2-0 for Edinburgh vs Glasgow in the SICSA Programming Challenges

25 November 2020

By Hans-Wolfgang Loidl, Heriot-Watt University

The series of SICSA Programming Challenges, started during lock-down in June 2020, is continuing
and featured a Scotland-wide, SICSA-funded challenge, called “dynamic Denning”, on Wed 21st of October.

As before, a sequence of programming tasks was posted on the OpenKattis platform which provides a huge repository of online problems, and performs automatic scoring of challenges submitted by students. As many of these platforms, it markets itself as a tool for preparing for technical interviews and honing programming skills, thus it is highly relevant for computer science students, who will be entering the job market soon.

The event attracted about 50 students and about 40 of these students submitted at least one correct solution to the challenge tasks posed. Four students in total managed to solve all six problems in the time available. Remarkably the top student only needed 102 minutes to complete all tasks, during the five hour duration of the challenge. The highest scoring student was a student from the University of Edinburgh. The second highest score was achieved by a student from the University of Glasgow. This makes it a 2-0 for Edinburgh vs Glasgow in the series of SICSA Programming Challenges. Students from at least six Scottish universities participated in this challenge.

Overall, the event was a great success, judging from the feedback the students have been giving in post-event surveys: 100% of the students answered Yes to the survey question “Would you be interested in participating in a similar challenge again?”

After running two SICSA-wide challenges, we now have an organising team from six different Scottish universities in place: Dr Hans-Wolfgang Loidl, Dr Rob Stewart (Heriot-Watt University), Dr Vesselin Velichkov (University of Edinburgh), Dr Chris Brown (University of St Andrews), Dr Jeremy Singer (University of Glasgow), Dr Carron Shankland (University of Stirling), Dr Paul Keir (University of the West of Scotland), and Dr Adam Sampson (Abertay University).

We encourage other academics to get in touch in order to grow the effort and expand the base of potential participants. We plan to build on the success of this challenge and run more SICSA-wide instances of this programming competition during this academic year, and in face of an ongoing lock-down situation to possibly grow this into a UK-wide event. Our thanks go to SICSA for funding the prize money for the winners of the event and for promoting this event.

More information on the programming challenge is available on this web site.

SICSA and ScotCHEM are coming together for a Speed Networking Fortnight

SICSA and ScotChem are coordinating a fortnight of short remote one-to-one calls between researchers to stimulate inter-disciplinary exchanges of research ideas and agendas.  Working across disciplines is notoriously difficult in ordinary circumstances, but the restrictions caused by the current pandemic have even further curtailed opportunities for chance encounters at conferences, or meetings that lead to fruitful collaborations. To address this, the aim of the Speed Networking Fortnight is to put researchers in touch with each other across disciplines to foster understanding of existing disciplinary research challenges and provide opportunities.

To minimise the impact on time, each one-to-one meetup will last as long as just 15 minutes – no longer than it would take to queue to use the coffee machine. SICSA and ScotChem will coordinate the matching of participants from across disciplines and scheduling of meeting times, as well as a follow up to document any interesting outcomes. The initiative is open to any researcher (academic, postdoc, PhD student) from either pool.

To participate, just fill out the very short application form here:  https://form.jotform.com/203174064600343 .

If you have any questions or would like some more information please get in touch with Tim Storer (SICSA KE Director) and/or Alan Wiles (ScotCHEM Director of Operations)

SICSA Artificial Intelligence Research Theme…..recruiting a new Co-theme Leader

Applications are invited for any suitable member of academic staff within a SICSA Institution to co-lead the SICSA Artificial Intelligence Research Theme.

Role Purpose

SICSA is the Scottish Funding Council Research Pool in Informatics and Computer Science.  The goal of SICSA is to cohere the Scottish Informatics and Computer Science research communities to help increase critical mass and to enable cooperation in research, teaching and Knowledge Exchange.

