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UCL Computer Science Research Placement: Coding and light painting

6 August 2014

Recently, the Computer Science research team lead by Prof. Steve Hailes and in2science provided internship opportunities for 17-18 year olds for the first time. They accepted three students for two weeks with little or no previous experience of coding and who were not necessarily considering Computer Science as a choice of undergraduate degree. The intention was to give them an experience of what it’s like to be an engineer by making use of the Engduino, a UCL developed arduino-based sensor device. The students also met with a number of staff from PhD students to the Vice Dean for Enterprise and gained an impression of the wide-ranging interdisciplinary nature of Computer Science.

The students, Alisha Ahmed, Sylvia Nguyen and Mohika Gupt had this to say about their experiences:

Two weeks with Rae Harbird and Prof Steve Hailes

 

Three of us took part in a two week internship at the Computer Science department at UCL. It was a remarkable experience working with two of the best scientists UCL has to offer. During the two weeks we carried out a series of experiments and small projects to kick-start our programming knowledge and get an insight into what Computer Science has to offer. With two great scientists to aid us along the way, we managed to create and discover some exciting things.

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Light painting with the Engduino

Firstly, we used an Arduino based device called an Engduino to create a game of increasing difficulty. After playing around a bit with the Arduino software and getting to grips with the C programming language, we all managed to create a working interactive game that we were proud of. Secondly, we were given the task of programming the sensors on the Engduino in order to alter the colour of the LEDs depending on a specific factor (such as temperature and magnetic field strength) and producing images to display this in artistic ways. This was a challenge in itself, but as a team we managed to create a fully functional set of codes to create the images.

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More light painting

Aside from these projects, we visited Bletchley Park where we discovered more about the Enigma machine and how it works before returning to UCL to have a go at replicating the enigma machine ourselves using the Engduinos. We also got to visit various teams that use computer science within their work such as for the Virtual reality Lab, Interaction Lab and Institute of Neuroscience. These people were very motivational and it was amazing to see them talk about their passions. Finally, we have been working on creating some code for an experiment to compare human interactions with a multi-armed bandit (machines that gives rewards at a fixed odd) as well as exploring the idea of ant foraging in humans and whether they exploit something with successful odds or explore other areas to find something more. We found this particularly interesting because it really helps us to understand how useful such ideas could be in finding out more to do with human behaviour.

Overall, our experience here at UCL has been both inspiring and thoroughly enjoyable. The best thing about the experience was the fact that we learnt so much about the applications and job opportunities a degree in computer science can offer. It opened our eyes to a whole new branch of engineering/science that we may or may not have even considered before, but are now strongly interested in. We would also like to thank Rae Harbird and Professor Steve Hailes for giving us this great opportunity and organising all of the challenging but fun activities we have done these past two weeks.

 

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The students learn to code

 

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