Computer Science
29902 Immerse Education 2019 App Competition

Congratulations to the winner of the Immerse Education 2019 App Competition!

Léo Wújì Yangkai Procházka submitted his design for an app called YouMesh which was inspired by the need for secure, reliable communication in environments where this may not be readily available.

“The purpose of my app (YouMesh) is to aid in situations where normal means of communications and access to updates and news aren’t available or aren’t favourable. The app is supposed to make use of mesh networking, which doesn’t have a central, essential point that could potentially bring the entire network down. The app would provide a means of communication, which could be private and secure, or more open in chatrooms or groups and also the transmission and display of other information.””The target market for my app (YouMesh) is primarily temporary establishments/facilities, such as refugee camps, emergency shelters, or other types of camps (educational, humanitarian, first aid). These kind of facilities are likely to have lower cell coverage, especially in the case of natural disasters, and yet many mobile phones, making the use of YouMesh a choice to consider. However, YouMesh should also be able to be adapted for use in permanent facilities, such as offices, schools, hospitals, etc. The more permanent facilities have (usually) a large amount of mobile phone users, expanding the network range. Some of said facilities do have wireless networks installed, however, as mentioned before, these rely on central points which are essential to the system and could bring it entirely down if part of the hardware would fail. Overall, the target market is facilities that have a larger amount of people which are not too far apart and do have mobile phones, which could benefit from this system.””Most mesh networking competitors only offer the basic functions- texting, image sharing, and some file sharing. The main feature of my app is that You ‘create’ your own Mesh app, which created the name YouMesh. The app is supposed to be able to be modified, adapted, personalised for each network, posing the choice to enable pre-defined features such as updates (timetables, calendars, news, info), a welcome/home page, sharing of specific file types, normal messaging, private & secure messaging (requiring a key), group messaging, open messaging (to everyone), and firewalls (against viruses). The app also has more specific settings, such as who may join the network, how they join the network, or specific operating times. These features are supposed to be modified and adapted to the situation and then be applied to all other devices when joining the network. Some networks can also have limited wiring included, say, between different parts of facilities which are already too much a distance away from each other to provide a high enough bandwidth. The wiring would end at wireless hotspots, which would join the network, but not be entirely necessary for the network to operate.”

Categories: Articles Tags: , , | Comments 29311 Women and Tech: A Progress Check in 5 Statistics

Gender balance in technology has been a prevalent concern for at least the past two decades. Demand for skilled jobs in technology industries is far outstripping supply as technology continues to dominate business investment around the world. It’s no wonder we’re short of specialist knowledge if women are pursuing careers in other industries. The noise from last week’s International Women’s Day has already begun to fade and we have to ask how much progress have we actually made in promoting gender equality within technology? Here are some statistics that try to shed some light on the matter.

Only 0.4% of female students are choosing to study Computer Science at A-level.

This statistic is designed to shock. It shows that as young women are approaching their futures, very few are deciding to develop the skills that would typically be associated with careers in technology. However, as the tech industry continues to evolve and adapt to the increasing rate of development, it’s becoming clear that formal qualifications are not a prerequisite for a career in this field.

Tim Cook has recently pointed out that 50% of employees at Apple don’t have a degree. The skills required for success in a field that is built on innovation and creativity are not necessarily learnt by studying the traditional route of a degree. So all is not lost for our young women who are turning away from a formal education in tech skills at this relatively early stage.

Furthermore, this is not a trend that is representative of STEM as a whole. In 2017, 52.8% of the UK A-level Chemistry cohort were girls this is part of a steady increase in the number of women studying sciences at A-level over the past decade.

Amazon have created a £130,000 bursary to support the careers of female tech students in the UK.

The sentiment behind this is to be applauded – Amazon intends to support up to 24 young women as they step into tech. But Doug Gurr’s (Amazon UK Managing Director) commitment to the cause is left somewhat in questions when you compare the size of the bursary to the $11.2 billion of profit that Amazon made last year. Nevertheless, the announcement of this funding comes in the footsteps of other initiatives designed to support women in tech, but also women in leadership positions within the industry.

Such initiatives include: The Sky Women in Tech Scholars, The Teen Tech Awards, The Women in Innovation Awards and many more beside. The scale of Amazon’s financial commitment to the cause may seem anti-climactic, however the reputational backing of household brands such as this will no a great deal to raise the profile of the campaign. These are positive steps to try to balance out the gender difference in this field, but the need for them highlights that we are a long way from having equal opportunity in the industry.

