UCD Computer Science Summer School 8 June 2017
Posted: 16 June 2017
Have you ever wanted to experience Oculus Rift, create Lego Mindstorms or discover the Maths behind Google? These are just a sample of activities completed by 77 fifth year secondary school pupils from 50 schools from 13 counties of Ireland during the UCD Computer Science Summer School on 8 June 2017.
The day began with workshops and talks run by current UCD postgraduates and professors. Postgraduate student Evan O’Keefe ran a series of programming workshops. Using Greenfoot, a program used to learn Java, students were assigned coding tasks as an introduction to programming. Each student designed an algorithm to create visual demonstrations, such as moving and speaking crabs and otters. This was fifth year secondary school student Sani’s favourite part of the summer school as he explained he had never done ‘proper programming’ before. Current computer science undergraduates and postgraduates were present to assist students during the workshop. Sani was grateful for their help saying ‘the student leaders were so helpful and enthusiastic during the workshops. They were very approachable, I learned a lot’.
Students get to grips with Greenfoot as part of the programming workshop
In the first lecture, Associate Professor Chris Bleakley explained to students what Computer Science is. During this lecture students learned about the modern computer organisation which stems from research carried out during World War II. An overview to the three fundamental elements of computer science – programming, algorithms and software systems was given and the lecture also gave an outline of what to expect in the DN201 Computer Science programme in UCD. Information was also given of the various support systems such as the Maths and Computer Science support centres available on campus in UCD. In the following lecture, Associate Professor Neil Hurley touched on the Maths behind Google, YouTube and social networking. Also covered was the importance of compressing files in order for ease of sharing across the internet, linked to the mathematics of 19th century mathematician Joseph Fourier.
Associate Professor Neil Hurley explaining Fourier Transforms to MP3 compression during the UCD Computer Science Summer School
After lunch it was time to hear about what the life of a Computer Science undergraduate is like as Maryanne Doyle brought us on her journey through the course. Maryanne’s attempt to banish the stereotypical Computer Science world quickly became a reality as she made clear that Computer Science surrounds all of us in many ways from Google Maps to more advanced Google Glass and beyond. Maryanne described the computer scientist as someone who has new ideas to create and is willing to solve problems in this constantly updating field of technology, dissing the common ‘nerdy stereotype’. The students were also introduced to the vast array of perks available to students on the UCD campus such as the rock climbing wall, a 50m length swimming pool, a cinema, many clubs and societies to join and free gym classes that can easily be incorporated into the student timetable.
A programmable robot created for the Lego Mindstorm workshop as part of the Computer Science Summer School
After the talks a series of demonstrations took place where students were invited to take part in a variety of activities related to the world of computer science. Chocolate bar algorithms were used and PCs were disassembled in order to solve logic puzzles and understand the hardware respectively. Lego mindstorm demonstrations based on Boolean logic were on display. Recent graduate Clíodhna Connolly was on hand to talk about her projects and assignments completed over the 4 years. She discussed a sample of the apps and games she has developed as part of assignments throughout the course such as building a scrabble-bot.
A fifth year student experience the virtual world through an Oculus Rift headset.
The opportunity to don an Oculus Rift Virtual Reality headset proved popular among many students and other more active demonstrations of computer science applications involved wobble boards and ‘Kinect’ motion sensing programme to recreate the best ‘puc’ with an imaginary hurl in hand!
Undergraduate student Anushkha explains how to use wobble board to complete on-screen computer game tasks to develop motor skills.
Current postgraduate Maryanne Doyle described the event as a success as the group were one of the most interested groups that has ever attended a summer school – ‘perhaps more people are starting programming in their own time which is fantastic to see, they were so involved’. Fifth year student Claire summed up her experience of the summer school as ‘A super interesting day. I loved it!’.
Current undergraduate Computer Science student Deaglan pointing a student in the right direction during the programming workshop.
Written by: Emma Cullen, UCD College of Science
Images: Lána Salmon and Ross Loughnane