So he did.
We were actually able to connect to the site and do some injection and scripting attacks there and then. Great fun. You can find out more about the presentation on Tom’s blog.
Platform Expos is a Hull based video game event that runs over a couple of days in the middle of Hull. Microsoft, Sony and a whole host of Video Game developers all get together to talk game development.
The department has been involved with it for quite some time, and this year Simon Grey and Rob Miles took their Raspberry Pi systems on the road to have fun writing Python programs. Simon also gave a talk on game creation.
We had our first "Three Thing Game" event of the year over the weekend. Three Thing Game is a departmental institution, a game hackathon based on three "things" which teams purchase at a "Thing Auction". You can find full details of the event here.
Every week during the semester we run Rather Useful Seminars. These are not part of the taught content of any of our courses, rather they are a chance for us to talk about things that we think are, well, rather useful.
Today we had a session all about the Raspberry Pi computer. Rob Miles brought in a few devices, including his Raspberry Pi powered Arcade Table.
You can find out more about our sessions and upcoming events here.
This year we are trying something new with our First Year students. Each new student is being given a little RFID tag to put on their keyring. Then we are going to try and use these to make lectures and social events a bit more fun, starting with the welcome party for new arrivals.
Normally we hand out free drinks tokens to students who can then exchange them at the bar for whatever they fancy. But that doesn't sound very high tech to me.
This year we are using the "tags of fun" instead. The "Tagomatic" at the bar will read each tag and register the student for a drink. Then we can reset the device when it is time for the second round. We will also be using the tags in lectures to award silly spot prizes.
Rob Miles of the department was lucky enough to get a chance to attend the Hacked.IO hackathon at the O2 Arena. Hacked was a chance to get together and spend two days just making stuff for the fun of it. Rob took down a bag full of embedded devices and make a device that he calls "The Difficultifier".
This is a device intended to make playing music fun by making it more difficult to perform, in the way that using vinyl records are much more tricky to use than modern music players. Users have to select their required music using an RFID tag, adjust a bunch of settings and finally the music will start to play over a Nokia phone connected via Bluetooth.
Because playing music has been made an achievement using this cutting edge technology, it also prints a certificate of achievement when the sound starts.
Rob had 90 seconds to demonstrate this to the audience, and he must have done quite a good job, because he ended up winning "People's Choice" award from the audience.
Today we had a bunch of folks from a local school come and see us and play with our Raspberry Pi systems. Simon Grey and Rob Miles from the department had developed some projects for everyone to have a go with. There was hardware interfacing and also creating MineCraft worlds using Python programs. To say we had loads of fun would be a bit of an understatement.
We did our first ever “in week” Three Thing Game this year. We ended up with 18 teams, which was great, and included one from Boss Alien, a game development company who have hired our students in the past and like coming along to see what we are up to. We also had a Summer Bash, lots of fun playing “The Resistance” and “Braggart". These are the teams at the start of the event. You can find some more pictures here.