Rachael and crew have been going round taking videos of students, staff and graduates of the department. If you want to find out what we do at Hull, they are well worth a look.
We normally do a couple of Three Thing Game events each year, but Microsoft came along and asked if we'd like to do a Windows 10 based game development event at the very end of the semester. They offered to pay for the pizza, and so how could we refuse?
We installed Windows 10 on a large number of machines in our computer suite and sent out invites. The event was open to anyone, not just Hull students, and we got a pleasingly large number of unfamiliar faces turning up when the competition started.
The basis of the competition is that each team makes a game based on three "Things" which they are given at the start. Over the years we've used lots of different ways to select the things, from random draws to auctions. This time we used a device that was specially created for the competition. The "Thingomatic" is a magical device that contains a tiny associative dictionary. Press the button and it displays three four letter words. We let each team have three presses and pick the one they really wanted to do.
Once the things had been picked we had a talk from Microsoft about Windows 10 and presentations about Marmalade, Unity and Monogame. We encourage students to use the competition as a way of experimenting with game development frameworks and it was nice to have representatives for each of the platforms.
A great time was had by all and by the end of the 24 hour development we had 12 teams with games to judge. You can find out how the judging ended here.
Every new student is given a free copy of the "C# Yellow Book" when they arrive in Hull. The book is also available as a free download and you can get a copy via Amazon for your Kindle.
Each year the cover has something yellow on it. This is the "custard" edition (sometimes referred to as the "Pyrex" version.
There are a number of translations available, and this will soon include the Korean language.
Rob Miles of the department has just signed a contract for the production of a Korean version. You can pick up your digital copy, along with the entire First Year C# course that we teach, at www.csharpcourse.com
Three Thing Game has been running for quite a few years now. And every time we do it we are surprised by what folks come up with. The idea is simple enough, three things to base a game on and a few days to do it, but the quality of the work has been quite amazing.
We kicked off on Monday 9th March with a "Thing Auction" where students can bid using fake money to buy their things. This year we had the first use of the "Random Thing Auction Timer-Omatic" which we used to make sure that the auction ran at reasonable speed and people didn't wait until the last moment to snipe their bids. You can find out more about this amazing program here.
Once the teams had been allocated their things they have a few days to put together their games, with the culmination of the competition being a 24 hackathon in the department. We had over 100 students at the start. By the end things had dwindled slightly, but we still had 17 teams going forward for the judging. The judges found the top six and they presented their games to the rest of us. You can read a full report on the judging here.
This is Team "I hope my Friends don't bail on me", AKA Jason Powney, showing off the mayhem he had created from "chainsaw", "penguin" and "water".
"Penguin Chainsaw Massacre" had tons of bloodthirsty action, with underwater mine hazards and even a sunken wreck. A very polished production which won first place.
We have a Three Thing Game competition every semester and they are always popular. We strongly encourage all students to take part, not just the game developers in the cohort, as the experience is a very valuable one for any software developer.
Rob Miles of our department has been giving lectures in rhyme as part of the Comic Relief charity appeal for a long time. So long in fact that he has come to the attention of Number 10 Downing Street. This week, following an invitation from Samantha Cameron, wife of the Prime Minister, Rob was invited down to London to take part in a Red Nose Day reception, right at the heart of government.
Rob was alongside other fund raisers of long standing, along with Red Nose Day project managers. A great time was had by all with even guest appearances from David Walliams and David Tennant.
Rob is doing his next lecture in rhyme on Friday 13th of March this year. He has promised/threatened to wear a tutu if he manages to make his sponsorship target.
Today Rob Miles and David Grey of the department gave a Rather Useful Seminar all about "what to do if 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. 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.
We held a Careers and Internships event last year. It went really well so we thought we'd do it again. So we did. And it went really well again. We had loads of companies show up and present, and then they manned stands and took business cards (that we had rather thoughtfully provided) from our students.
Peter Robinson gets things going
One thing that surprised and pleased me was the number of companies in the area doing world beating stuff. And one company mentioned the awesome news that Hull was one of the top ten cities singled out in a recent Tech City UK report. You can find the report here. Skip to pages 45 and 46 for the good stuff.
