Computer Science as a subject in mainstream UK secondary education is in a pretty sorry state [1,2,3] but it’s not all doom and gloom. While many long suffering school children are being force-fed a nauseating diet of Excel, PowerPoint and Access others are enjoying a nutritious platter of Raspberry Pi, Hack to the Future and Animated fun.
Here’s a brief report on one of these tasty appetisers: Animation 2012, a UK schools animation competition now in its fifth year.
The day kicked off with prizes being awarded for the animation competition. To get a flavour of the creativity and skill involved, you can see winning examples online.
Following the prize giving there was a carousel of activities which included:
Animation 2012 was great fun for all involved, congratulations to all this years winners, hope to see you again next year. There were 526 Schools involved from across the UK, with 914 entries. 58 students were involved in the 35 winning entries from 31 different schools. Thanks to Toby Howard
, all the organisers, supporters (Google
, Electronic Arts
) and associates (Computing at School
and BAFTA young game designers
) for putting on an impressive show.
- Steve Furber et al (2012). Computing in Schools: Shut down or restart? Royal Society Report
- James Robinson (2011). Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google, condemns British education system: criticising division between science and arts, The Guardian
- Keith Stuart (2011). Michael Gove admits schools should teach computer science: education secretary recognises the failings of ICT courses, The Guardian
The Alan Turing statue at Bletchley Park. Creative commons licensed picture via Michael Dales on Flickr
Next weekend, a bunch of very distinguished computer scientists will rock up at the magnificent Manchester Town Hall for the Turing Centenary Conference in order to analyse the development of Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence and Alan Turing’s legacy .
There’s an impressive and stellar speaker line-up including:
- Rodney Brooks, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Fred Brooks, University of North Carolina Turing Award winner
- Vint Cerf, Google, Turing Award winner
- Edmund M. Clarke, Carnegie Mellon University, Turing Award winner
- Jack Copeland, University of Canterbury
- George Ellis, University of Cape Town, Templeton Prize winner
- David Ferrucci, IBM TJ Watson Research Center Principal Investigator of the Watson/Jeopardy! project
- Tony Hoare, Microsoft Research, Turing Award winner
- Garry Kasparov, Kasparov Chess Foundation
- Samuel Klein, Trustee of the Wikimedia Foundation and a Director of the One Laptop per Child Foundation.
- Donald Knuth, Stanford University, Turing Award winner
- Yuri Matiyasevich, Institute of Mathematics, St. Petersburgh
- Hans Meinhardt, Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology
- Roger Penrose, University of Oxford, Wolf Prize winner
- Michael O. Rabin, Harvard University, Turing Award winner
- Adi Shamir, Weizmann Institute of Science, Turing Award winner
- Leslie Valiant, Harvard University, Turing Award winner
- Manuela M. Veloso, Carnegie Mellon University
- Andrew Yao, Tsinghua University, Turing Award winner
Tickets are not cheap at £450 for four days, but you can sign up for free public lectures by Jack Copeland on Turing: Pioneer of the Information Age and Roger Penrose on the problem of modelling a mathematical mind. Alternatively, if you can lend some time, the conference organisers are looking for volunteers to help out in return for a free conference pass. Contact Vicki Chamberlin for details if you’re interested.
- Chouard, T. (2012). Turing at 100: Legacy of a universal mind Nature, 482 (7386), 455-455 DOI: 10.1038/482455a see also nature.com/turing
Androids by etnyk. What are they thinking?
With more than three million Android devices activated on the 24/25th December 2011  and something like 200 million (or more?) Android devices in total, there are nearly enough droids around to build a primitive brain.
With all that processing power out there, I can’t help but wonder, like Philip K. Dick did, Does Android Dream of Electric Sheep? [2,3]
- Andy Rubin (2011)
- Philip K. Dick (1967) Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
- Ridley Scott et al (1982) Blade Runner
Via the Official Google Research Blog at the University of Google, Alon Halevy, Peter Norvig and Fernando Pereira have published an interesting expert opinion piece in the March/April 2009 edition of IEEE Intelligent Systems: computer.org/intelligent. The paper talks about embracing complexity and making use of the “the unreasonable effectiveness of data”  drawing analogies with the “unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics” . There is plenty to agree and disagree with in this provocative article which makes it an entertaining read. So what can we learn from those expert Googlers in the Googleplex? (more…)
As the number of bioinformatics services on the web increases, finding a tool or database that performs the task you require can be problematic. At the AAAI poster session on Wednesday, I presented our paper describing a novel solution to this problem. It uses a reasoner to “intelligently” search for web services, by semantically matching service requests with advertisements and has some advantages over comparable solutions…
I won’t go into all the gory details here but our technique extends and complements current approaches for matchmaking services. Some of the key features described in the paper are that it allows you describe to relationship(s) between the input and output of a service. E.g. What is the relationship between the input and output protein sequence of InterProScan? This relationship can help match requests for services with their adverts with higher precision and recall. I don’t mind admitting its been hard work getting this research published because a large part of the AI community use shamelessly toy and fictitious scenarios to motivate their work. Then they build incredibly complicated software stacks that are only understood by the small clique of people that designed them. When you show some of these people real-world bioinformatics services, they don’t seem to care too much, preferring to bury their heads in the sand of make-believe. There, thats got it off my chest!
So it was re-assuring when people came by the poster, listened to my speel and asked lots of questions. Ora Lassila from Nokia (one of the people responsible for hyping the whole idea up in the first place) dropped by to have a look. He was interested in adapting the technique for locating services in a registry, used by mobile devices. (I wonder if anyone out there needs BLAST on their mobile phone?!) It was good to meet Ora, and talk about semantics.
There is nothing quite like standing in front of a poster for three hours and tirelessly explaining it to complete strangers who work in disparate fields. It certainly helps to get your ideas straight. Where would we be without conferences?