Building the future – TICE Computer Science Gold Stage 2016!

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All of our successful gold stage students met at Northumbria University for the next 3 days. Immediately one student commented on “how professional the environment is” with so much enthusiasm. To begin our wonderfully talented Computer Science mentor, Phil Jeffes, reintroduced the briefs to the students to remind them what they had chosen to explore for their gold stage challenge. The two briefs were very different but both involved the students looking deeper into the world of coding.

CS Gold1

The first option was Smart Home (see project brief Computer Science Smart Home). In this project they were expected to design and create a set of smart home sensors using Python and electronics. First they had to identify a problem which could be solved using automation then they had to look at how to solve the problem with the available technology, this involved discussing what could be achieved with the balance between solving the problem and what technology was available.

CS Gold2

Feedback for their project would be given by Peter Thorns, Thorn Head of Strategic Lighting Applications at Thorn Lighting Limited. Thorn Lighting is a globally trusted supplier of outdoor and indoor luminaries with integrated controls. Thorn Lighting have years of experience in providing lighting solutions. Leveraging their research and development facilities, they actively work to promote the correct lighting standards and are uniquely placed to combine the latest light source technology with specialist expertise in optical and luminaire design…no big deal!

CS Gold5

The second brief is all about constructing a commercial website (see project brief Commercial Website). This requires the students to think carefully about what they would sell/promote on their site as well as how it would look to satisfy their target audience. This was aimed for students who are interested in website design using HTML, CSS and JavaScript to put together a nice interactive site. The project will involve designing a colour scheme and how users will interact with the site. It will be about trying to create a visually stunning site, loosely based (or inspired) by other sites which currently exist and using these for guidance.

CS Gold3

Feedback on their work will be given by Format Digital. Format is a technology consultancy with the aim of putting people back at the core of software development. Michael Dunbar (founder) has over 15 years’ experience in designing and developing web sites and applications and specialises in human-computer interaction design and development.

CS Gold4

These students then had the task of researching their product and looking at what elements they may wish to include on their site. From this they had to decide how they would like it to operate. Some of the choices included selling jewellery, music streaming and the particularly creative idea of selling parts of Newcastle! Plenty of mind maps, font creations and colour schemes were discussed between groups. What was most impressive, was the determination of students to figure out the mistakes they were making whilst coding. They were showing so much passion and independence in their approach to the project, which was highly admirable to watch.

The Smart Home students set off looking at different issues they could address. We had some groups deciding to look into security and others looking into how to programme a room to change to suit the requirements of a games room. One group decided to look into programming automatic blinds that know exactly when they should open and close themselves. These students certainly weren’t afraid of going down the marketing route either, as they began to create logo designs and merchandise in addition to their primary idea.

CS Gold6

Day 1 consisted of researching the range of sensors and monitoring and exploring which problems they might like to try and solve with smart homes and monitoring. They will also start to look at how to program some of these sensors. Although the first day was mostly a research and idea development session, there was so much potential and commitment shown. Nothing but passion and drive was expressed by the students. They had to come up with an idea and have started to research how they might be able expand on it in the most creative and professional way possible, which is the perfect way to begin the gold stage of the TICE Programme.

Day 2 was where the projects started to develop into their final form. For the Smart Home projects, code plans were written and electronics diagrams were drawn. The students also started to work on the presentation parts of the task as well, they had to produce a poster which would go up alongside their work to explain it. The three electronics projects consisted of a smart lighting system, a blind which reacted to the sun or a timer, and a system for storing user profiles on an X-Box. The websites, too, started to take shape with the basic frameworks being designed and then starting to put their ideas into practice. There was a lot of playing with the CSS to make it do what they had wanted as websites can be notoriously fiddly to make behave in the desired way. No doubt there were some compromises but they got a good taste of how designing websites and then implementing them can cause dynamic changes to occur throughout a project.

Day 3 and the majority of the code was written, the shape of the final projects was taking place and there was just a few code tweaks and image sourcing left to do. Some groups had to scale back the size of their projects because they had been too ambitious to start with, it’s easy to overestimate how much time 3 days will give you, but the emphasis was on quality and not quantity so many students opted to produce ‘Coming Soon’ pages as place holders for their projects. The Smart Home projects were finished off and tested thoroughly then carefully packaged away into separate boxes for the final show. There was a lot of activity around finishing up the posters for display as well with many excellent designs carrying through to the descriptions of the purpose and approach taken.

CS Gold8

Over the next couple of days on the Smart Home project, they began to write the bulk of the code and wire up the sensors they selected. They also had to finish the code and presentation, whilst making any models for the elements in the sensor pack suitable for transport to the final show. It’s fair to say that we have never seen results such as this in the history of the TICE Programme. Each group was completely immersed in their research, attempting to figure out exactly how the product would work in both a logical and practical sense. In terms of those constructing the website, they began to expand on the code written on Day 1. They had to finalise the code and prepare whatever they had for presentation. Part of that would include a poster or ‘site-map’ to demonstrate where the site could go in the future and how it would solve foreseeable problems such as updates to the product. The students confronted many obstacles but in many cases they were determined to handle it themselves before seeking help. This shows just how much these young people wanted to be involved. It was noticeable at this point that TICE wasn’t something they felt like they had to do – they felt an urge and hunger for their genius work to get continuously better. One of the groups in particular, Team Quafer, documented their time throughout the gold stage. It was interesting to see how they developed and you could see how enthused they were in documenting their work. They were proud of what they were doing and this aspect reflected amongst the entire class.

Blind Turn Example from This is Creative Enterprise on Vimeo.

TICE Computer Science 2016 was a memorable one, most importantly because this creative area is so relevant to what is going on in our world today. This digital era always aims to discover new, innovative things that will make everyday life easily accessible and futuristic. With TICE Computer Science, these concepts can be challenged with young and talented minds – it was proven by the students we had the privilege of working with this year.

We asked the students – what would you say to someone considering to do TICE next year?

“It’s a really good and exciting programme that gives you a lot of insight in the creative industry”.  

“Go for it, it’s a great experience and allows you to enjoy a sector of an industry you may have not considered as a job before”.

Congratulations to everyone involved!

So, how did the finished results turn out? Here you go;

Take a look at all the websites built: Commercial Website Project Results
With a few descriptions written by the teams explaining their ideas:
Team one: Tyne Traders
Team two: Mechs for Pets
Team three: Poplette’s Pearls
Team four: Quafer
Team five: Timepiece

And here’s some of the posters explaining the Smart Home ideas:
Team one: BlindTurn
Team two: Fire Exit Hardware Poster
Team three: TICE Game Console Security System

Here’s an overview by Sarah Hunter of her experience of building their website: Quafer

Sarah Hunter – Overview of TICE Computer Science Gold Stage 2016 from This is Creative Enterprise on Vimeo.