Studying and socialising in our nationally recognised building

estates_cockcroft_aw_048The recent, multi-million pound project transforming the Cockcroft building into a state-of-the-art research, teaching and information building has been recognised in the prestigious Green Gown Awards for 2016.

Our university and the architects we worked with Fraser Brown MacKenna were named Finalist in the Built Environment category for what was one of the largest retrofits of an occupied academic building in the UK.

The transformation was described by judges as “an innovative approach integrating architectural, building services and structure design” which unlocked the environmental potential of the 10,500m2 building using the latest technology.

Innovations include an aquifer thermal energy store, potentially reducing energy demand, CO2 emissions and fuel savings. The system stores and recovers thermal energy beneath the ground and provides heating and cooling.

A spokesperson for the awards told the university: “On behalf of the Green Gown Awards Team we wanted to congratulate you on your achievement. Being a Green Gown Awards Finalist is something to be extremely proud of.”

Earlier this year the Cockcroft project won in the Higher Education category of the Architects’ Journal Retrofit Awards 2016. Judges called it a bold project and a model for future similar projects. Continue reading

Rethinking Software Systems Security

haris-mouratidisInaugural lecture from Professor Haris Mouratidis.

Software systems are an important and critical component of modern human society, used in almost every sector from transport, power and telecoms to health-care, military and education. Different stakeholders use software systems to different ends. Major corporations use them to perform critical processes and store confidential corporate data; governments need them to support citizen services, run military operations and exchange highly confidential data; and individuals use them to perform every day activities from personal banking to storing private information.

As a result, today’s economy and society are vitally dependent on software systems operating, not just according to their specifications, but also with a certain degree of trust and security. The increasing adoption and integration of software systems within an environment of rapid technological advancements has demanded systems that go beyond mono-dimensional technical solutions simultaneously raising a set of tightly intertwined challenges.

Rethinking Software Systems Security
Haris Mouratidis
Professor of Software Systems Engineering

Thursday 24 November 2016 at 6.15 pm.
Huxley Lecture Theatre
Huxley Building
Moulsecoomb

Free event. All are welcome. If you would like to attend please register online no later than 48 hours prior to the event.

British Science Festival heads for Brighton

british-science-festival-logoOne of Europe’s leading and longest established science festivals is coming to Brighton next year. And we will be co-hosting it!

The University of Brighton will co-host the 2017 British Science Festival with the University of Sussex from 5-8 September.

The festival, organised by the British Science Association, will have a programme of over 100 events featuring cutting-edge science from world-leading academics covering everything from technology and engineering to social sciences.

Welcoming the announcement, Vice-Chancellor Professor Debra Humphris said: “I am delighted that the University of Brighton will be co-hosting the British Science Festival next year. We were keen to grasp this wonderful opportunity to showcase our world-leading research alongside cutting-edge science from around the globe in an accessible and engaging way.

“The city of Brighton & Hove is world-renowned for its Arts Festival. By hosting the British Science Festival, we can throw open the doors of our facilities to the wider community, including our new state-of-the-art Advanced Engineering Building that is currently under construction.”

We’ll keep you posted as more details are confirmed, and hope to see you all there!

University building scoops top award

The project to refurbish the University of Brighton’s iconic Cockcroft Building has won in the Higher Education category of the prestigious Architects’ Journal Retrofit Awards 2016.

The Cockcroft Building on the University’s Moulsecoomb campus has been a familiar landmark on Brighton’s Lewes Road since the 1960’s.

The awards jury said: “This is a bold project, particularly from a sustainability point of view – and a model for future similar projects. It focuses well on how people use the building. The exterior has been elegantly improved and the interior creatively revamped.”


Welcoming the award, Vice-Chancellor, Professor Debra Humphris said: “This is really excellent news and I congratulate the team involved in this major project. The refurbishment of the Cockcroft Building is an important part of our ongoing investment programme which aims to ensure that our students have access to world-class facilities.”

The multi-million pound refurbishment programme, which took three years to complete, was carried out whilst the building was still being used by staff and students and included:
• Development of state-of-the-art new learning laboratories and office spaces to house schools within the university’s College of Life, Health and Physical Sciences
• Installation of new windows to improve insulation throughout the building
• Exposing the ceiling space to highlight the architectural features of the building’s interior
• Opening up corridors in the building to improve lighting, people movement and provide social and informal learning spaces for students and staff to use.
• Reducing noise levels by putting in place sound buffering and dampening features
• Installing a new roof surface to improve insulation and energy efficiency.