The role of the SICSA Theme Leaders is to coordinate activities within each of the defined SICSA themes and further develop coherent communities in these areas.

Research Theme leaders are taking on increasingly public facing roles on behalf of SICSA. For example, our current AI theme leaders are part of the government strategy group developing a national AI strategy for Scotland. While another team leader is currently considering Co-chairing a large event with business here in Scotland on behalf of SICSA. Theme Leaders are called upon to help shape and direct the theme but also to provide a face and national representation for their theme area.

For more information on the role please refer to the AI Co-Theme Leader Job Descriptor.  If you would like to speak to the current Theme Leaders about the role please get in touch with Emma Hart and/or Helen Hastie

To apply, please complete the AI Co-Theme Leader application form and send to Aileen.Orr@glasgow.ac.uk by 11 December 2020

 

Ada Scotland Festival: welcoming young women into computing

2 November 2020

By Ella Taylor-Smith, Edinburgh Napier University

 

The Ada Scotland Festival grew out of a SICSA-sponsored workshop, Addressing Gender Imbalance in Computing Science Education, organised by Dr Matthew Barr (University of Glasgow).

From this workshop, a core collaboration* emerged to create an online Festival which would:

  • welcome girls and women into computing/ tech (and address gender imbalance);
  • and start to build network of groups and organisations (partners) working in this area in Scotland.

Here it is: https://ada.scot/

Live events

Over Ada Lovelace week (13th to 20th October) the Festival and its partners hosted 14 live events:

  • Inspirational women talked about their careers in tech, and the history and future of women working in computing;
  • Interactive workshops introduced girls to creating video games and Minecraft worlds, and building their own crucial confidence;
  • Computing students and Graduate Apprentices answered questions about their work and courses.

Most of the live events were recorded and can be watched on the website.

Activities and resources

In parallel, over 30 partners created a wealth of resources and activities that can be accessed at any time, throughout the year, including:

  • Competitions – and ✨prizes✨ – for girls and women (currently: Cyber Security Challenges for primary and secondary, video competition, and the YES Digital Enterprise Challenge);
  • and videos about career paths and day-to-day jobs in tech, which provide a fascinating snapshot of contemporary jobs in digital and the diverse women that rock them.

We have been in the news

What next?

Well, we hope that the resources are useful and fun, for you, your students, and children. We think this is the beginning of Ada Scotland Festival, not the end.

Thanks to SICSA and our other sponsors (so far).

*Collaboration: Ada. Scot core team: Matt Barr and Anna Doyle (University of Glasgow), Toni Scullion (Computing Science teacher and founder of dressCode), and Ella Taylor-Smith (Edinburgh Napier University).

 

 

 

 

Computing Science Education Research at the University of St Andrews

By Dr Dharini Balasubramaniam, University of St Andrews

October 2020

The Higher Education Research Group at the School of Computer Science in the University of St Andrews was established in January 2018 with the aim of giving an identity to staff interested in higher education research and to facilitate collaboration among them. There are around 15 members of the group with diverse interests, from Computer Science education to using computer technology to improve education.

The group has hosted higher education researchers from other schools within the University as well as external speakers. A SICSA Education funded workshop on learning analytics was organised by group members during summer 2018. The group hosted a SICSA Education All-Hands meeting in autumn 2018. The research group also benefits from initiatives by the University of St Andrews to promote research in higher education. Members take part in activities and events organised by the Centre for Higher Education Research and the St Andrews Learning and Teaching Initiative at the University.

Members of the Higher Education Research Group are interested in aspects of pedagogy and educational practice such as teaching programming at entry levels, teaching at scale, technology-enhanced learning, students as co-creators, group work, project allocation and management, and assessment and feedback. Their related research interests include virtual worlds, open badges and learning analytics. In light of recent developments, group members are also interested in approaches to enhance online learning and teaching.