5% of leadership positions in the tech industry are held by women.

This is not just an issue in tech but is a trend noted in high-level jobs across all sectors around the globe. In the UK, a recent review prompted the Investment Association to write to 69 companies calling on them to increase the proportion of women in their boardrooms to 33%. Of those contacted, 66 companies currently have just one woman on their board of directors. Public reviews into gender equality, the pay gap and the employment practices of businesses are increasingly being brought into the spotlight with positive examples of real change being implemented. For example, the BBC has pledged to close its gender pay gap by 2020.

The rate of growth in the tech industry continued to increase and the skills required to innovate and succeed are being more and more specialist. For the small number of women who are already established in tech, the industry provides a strong opportunity to become thought leaders and to lead in one of the most creative industries we have. The future for young women looks a little brighter, with continued work and commitment from businesses, the future generation, male and female, can expect to encounter greater opportunities to develop their skill set and be remunerated accordingly.

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Our efforts to promote gender equality must be consistent

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In 2018, 9% of female students graduated in a core STEM subject.

This seems negative, but it is up from 8% in 2017 so it’s a step in the right direction. By 2022 we will need 500,000 workers for high-skill digital jobs which is treble the number of Computer Science graduates from the past decade. So, while gender equality is at the heart of the current drive to increase the number of women in tech, it is driven by a very real and pressing need. One approach may be to increase the pathways to a tech career. As already mentioned, many of those currently working in the tech industry do not hold a degree.

Internships, apprenticeships and other vocational pathways present the opportunity to gain real world experience and develop practical skills while also exploring the opportunities that the industry presents. The problem of access is exacerbated by the way job opportunities in the sector are marketed towards women. Employers have been working to avoid gender bias in their job adverts but even the technology used to then promote these job opportunities is responding to data that favours men. Automations are set to find the most cost effective target for marketing. Based on historic trends, the cheapest people to market jobs to are men which means they receive greater exposure to the range of jobs available in STEM industries.

A great deal of research is being presented on this issue at present which companies, in turn, will respond to. We, the bystanders who pass judgement from our sofas, should trust that businesses recognise the benefits of diversity within their workforce and will take positive action to meet their own need for technical expertise by increasing access and support for women. If not, we should be prepared to be active in creating the change we want to see.

Only 3% of female A-level students said that a career in tech was their first choice.

This point supersedes all previous points. We can have all the funding in the world for women to achieve their full potential in STEM industries. We could have hundreds of initiatives to support women in computer science roles. Ultimately it comes down to whether women are attracted to a career in technology. At present, we are not. In order to generate this shift in attitude, women need to feel supported and inspired by the industry.

A good place to start is with the language that we choose when referring to the tech industry – we should make sure that we aren’t perpetuating stereotypes of the type of person interested in technology in our choice of words. For example, men are more likely to show interest in careers for ‘driven’ people, while women are more attracted to roles which require you to ‘care deeply’. This is not to say that women are not driven, but rather that they are typically motivated by different semantics to men.

The need for conscientious workers in technology is growing, irrespective of gender and we should ensure that the language we use attracts the broadest range of interest possible. Another important change would be for this issue to be a hot topic year round, not just when International Women’s Day comes round again next March. Our efforts to promote gender equality must be consistent and extend beyond the confines of just one industry sector. More women will choose tech when women feel they have more choices.

Categories: Articles Tags: , , | Comments 29126 More than just robots: Prospects for Computer Science graduates

So, you’re looking at your university options and contemplating taking on a degree in Computer Science: what a great choice! Clearly, in today’s tech-obsessed world, the need for computers isn’t going anywhere, and you’re going to leave university, land yourself a swanky job at Apple, Google, or one of the other tech giants in silicon valley, invent some form of artificial intelligence (which will eventually take over all of our jobs of course), and make your millions. Right? Well, that’s one possible outcome, and, certainly, job prospects for computer science graduates are promising. Every industry uses computers, whether that be science, engineering, healthcare, banking, education and more and so the range of career options for computer science graduates is much more diverse than you might expect. Read on to find out more.

What skills will I gain from a Computer Science degree?

Obviously, you will be gaining many technical skills during your Computer Science degree which can set you in excellent stead for a wide variety of careers going forward. Combining theoretical study with practical projects, Computer Science graduates learn subject specific skills including network design and engineering, software engineering, software tools and packages, hardware architecture and construction and much more. Of course, knowledge of programming languages is also vital to today’s job market and this can give you a competitive edge over other candidates. Thinking ahead, if you think that your desired graduate job will involve a large element of programming, make sure you find out which programming languages you are likely to need and take the right university modules to make sure you learn these. Alternatively, you can also use relevant open-source software to ensure you’re up to speed as the market changes.