Plenty of action at the exhibition again
It was great to see the students and employers engaging again. Many companies had brought Hull University graduates with them as part of their teams, and there was something of a reunion flavour to the event, which was really nice. And, of course, we'll run it again next year.
Oooh. Free pens.
The basis of Rob's talk was tuServe, a system developed for a UK police force. He was talking about the way in which a brave developer can achieve a step change in the quality of an application, as long as they can convince the customer (who probably wants to stay with the stuff that they know and love) that what they are talking about is possible.
The pictures on the right are from a case study that Intel have produced about this very successful project. Well worth a read.
Rob Hogg from Black Marble came to see us today. He was talking about "Disruptive Development", the idea that you can use new technology to make a huge difference to the experience of the users.
On Friday 13th of March Rob Miles of the department will be doing one of his (in)famous Lectures in Rhyme in aid of Comic Relief. You can find out more (and sponsor him) here.
After the fun and frivolity of the lecture we'll be embarking on a Red Nose Day themed Three Thing Game. We'll have "rent a thing" events and allow you to exchange your real money for extra "Bank of Thingland" pounds to get more auction winning powers. Microsoft and the MonoGame team will be coming along to take part in all the wizard japes that we have planned.
Rob's fundraising target is £1,500. If he reaches that before the event he says he will do the lecture wearing a pink tutu. Opinions differ as to whether or not this will encourage donations.
Charlotte Godley, one of our students, spent last year at Airbus Industries on an industrial placement. Today she came along and gave a seminar about her experiences.
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. 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 anyone thinking of working in industry at some point, whether on a placement or career.
This week we also had our first meeting of the new "Embedded Development Club". Quite a few folk turned up, if just half of them come back next week with some kit to play with then we'll consider that a win. You can find the slide deck for the presentation here.
Muyiwa Olu gave a really good (and Rather Useful) seminar this week about the Python language. It is great to see someone being enthusiastic about a platform they obviously enjoy working with. I reckon that every programmer should have a bit of Python in their lives, because it is just such a fun language, and it was lovely to see some of the features brought to life. A great presentation from one of our second year students.
You can find the slide deck for the session here.
Next week we have Charlotte talking about Computer Science internships and her type at Airbus Industries writing software, including some Python code.
Yesterday we had our Christmas Bash. This is usually a fairly quiet and select gathering, what with a lot of coursework being due and folks going home for Christmas. But we still found enough people to get through 128 pounds worth of pizza, which is a success of sorts....
Thanks to Adam and his advance purchasing power this event had a strong Super Smash Bros theme. He had managed to get a complete set of amiibos as prizes (including the much sought after Villager amiibo) and set up a tournament for folks to win them. We also had the lovely folks from Platform Expos with their network of Xbox One consoles playing Titanfall. Lob in Halo collection, Super Mario Kart and a wordsearch and you get a pretty good night's worth of entertainment.
f you have any fears about the survival of Nintendo or the future of their Wii U console I really don't think you have much to worry about. From the reaction to the 8 player action (and the fun I had playing it too) I reckon they are going to be fine. One hard core PC gamer left with a newly acquired amiibo and a plan to try and get a console for Christmas. Great stuff
Of course we had a wordsearch. Of course some people came along, sat down with it and spent all their time finding words. And one of them won a prize.
We were having so much fun that we forgot about the timings and the event ran on for quite a while after the finish time. And we will definitely be having another Super Smash Bros session next year. There are more pictures of the event on Flickr. You can find them here.
We had over 150 students involved with Three Thing Game this time. Lots of First Year students, who only arrived a few weeks ago, signed up, got their "things" and spent 24 hours writing games.
We started the event with a fantastic presentation from Dean and Dominique about MonoGame. A few things of note from the session:
- A really good way to make a name for yourself (and get jobs etc etc) is to get involved with the Open Source projects.
- You should publish what you make. The first one probably won't be an overnight success. But the fifth one might be.
- MonoGame is all grown up, with versions for pretty much every platform including the PS4 (and I reckon the Xbox One won't be far behind)
- The new Content Management stuff is awesome
Of course we had pizza. Five hundred pounds worth of pizza.