 

WeObserve invites you to its last free online course on Citizen Science from 5th October 2020

By Raquel Ajates Gonzalez

October 2020

WeObserve  a European consortium of four Citizen Observatories, is inviting you to the final run of its online course “Citizen Science Projects: How to Make Difference”. The course starts on Monday 5th October 2020 and will run for four weeks with three flexible hours of recommended study a week. It will immerse learners in how citizen science projects work and how they generate open datasets created by citizens monitoring their own environment. You can register for free here.

By the end of the course, you will become familiar with citizen science and citizen observatories. Together, we will consider the steps to set up your own citizen science project in your local or online community. We will explore open source tools for data collection and visualisation for relevant issues such as environmental challenges or disaster management. Citizen Science data can be very different from other data you may have collected or dealt with before. This is an opportunity to learn how to develop data collection protocols, train participants and consider appropriate data quality indicators.

Learning with people from all over the world on the FutureLearn platform, you will get a chance to design and model your own project and evaluate the potential of citizen science in bringing about positive change. If you took the course last year, this run will not only refresh your knowledge, but also give you the chance to discover up-to-date course material such as citizen science and global pandemics, and how to set up an Open Data Challenge. You will also get access to new open source downloadable tools. Watch the trailer for the online course here.

If you would like to know more about WeObserve activities, please visit the WeObserve website here, or follow us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

We look forward to seeing you on the course!

 

SICSA Conference 2020

We are delighted to announce that the SICSA Conference 2020 will take place, on-line on 1 October 2020 and will be under the theme SICSA and the Sustainable Society.

The conference this year will be co-located with ScotSoft, which is Scotland’s leading tech conference allowing our delegates to access elements of the event throughout the day.

For this year’s conference we have prepared a rich and varied schedule addressing the many challenges presented by the idea of a future Sustainable Society. We are delighted to have Dr Elizabeth F. Churchill (UX Director, Google) and Professor Sally A. Fincher (School of Computing Science, University of Kent) as our Keynote Speakers.

You will have the chance to hear about issues and challenges encountered in Computing Science Education, discussed at the Education Panel Session. Excellent exemplars of graduate research across SICSA will be presented from the shortlisted candidates for the SICSA PhD Award for Best Dissertation during at the PhD Lightning Talks session.

We have invited participation from our partner research pools across Scotland, allowing us to bring together a large community of people to discuss the Computing and interdisciplinary challenges ahead. The SICSA Research Themes will show case research that demonstrates cutting edge computing research and its potential to address the Sustainable Society Challenge.

We have inaugurated a new award for Best PhD Thesis in Scotland at the Conference this year and the winner will receive a prize of £2,000 generously sponsored by Amazon Development Scotland.

Given the current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic the Conference this year will be held online, allowing us to increase our audience and have invited speakers from far and wide. The Conference will be open to all members from across the SICSA institutions, industry partners and all SICSA key stakeholders

Visit the SICSA Conference 2020 website to find out more and register your interest to attend the event.

Now Recruiting for SICSA Research Theme Co-Leader in Human-Computer Interaction

Applications are invited for any suitable member of academic staff within a SICSA Institution to co-lead the SICSA Human-Computer Interaction Research Theme.

Role Purpose

SICSA is the Scottish Funding Council Research Pool in Informatics and Computer Science.  The goal of SICSA is to cohere the Scottish Informatics and Computer Science research communities to help increase critical mass and to enable cooperation in research, teaching and Knowledge Exchange.

The role of the SICSA Theme Leaders is to coordinate activities within each of the defined SICSA themes and further develop coherent communities in these areas.

Research Theme leaders are taking on increasingly public-facing roles on behalf of SICSA. For example, our AI theme leaders are part of the government strategy group developing a national AI strategy for Scotland. While another team leader is currently considering Co-chairing a large event with business here in Scotland on behalf of SICSA. Theme Leaders are called upon to help shape and direct the theme but also to provide a face and national representation for their theme area.