First week on BBC Placement

A week or so ago, I started my placement year. I got a great position as a Trainee Web Developer on the BBC News Website, based in Broadcasting House, London.

I’m shattered to be honest. But already I’m having a great time, learning loads and actually feeling like part of the team.

I’ve ended up in the Visual Journalism Team (Yay!) which mostly creates bespoke interactive content for news articles. Things such as the Olympic Face Wall and Will a robot take your job?. This is probably the team I was hoping to get the most (well, tied with Politics) and I genuinely think it’ll teach me the most too, in regards to front-end web development.

I’m not sure how much detail I can give about what I’ve been working on but I’ve already got the basics of my first project done (and that was only my second day!). It’s a little something for the US election, I’ll share it and describe it properly when it’s published.

Since then, I’ve been mostly finding and solving problems with another project which is due to be released into the big wide world next week. Again, I’ll try and share it and give a little more details when it’s ready.

I’ve spent a lot of the time getting used to using the Mac Terminal and Git, as well as the way the team approaches and builds content. It’s very different to anything I’ve worked with before, mostly due to it being such a big organisation who put an emphasis on automating as much of the development process as possible – so we can spend more time creating and developing awesome content.

The team are lovely and haven’t hesitated to include me and make me feel welcome. They’re happy to answer any of my questions (no matter how silly) and we all go to lunch together everyday. This in itself has been why I’ve settled so quickly and enjoyed my first week so much.

Weirdly, although this has been a major week for me, there doesn’t seem to be much for me to say… I’ll try and blog regularly with any exciting updates!

ElectroMagnetic Fields (EMF) our third and final day

After a suprisingly good sleep I got up and again left the others to get themselves together whilst I started the day

VR workshop – I was super excited to get involved in this workshop. Armed with my laptop, Google Cardboard and smartphone I managed to create a very basic world in virtual reality just using HTML and Aframe.JS. This was so satisfying and defintely something I want to continue playing with! Massive thanks to Michael Straeubig for the workshop!
Realtime Web – I’m going to be honest, this workshop went a little over my head (and from the chatter I wasn’t the only one). It didn’t seem to lend itself to a workshop so well as only a few people could code at once but they did create some pretty cool stuff which affected each of our computer screens at once – such as changing the colour of a browser when a button was pressed to a colour we’d individually selected earlier.
A talk on how data is used in and from schools – This one was kind of scary in some ways. Schools are now being told to provide the government with country of birth details from students – this can’t be good. In light of the uncertainty from Brexit it might scare parents off sending their children to school in case it leads to deportation or something. Also the government have a database of details of every under 35 year old in the UK – acadmeic things from when we were at school and such like. All this can be passed on to compaines too…. Concerning eh? Find out more
Meditation for Hackers – I ended the festival with 2 hours of being taught meditation techniques. Nice. My favourite was to focus on all the sounds around you, try to focus on one particular one, then try to focus on two, then three. It’s hard and it doesn’t matter if you stop at 1 or 2 sounds, but it definitely shuts my brain up!

Unfortunately EMF Camp is only bi-annual. The next one isn’t until 2018 – booo! But for now we can satisfy that itch by watching the talks from this year here. And you can also find what I got up to on days one and two of this years event.

ElectroMagnetic Fields (EMF) Day 2

The next morning I got up bright and early (after a terrible and freezing night’s sleep) and left the others still getting themselves together to go off to a couple more talks.

Radios – A talk by amateur radio operators about how they’re involved in emergencies when the internet fails.
Socio-technical evolution – Igor Nikolic looked at Darwinism and how it is relevant to evolution today – including the use of technology by individuals and societies.
Building an open source political platform – This was a brilliant workshop. Open source politics is a system which everyone can be involved in. This version uses a Github repository and direct democracy. Anyone can submit policy ideas and then they’re voted on by other contributors. Through this repo, a politcal party was formed by James Smith (called Something New) and even had a couple of candidates stand for election in 2015 on the manifesto of the people. We got involved and added our own policy ideas too.
Badge Hack – As part of the ticket, each participant of EMFCamp was given an electornic badge. These came fully kitted out with LED screens, connected to WIFI, had snake inbuilt and even had their own phone numbers for SMS. They were incredible. In this workshop we were shown how to add an LED light to the badge and write a little python script to make a torch app on our badges. This was my first time writing python and my first time soldering something! No injuries – whoop!
Hebocon – We all know and love robot wars, awesome robots fighting to the death with cool weapons and tactics etc. Hebocon? Not so much tech and wonder, much more hilarity. A hebocon is a robot wars between crap robots. There were some fantastically shit robots submitted and 32 fought it out (or tried not to fall of the table and actually make contact with each other). One robot, for example, consisted of a Pikachu stuffed toy mounted on an egg timer. Another, was a fan from a laptop. Yet another was a wind-up penguin shieled inside a plastic cup (that one came second!). It was fantastically funny and I’m defitnely going to be on the look out for more to watch in the future.