Importantly too, as well as learning to construct and design computer-based systems, evaluating and recognising potential risks and designing creative solutions to IT problems, you will also gain ‘soft’ skills through your Computer Science degree which are highly useful for a broad range of future careers, from healthcare, to consultancy, to marketing and education. These include problem solving, time-management and organisation, numeracy, teamwork and leadership, communication skills, commercial awareness, negotiation and much more. As we all know, rapid development and change is the norm for careers involving technology and software, and demonstrating that you are adaptable and can manage this change well will be an asset in whatever career you decide to pursue.

How are prospects for Computer Science graduates?

Pretty rosy

With a serious skills shortage in the UK for IT, it is perhaps unsurprising that computer science graduates can rank among the highest earning graduates, not just in the UK, but globally. In the UK, computer science graduates earn more than any other undergraduate degree holder, with graduates from Imperial College London earning a particularly high median salary of £50,000 six months after graduation, according to the 2018 Good University Guide published by the Sunday Times. According to the Office for National Statistics, in 2017, the average (median) gross pay for graduates from UK universities with Computer Science degrees was £34,996, which is still significantly higher than the average starting salary for all graduates, which is estimated at between £19,000 – £22,000 according to Graduate-jobs.com.

… But don’t get complacent!

That said, however, it is worth noting that an increasing number of companies are ending the requirement for IT professionals and developers to have a computer science degree (or even a degree at all) in order to diversify and widen their talent pool.

As well as being a rapidly growing and constantly changing sector, graduate jobs in the IT sector can also be highly competitive, with many of the skills employers are looking for also matched by graduates in other fields such as arts and social sciences. For business-focused roles such as IT consulting, the soft skills I mentioned earlier – your ability to communicate in a professional manner, work in a team and to manage your workload – are absolutely vital and can be equally important, if not more important, than the technical skills gained from a Computer Science degree.

For this reason, Computer Science graduates who have taken work placement years can often have the edge over the rest of their cohort, as this enables them to gain professional experience and have a wealth of examples to use in job interviews in order to demonstrate these ‘soft’ skills, alongside their vital technical skills. In addition, running personal projects alongside your degree (perhaps developing an app with some friends to solve a problem), can also demonstrate a great deal of initiative, creativity and self-motivation: qualities which are highly valued in the IT sector.

So, where can I go with a Computer Science degree and who can I look to as examples?

Hopefully, this article has gone some way in convincing you that a Computer Science degree can take you in many different directions: more directions than I can possibly explore here. You might find yourself in the in-house IT department of aerospace, financial services, defence, government or healthcare organisations; you could set up your own start-up business, work for a games studio, or work for a dedicated IT consultancy firm.

With the threat of cyber attacks always looming, top banks and financial services companies are always on the lookout for computer experts to write code and keep abreast of the latest security challenges. And, if you see yourself as a bit of a James Bond (and, let’s be honest, who wouldn’t like to be James Bond?) you could also end up working for national intelligence agencies who also need graduates to help them counter the threats of cybercrime and terrorism found in the modern world. As computers and technology more broadly continue to shape and innovate the world we live in, the demand for graduates who can understand these systems and create new software will continue to rise, just as long as you have the relevant soft skills to balance your technical skills and communicate your game-changing tech innovation effectively.

Finally, as for some big names who have studied Computer Science degrees, these include none other than Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Larry Page – you could have guessed those ones – Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, Anita Borg (founding director of the Institute for Women and Technology) and, last but not least, Liam Neeson who studied computer science in Belfast before moving into acting and becoming an all-round boss man, thus providing unequivocal proof that Computer Science degrees are cool.

Categories: Articles Tags: , , 10142 Elon Musk – The Man on Mars?

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Elon Musk – he’s the man overturning the car industry, taking us to Mars and is thought to be worth around $20 billion. His name is on everyone’s lips and he seems to enjoy success after success. Where did it all begin for Elon Musk, and what journey has brought him to where he is now?

Beginnings

Elon Musk was born in Pretoria in South Africa in 1971 and from a very early age showed skill and interest in programming, writing his first computer game aged just 12. He went to university in the US and was poised to pursue a PhD in energy physics at Stanford in 1995 when the world suddenly changed.

