The Autonomous Systems Showcase

sotonuasLast week I attended the Autonomous Systems Showcase event at the University of Southampton. The focus of the event was to bring together industry, government and academia “to explore commercial and research opportunities to deliver the next generation of aerospace, marine, defence and other advanced systems technology to keep the UK at the forefront of these important industries“.

Minister of State for Universities and Science, David Willetts, delivered the opening keynote. Other speakers included Sir Brian Burridge, Vice President of Strategic Marketing at Finmeccanica UK, and Michael Pickwoad, Production Designer from Dr Who, who talked about his creative process and the relationship between science and fiction.

The event also included industry and university showcase stands with particular emphasis on the work Southampton has done, and is doing, around unmanned aerial vehicles and underwater devices.

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RHoKers Working with MSF in the Philippines

rhok4Last weekend I organized the fourth edition of the Random Hacks of Kindness event in Southampton, UK. Again we were the only event in the UK, and this time it seemed even the only one in Europe. We had some excellent and relevant problem statements lined up and registrations came in nicely.

I was therefore quite surprised that the percentage of people that actually showed up was lower than usual. Together with the fact that one of the main domain experts (Ivan Gayton from MSF) was no longer able to make it in person had me a bit worried. However, it turned out this was really a blessing in disguise.

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Underwater Robots for STEM Outreach

seafox1I have always enjoyed STEM outreach, be it talking about the UAV research I have been involved with at the Ladies Luncheon Club (average age of ~65) or showing how you can use node.js to control a Parrot AR drone to a group of hormonal teenagers.

Besides an interest in flying things I have always had a weak spot for maritime vehicles, particularly submarines. (For some reason land vehicles never really interested me). Triggered by the OpenROV kickstarter and, more recently, by listening to The Engineering Commons episode on Underwater Robots with Bill Porter, I have been looking for opportunities to learn more about them or even build them. As my own spare time has pretty much disappeared for various reasons, doing this as part of my STEM Ambassador work seemed a great idea.

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RHoK 4

rhoksoton211I’m happy to announce that Random Hacks of Kindness will be coming to Southampton for the 4th time! Again with help from Alejandro Saucedo and HackaSoton.

During the weekend of 6-7 December 2013, The University of Southampton will be one of the satellite cities as part of the global Random Hacks of Kindness Event!

See below for the problem statements. This time around Im particularly interested in any UAV related problems.

Twitter hashtag: #rhoksoton

Eventbrite - Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) Southampton

We are proud and very grateful to be supported by Enterprise and Digital Economy at the University of SouthamptonMicrosoft Gadgeteer, Business Analyst Mentor,  ScanToSecure, and ATASS.

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Team JellySpot wins at the Inventorthon

jellyfish

I have attended quite a few hackathons in the past and been an active organizer of RHoK  events (and more recently NodeCopter events) for some time now. However, while they have always catered well to my computer science/programming side I usually found my science & engineering side left wanting. I have been toying with the idea of organizing something that crosses both fields but would need a partner in crime to put it together. I simply have too much going on already.

I was therefore very happy to see the announcement of the Inventorthon event, run by the Satellite Applications Catapult in Oxford. With challenges ranging from drone scavenger hunts and shipping container tracking, to micro-satellite propulsion systems (by one of the Pocket Spacecraft guys) it seemed refreshing.

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Drones for Humanity and Drone User Group Network UK

rhinoOne liner summary: If you are interested in applying drone/UAV technology (or are already doing so) to humanitarian/social/conservation related problems, and you live in the UK. then get in touch.

I have worked with drones quite extensively in the past, including some work with the BBC, and still do in various ways now. I have to say, though, that I dislike the term drone and much prefer to use the term UAV or UAS. But that’s a different story.

I have also always had an interest in international development, social issues, and education. This has led to me running numerous Random Hacks of Kindness events, giving talks on ICT4D, and volunteering as a STEM Ambassador. I recently organized a NodeCopter event with the local Makerspace and have talked about UAV technology to groups as diverse as 11-13 year olds to The Ladies Luncheon Club where the average age is 65.

Inspired by the recent DroneConference in the US, a coffee with the founder of ShadowView, and the enthusiasm of the UAV guy at Doctors Without Borders, I am now looking to reach out to similar minded people and see if maybe we can set up a Drone User Group chapter here in the UK? Founded in the US by Timothy Reuter, their tagline is: Promoting the Use of Civilian Drone Technology for the Benefit of Humanity. They also recently announced a drone social impact award. I contacted Timothy and he was very supportive of the idea.

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Notes on the Workshop for Research Software Engineers

ImageUpdate: We now are an official association!

I recently attended the first Workshop for Research Software Engineers at Oxford University. Organized by the SSI, I was on the steering committee and this event came out of our position paper last year. Hot on the heels of a recent article in the Times Higher Education, the aim of the workshop was to bring those people together who work in research labs but actually spend most of their time writing software.

Topics of discussion focused around the importance of software in research, software development workflows, quality control, notable tools, getting recognition for software (a real problem in academia), the role of funding bodies, and career progression. Continue reading

#bigoldn: London Big-O Algorithms Group

ImageIf you think there is more to the world than “functional cloud based self learning big data analytic enterprise visualization dashboards” please read on.

Those that follow me on twitter will have noticed I have recently  taken over the organization of the London Big-O Algorithms meetup. Originally founded by Zack almost (almost a year ago) it fell quiet after the first meetup as things came up and Zack eventually moved to better weather in California. I was a strong supporter of the project from the beginning and when meetup.com sent all members an email saying the group was in danger of deletion I decided to put my money where my mouth was and took over organization.

The aim of the group is to focus on the fundamental algorithms & datastructures that developers rely on every day to make things efficient, fast, and scalable. These are things that will come up in every decent job interview and its easy to forget them in day to day work or the buzzword of the week. Any application goes, be it computational fluid dynamics or high frequency trading. Just as long as the focus is on the underlying algorithms & datastructures and it is delivered in an engaging, accessible way.

Skillsmatter have been kind enough to host us and Im happy to announce we have 2 great speakers lined up for our first meetup titled Lockless Tables, NegaMax, and Numerical Optimization in Machine Learning.

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A Workshop for Research Software Engineers – 11 September Oxford

FortuneCookieComputerI am very happy to announce that after my initial musings on the role of software developers in research and the follow up position paper there will now be a full blown workshop on the topic! It is driven by the SSI and my involvement is as a steering committee member.

It will be held on 11 September 2013 at the Oxford eResearch Centre. Directly after the Digital Research conference.

You can register now on our Eventbrite site.

Software is a fundamental part of research, and research software engineers are fundamental to good software. Despite this, the role is not well understood in the research community and the missing reward structure in academia often drives them away.

The workshop will bring together people from academia, research labs, and industry to network and discuss:

  • the role of software and its developers in a research environment
  • the importance of quality software for enabling high quality, reproducible research
  • best practices and tools
  • reward structure and career path

More details on the Software Sustainability Institute Event Page.

See you there.

–Dirk

The Second London DataDive

diveIts 23:06 as I type this on the train on the way back from the second UK DataDive. I attended the first one in October last year after hearing about DataKind on rce-cast. In a nutshell DataKind are a non-profit who work together with charities, NGO’s and related organizations to help them collect, manage, and analyze data so they can be more effective. So its like RHoK but focused on data analysis and with a stronger sustainability angle.

I have good memories from the last one and the turnout and organization was very similar this time around. Like last time I could only make it for the Saturday and my employer was kind enough to cover travel costs. Charities selected to participate were:

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