After that I got some food and chilled out with people for a bit. We wandered around, meeting new people and taking cool light photos.

You can also read about day one and three.

Electromagnetic Field 2016 – a festival for teckies!

I was lucky enough to get myself a free ticket to this year’s ElectroMagnetic Fields Camp through a competition I found out about from Codebar Brighton. All I had to do was send them an email about why I felt under-represented in tech and then Yelp Engineering provided 4 of us with free tickets. Yay!

ElectroMagnetic Fields (EMF) is a non-profit festival run almost entirely by volunteers, and it is an incredible festival at that. I was pretty overexcited when I got a ticket and went through the line up of talks and workshops trying to prioritise what I should go to.

Here’s what we got up to on Day 1.

I was the first of our Codebar group to get there, set up camp in the middle of the festival and immediately started getting stuck in. The first day consisted of:
A mental health workshop – this was run by Andrew Gordon and took a look at mental health in a similar way to how I had done in education, there was a lot of discussion and studying of a real life case study before and twist in the narrative. A very engaging and thinky talk, if you have a chance to go to any of his stuff in the future, I would really recommend it.
3D printed sculptures of 4D things – Brain twisting and confusing, mathematically 4D shapes can’t exist but in the world of this talk they could and this was proved by 3D printing their shadows (No, I don’t really understand either). Fascinating but brain hurty. Talk by Henry Segerman
An Introduction to Mixology – Yum! Thanks to Ryan Alexander, I learnt how to make my first Old Fashioned (and yes, the bourbon was provided!). Tasting along every step really showed how each ingredient affects the flavour – an interesting, funny and rather scrummy hour!
A talk on Sex Robots – Yes, sex robots have been invented. What would you want yours to look like? a humanoid or something far from human? What will happen to the data stored in that? What if your sex-robot rejects you for the toaster? And other bonkers questions take seriously in that line of research from Kate Devlin. You can read her article on why we should be researching sex robots, not banning them, here.
Swing Dancing for Engineers – Hot, sweaty and good fun! It was packed out and there was hardly enough room to move let alon dance, but we managed it with a lot of laughs and tech jokes along the way.
After the talks it was time for a wander round the site looking at cool installations and meeting nice new people. Firepong, musical fire, LED garden, giant guitar hero with massive LED lights. Yes, basically lot’s of music, fire and colourful lights.

Check out what happened on days two and three.

Unfortunately EMF Camp is only bi-annual. The next one isn’t until 2018 – booo! But for now we can satisfy that itch by watching the talks from this year here.

Hungarian Adventure

We’ve broken up for summer, so what better time to do some travelling and combine that with skills I’ve gained from my course?

I came across this website called workaway where users can trade skills (physical labour, web development etc) in return for food and accommodation. This idea appealed to me quite a lot as a way of travelling on the cheap and getting to experience new cultures. After a couple of days of being on the site I was contacted asking if I would like to go out to Hungary to build a website for a dog and horse ranch. Yes Please! I’d been to Budapest a couple of time already  knew I loved the city so was excited at the prospect of visiting the more rural parts of Hungary.

Continue reading

Robot Wars

Yesterday, as part of my work with the Widening Participation Team, I spent the day helping teach year 7s from Shoreham Academy how to build ant-weight robots as part of their Raising Aspirations Programme. The idea of this project is to start discussing the idea of university with children from a young age by getting them to participate in a variety of activities and talk about university in particular as one option for their future.

A group of year 7s came up to visit Falmer campus yesterday and took part in a sports science activity and an engineering activity (which is the one I was involved in). I worked alongside two STEM ambassadors who provided all the materials and then got stuck in with the kids to design, build and ultimately compete with their robots. The teams had to enter a race, a game of football and a fight to the death with their robots. It was fantastic!

It was a pretty full on day but we built some impressive robots with just cardboard, skewers and straws (as well as the remote control, wheels and receiver). It was also brilliant to see the kids getting so excited, especially as this is a project that 2nd year students actually do at university (though with ‘proper’ materials). We all learnt a fair bit about robotics and designs and how the same materials could be adapted to suit different challenges.