The 90s was the decade of the “internet boom” and Musk was at the very fore. He dropped out of Stanford after just 2 days to start up Zip2 with his brother, a company which provided software to newspapers to make city guides. The company was a success and the Musks sold it in 1999, leaving Elon Musk with a hefty $22 million.

Musk went on to found the company which would become PayPal, gaining $180 million when eBay bought it. For a less driven person, this would have been his cue to retire; he had more money than any sane person needs and could comfortably live for years.

His decision to make this juncture his beginning, not his end, is probably what defines Musk.

Big Changes

It’s clear that Elon Musk wants to leave his mark on the Earth, and possibly even further afield. In 2002 he set up SpaceX, a private company which aims, in its own words, “to revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.” Just one year later, Musk became involved with Tesla Motors, whose website claims will “accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy”.
But just how does Musk plan to achieve his ambitious goals?

SpaceX

When NASA decided to move away from launching interstellar rockets and towards more low-orbit crafts, Musk saw an opportunity and leapt at it. SpaceX was set up to profit from this opening of the market as the giant NASA made way.

To date, SpaceX is the only private company who’ve managed to get a load out into orbit and then back to Earth intact. But there are others with the same aim – what have SpaceX done that the others haven’t?

Musk has made some very clever moves. Firstly he makes most of his parts in-house. This means he spends less because he doesn’t have to pay other people to do things he can do himself.

His rockets are also modular. They don’t run on one big engine but rather lots of smaller ones (as many as 27 in some cases). This streamlines production, as making the same thing repeatedly reduces cost and complexity. The big key to Musk’s cheapening of space travel lies in reusability – a rocket which takes years to build and gets one person to Mars is a lot less attractive to investors than one which can keep shooting back and forth.

These techniques have made a huge difference to the viability of space travel – Musk has reduced the cost of reaching the ISS by a staggering 90 percent, with more savings to follow.

There’s thought to be a lot of money in SpaceX although no one knows exactly as it’s a private company. What we do know is that SpaceX has $4.2 billion in contracts from NASA alone.

Tesla

Tesla Motors was set up with the aim of ending the reputation of electric cars as a compromise in terms of quality – the founding engineers were determined to show that electric cars could be faster and more fun to drive than a petrol or diesel car.

It all began with a man called Martin Eberhard. Long before Musk even knew about Tesla motors, Martin Eberhard was shopping for a new car. He was frustrated by his lack of options for an environmentally friendly, yet fun, car. Cars running on hydrogen cells are painfully inefficient and, at the time, electric cars were known for being slow and sluggish.

Eberhard and his friend Marc Tarpenning figured out that they could take advantage of the steadily decreasing size of lithium batteries to make lighter and faster cars. They developed plans for their first car and founded a company, naming it after the famous engineer Nikola Tesla.

Their biggest remaining obstacle was money. They managed to set up a meeting with Elon Musk and, as soon as they met, realised that this was a man who shared their vision of an electric car not only to match its petrol counterparts, but to outperform them. The investment from Musk allowed them to start building at Lotus in the UK. It was a tall order – building a completely new car rather than basing a new model on something older was something which hadn’t been done in a long time. But when the Tesla Roadster was unveiled to the public it was a hit and over 100 had been sold in 2 weeks.

Tesla has since gone from strength to strength and a lot of Tesla’s success can be put down to Musk’s charisma and charm; when the Model D was unveiled in 2014 it was hailed as a “supercar” and Musk was likened to “Iron Man”.

Of course, it wasn’t all plain sailing. Musk and Eberhard, one of the founders, are no longer speaking and many have criticised Musk’s management of the company. On the other hand, the numbers speak for themselves – Tesla is now planning to increase production to a rate of 500,000 vehicles a year by this year.

Where from now?

Musk is beyond ambitious and talks of colonising Mars within 20 years. He says he’d go to Mars, a statement which seems to fit with his big ideas and adventurous spirit.
And in the long term? At a conference, Musk told reporters “I would like to die on Mars. Just not on impact.”

Sources:
http://time.com/space-x-ten-things-to-know/
http://uk.businessinsider.com/tesla-the-origin-story-2014-10?r=US&IR=T
https://www.tesla.com/en_GB/about
http://www.spacex.com/about
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/0/elon-musk-tech-billionaire-spacex-cowboy-real-life-iron-man/
https://www.biography.com/people/elon-musk-20837159

elon musk Categories: Articles Tags: , 10100 Smaller Than an Ant, Big Enough to Change Your Life

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This month, Tokyo will host the 17th edition of Nano Tech – an international exhibition and conference on nanotechnology. This year’s exhibition will feature research covering subjects from AI to cancer research, and aerospace to the environment. So what is nanotechnology, and how can it be a part of this wide variety of fields?