Lee and Simon building a "pizza fort".
I think we managed to feed everyone OK. The lass on the phone at Domino's listened with increasing incredulity as the order built up, and they had to send out two pizza packed cars to deliver it. Thanks so much to Lee from Microsoft for sponsoring all the cheesy goodness.
We has our second Rather Useful Seminar of the semester today. This time it was all about the Kinect sensor. Rob Miles showed how the sensor, plus a little bit of C# code, could be made to do quite amazing things, not least of which was producting the cabonite models of Welcome Party fame.
Lots of people turned up, fun was had and programs were written. You can find more details of our seminars and the slide decks for them here.
For the last couple of years the department has run "Rather Useful Seminars" every Wednesday afternoon. These are on topics that we know students would find useful, but we can't manage to fit them into our crammed courses. We've covered things like 3D printing, personal presentation, starting a business, web site security, Unity game development and all kinds of useful topics. You can find the latest schedule for this semester here.
Today we had our first seminar of the season. Rob Miles of the department was waxing lyrical about the Arduino platform. This is a startlingly cheap way to get into using tiny embedded computers to do really interesting things. For around the price of a video game you can end up with a computer and a whole range of motors, displays and sensors.
Rob used an powered Arduino device to create his "Tags of Fun" which were used to dish out drinks at the Welcome Party and he will be using the tags in the first year programming course to award spot prizes to students duirng lectures.
Judging by the response of the audience this is something that folks are keen to have a to at, and so we will probably set up a "Hardware Fiddling" club for students who are interested in getting to grips with embedded development.
Some time back we were discussing the first week of the new semester. One of the things that we talked about was the very first weekend that new students spend away from home. We thought it might a good time to do something social. So we decided to set up a Frag Fest.
We gave the event a name "Festival of Daring and Excitement" and got entry forms and tickets printed. The basic structure was a bit like an all day Christmas Bash (a party we have at, er, Christmas) with PC games, console games and board games spread around the department and a massive pizza drop around half way through.
We weren't sure if anyone would be turn up, but then we sold around 110 tickets and so I thought we might be on to something. We ran the event for 12 hours, from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm.
At 10:00 am a few folks turned up and by mid-day the top floor of our building was buzzing nicely. Some folks turned up, signed into their favourite game and settled down for the long haul. Others formed a posse and went from room to room, trying PC gaming, Xbox 360, Xbox One and a totally crackers game called "Gang Beasts" in one of our Lecture Theatres. And some sat down played board games, including a four hour marathon session of Risk.
By the end of day we were down to the hard core of games playing in what we will now be calling "The Steam Room". A good time was had by all. We ran a little survey afterwards and two thirds of the respondents want a festival every month, which is nice. We're not sure about that, but there is a strong chance we will do one every semester and open it up to all students, not just the new arrivals. And the Hull Computer Society (Hull Comp. Sci.) will be running multiplayer gaming on Wednesday afternoons for those that want their fix of mayhem every week.
Today His Royal Highness the Duke of York came to see us at Hull. Prince Andrew stopped off in the department, where we showed him some of our new toys and what we were doing with them. Then he moved on to a meeting at C4DI which had been organised by the Yorkshire Post Business Club to bring industrialists, educators and local government together for a roundtable debate on apprenticeships, education and vocational learning.
He left apparently very impressed with the technology we are working with and the useful skills that we give our students, which was nice.
We had our First Year welcome party today. In the olden days we used to have cheese and wine. We don't do that any more. Nowadays we have Occulus Rift powered racing, 10 player Xbox mayhem, Wii U, Digital Scalectrix, Xbox One and Rocksmith Guitars. Plus we will also embed you in carbonite, just like Han Solo at the end of Star Wars, courtesy of our Kinect 2 sensor and Ultimaker printers.
There was quite a queue of folks waiting to be "Carbonised", we'll be printing for a while after the event.
We had two seats set up for racing, with force feedback steering wheel, and Occulus Rift for the view. Great fun.
We also has a whole bunch of Xbox consoles.
Thanks to Platform Expos for the use of their console setup.
We had so many people that we had to get out extra tables when the quiz started. Great fun.