If you would like to speak to the current Theme Leaders about the role please get in touch with Martin Halvey and/or Mary Ellen Foster

Please see the full HCI Research Theme Co-Leader job description for more details of the role.

To apply, please download and complete the application form and send to Aileen.Orr@glasgow.ac.uk by 30 September 2020

Cybersecurity SICSA Grant

By Zeeshan Siddiqui, University of West of Scotland

10 July 2020

Finally, some good news in a tense pandemic year. Cybersecurity SICSA grant title, “Analysis and impact of Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities on Excessive and Un-administered use of Smart Devices by Children of All Ages”, was completed and conducted by Dr. Zeeshan Siddiqui in the University of the West of Scotland. This study has presented a survey and a security analysis on the use of smart devices, such as an iPhone, by children of all ages. Children were allowed to access mobile games and other device contents while having both, restricted and unrestricted security and privacy settings. Two types of behaviour were analyzed; Observations on Unrestricted Contents, and Observations on Restricted Contents. For both behavioural analyses, the mobile phone was restored to its factory settings. There were several security attacks and threats observed. This study is going to provide a wider impact on parents and carers who have a lack of cybersecurity awareness and have no knowledge to adapt new security frameworks or mechanisms. This study will help them understand the built-in security, privacy and parental guidance features and their effectiveness within a smart device to safeguard their children online activities and usage. Security testing, analysis and results are accepted to be published in 3rd IEEE International Conference on Computing, Electronics and Communications Engineering (iCCECE ’20), scheduled to be held in August this year, in the University of Essex, London, UK.

SICSA Programming Challenges

by Dr Hans-Wolfgang Loidl, Heriot-Watt University

29 June 2020

Different communities deal quite differently with the current Covid-19 situation and with lock-down.
Some get stressed over a flurry of online meetings, juggling several different technologies. For
your average hacker, who is quite used to spending hours, days and, well, weeks in front of the screen, the main challenge is to find some interesting activity to keep busy and focused.

That’s where the SICSA Programming Challenge “brave Bartik” comes into the picture. On Wed 17th of June, a SICSA wide team, led by the Computer Science department at Heriot-Watt University ran an online programming competition, tailored for undergraduate and (taught) post-graduate students, featuring a series of programming tasks to be completed in a one afternoon session. The team led by Dr Hans-Wolfgang Loidl (Heriot-Watt University) picked the OpenKattis platform which provides a huge repository of online problems, and performs automatic scoring of challenges submitted by students. As many of these platforms, it markets itself as a tool for preparing for technical interviews and honing programming skills, thus it is highly relevant for computer science students, who will be entering the job market soon.

The event attracted more than 100 students and about 80 of these students submitted at least one
correct solution to the challenge tasks posed. Five students in total managed to solve all six
problems in the time available. The highest scoring student was a PhD student from the University of
Edinburgh.  Places two and three were captured by one under-graduate student from the University of Edinburgh and one under-graduate student from the University of Glasgow. Students from at least six Scottish universities participated in this challenge.

Overall, the event was a great success, judging from the feedback the students have been giving in post-event surveys: 91% of the students answered Yes to the survey question “Would you be interested in participating in a similar challenge again?” Some quotes given by the students in the free-format feedback questions are:
“It was great to have a opportunity to practice programming competitively during the summer.”
and
“it was good fun! early challenges good for novices, later challenges good for those with more experience.”

After running one challenge at Heriot-Watt University and this SICSA-wide challenge, we now have an organising team from several Scottish universities in place: Dr Hans-Wolfgang Loidl, Dr Rob Stewart (Heriot-Watt University), Dr Vesselin Velichkov (University of Edinburgh) and Dr Chris Brown
(University of St Andrews). We encourage other academics to get in touch in order to grow the effort and expand the base of potential participants. We plan to build on the success of this challenge and run more SICSA-wide instances of this programming competition over summer.

Our thanks go to SICSA for funding the prize money for winners of the event and for promoting this event. More information on the programming challenge is available here.