Nanotechnology is technology of very small things, typically on the scale of 1-100 nanometres. To give you an idea of how small this is, if a marble were a nanometre, then one metre would be the size of the Earth.

It’s quite a recent technology – before we had scanning electron microscopes (the kind of microscopes which can view things on an atomic scale) we couldn’t see things on a nanoscale, let alone make them.

How did it begin?

In 1959 Richard Feynman, the famous physicist, gave a talk entitled “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom”, where he put forward the idea of manipulating individual atoms and molecules, and talked about the possibilities this would present. At this time, it was just an idea, and it stayed this way until the scanning electron microscope was invented in 1981.

This signalled a huge change in our abilities to do things on a tiny scale, and soon we were making astonishing creations.

In 1985, a joint research project between the University of Sussex and Rice University was taking place, aimed at identifying interstellar matter. As part of their experiments, the scientists were vaporising a carbon rod, and noticed that C60 (a molecule made of 60 carbon atoms) was forming, in spherical shapes.

This completely rewrote the current understanding of the chemistry of carbon. Previously, it had been thought and taught that carbon can take two forms – it’s either found as graphite or as diamond. These scientists had just discovered a whole new form of carbon, completely by accident.

The structures they’d found are commonly known as “Buckyballs” and were the first “fullerenes” to be created. Now, many more have been made – tubes, ellipsoids and loads of others.

Buckyballs have lots of uses – the hollow shape of the balls means they can encase other atoms which can be useful as a delivery system. There are hopes they could be used to carry radioactive elements into the body and deliver them to cancerous tumours.

Fullerenes have also been used in lubricants, electronics, superconductors and countless other applications.

Where next?

Nanotechnology is a really new science, still taking its first baby steps. No one can really say where it will go next although there have been a range of predictions – maybe we’ll be able to make pencils into diamonds, or maybe self-replicating nanorobots will take over the world! However, there are some exciting developments happening as we speak.

Electronics

A team of researchers from the University of Southampton made headlines recently after making a highly successful alternative to a transistor, called a memristor, using nanotechnology.

Transistors are the building blocks of all computing, found in huge numbers on circuit boards called chips in every digital device. Over the years, transistors have been getting smaller and smaller, allowing us to improve our technology time and again by putting more transistors on each chip. However, we are now reaching the physical limit of how small we can go – you can’t make anything smaller than an atom.

The memristor heralds a new step forward – whereas a transistor can either be on or off, a memristor can hold up to 128 different states at once! This could allow future computers to reach blistering speeds we can only dream of.

The team managed this amazing feat by layering metal-oxides on the nano-scale and experimenting with different combinations of metals within the memristor.

Sensors

One of the most interesting areas nanotechnology has been applied to is medicine. As technology improves, there is a drive (and an ability) to move towards regular tracking of patients with ongoing conditions to help them manage their health over the long term.

Diabetes is a condition where the body can’t control the levels of sugar in the blood and affects millions in the UK alone. Diabetics have to check their blood sugar levels regularly to make sure they don’t get too high or low. At the moment, this involves pricking the skin and drawing blood, which can be unpleasant and time-consuming. People often avoid checking their blood sugar levels because of this – which can lead to them getting seriously ill.

A study on a wearable blood glucose sensor was recently published in the journal ACS Nano – the sensor could be part of a contact lens or watch and could detect levels of blood sugar through the sweat or tears.

Using nanoribbons of indium oxide, the researchers made a biosensor by trapping an enzyme in the nanostructure. When glucose was present, the enzyme would react with the glucose and make a tiny electrical signal. The intensity of the overall signal, gives the sensor a good idea of how much glucose is present, and can be used to continually and painlessly track a patient’s levels.

The sensor has been found to be sensitive enough to pick up data from tears, sweat and saliva, in people with and without diabetes. It is also hardy – it can cope with being bent back and forth 100 times.

This incredible technology could change the lives of many diabetics, and lead to fewer people needing emergency treatment.

An exciting future

It will be interesting to see where nanotechnology takes us next – it really is the stuff of Sci-Fi. There are still some worries about the safety of nanoparticles, as it is such a new technology with research still ongoing. However when these concerns are allayed, we can expect big growth in this sector – as Richard Feynman said “There’s plenty of room at the bottom”.

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