Christopher Roberts-York, BSc Computer Science undergraduate, Level 3 2011-12.

So a couple weeks ago I decided to take on the challenge of converting my Java knowledge into C# (pronounced C Sharp) knowledge.  Armed with two  Java courses I got stuck in and the switch has been suprisingly easy.

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Jay Bennett, BSc Computer Science graduate 2011.

I’m faced with an interesting situation as I begin to write this post, I am a graduate of the University of Surrey’s Computing department, already looking fondly back on my time as a student and cautiously optimistic about my future. Putting that aside I’ve been asked to share a part of my final year which took place in my free time.

One of the modules in my final year; Web Technologies, required the completion of a fairly large assignment in which our small groups would develop some form of dynamic website. The site had to be supported by a database, and with multiple levels of user authentication (i.e. admin users and regular users had to exist).

My good friend and fellow graduate Owen Jones put forward the idea that we should develop a Beer rating website. Yes, students went straight to an alcohol related activity, are you surprised?

We did plenty of research, both relevant online research, and somewhat less relevant research in Chancellors bar. Finally deciding that the website should be entirely community driven in a similar way to social networks in existence now.

The result is still running today, and can be seen at RateYourBeer.co.uk. I should say that it started being run on a bedroom server, using a very simple source control system for Owen and I to work with. The migration to the Amazon EC2 cloud where it now lives was only in the past couple of months.

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Matthew Rixon, BSc Computer Science graduate 2011

My final year project could not have been more appropriate today than ever before. Working with the latest in CCTV surveillance its aim was to detect suspicious activity in urban areas and flag events that should be investigated as well as acting in support of CCTV operators. The project had a clear motive and application, which should be the aim of students joining their final year of studies. But my mind was set on this challenge before I even started the final year due to my time spent on a placement year.

My placement year was spent working for the defence industry. Contrary to popular belief, I took on real world problems and saw their immediate application. Very little tea making for colleagues, there just was not the time in between the range of projects I was working on! My passion is image processing and artificial intelligence and by working in the defence industry I had the chance to implement and learn even more. But it also meant that I could see the real uses for other parts of my degree. From my experience, it is important to see the reasons why you are studying the topics covered in the two early years of a degree. Programming for mobile device? What searching algorithm to choose? The correct way to test code? All seemed to me very focused at the time, but each module had information that could be combined and applied to a range of different situations.

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Last week, the University of Surrey acted a centre for the Young Rewired State (YRS) initiative, hosting six students ranging from 14 to 16 years of age for the week long event. YRS is a network of developers aged 18 or under who run an event each summer across the UK, ending with a show and tell to government, industry and press on what has been coded.

On Friday 5th August, the University based group presented their work at Microsoft in London along with students from 13 other centres across, in front of a prestigious panel of Judges. These included; Jonathan Luff, from the Prime Minister’s Office; Mike Butcher, editor of TechCrunch Europe, and Andrew Sampson joint director of SamFry Ltd.

The University group’s idea for crowd management at large events called ‘Urbani’ walked away with the prize for ‘most likely to be bought’. Urbani used GPS to generate a ‘heat map’ of where large crowds were building up. Event organisers could use this information to open up more gates or provide better viewing areas in festivals or carnivals.

Winning a prize is a huge achievement for a group who had never worked together before and who had limited to no prior coding experience. Kathryn Harkup, Schools Liaison Officer for FEPS, said of the students, ‘their hard work, professionalism and willingness to learn are truly impressive. All the students had a great time and they have promised to come back next year’.

Kathryn Harkup, would like to thank the mentors who did a great job supporting the students through out the week; Nigel Stirzaker, Dan Morris, Lawrence Job and Martin Davies and extend thanks to Julian Ranger, owner of iBundle, who provided financial support as well as many words of encouragement.

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Joe - Phd Student, Department of Computing

Having come directly from undergraduate studies at Surrey, the initial step felt surprisingly seamless – partly due to joining as a post-graduate two weeks before actually graduating.

The warm welcome and provisioning provided by the administrative staff is amazing and ensured that I slotted in and felt part of things super fast.

I quickly came to realise that working solely on research, however, has a completely different set of pressures than the short, deadline driven coursework to which I had become accustomed. In a way, the removal of these dates and times with their associated marking criteria is refreshing (like having constraints removed), but I soon found that a sense of direction and drive now has to be drawn from elsewhere – this may not sound like a pressure but it is!

Fortunately, there are many people around working in related areas who provide guidance and inspiration (as well as my supervisor of course!). The Nature Inspired Computing and Engineering (NICE) group consists of people doing research from many different angles; from cognitive and neuroscience to engineering optimisation and bio-informatics. In particular, the Journal Club – a bi-weekly meeting to discuss a selected paper – is a great way to learn the interpretations and interests of different academics. I am sure this will be a guiding influence for the direction of my research as it develops in the year ahead.

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