An event that has ignited competitive passions at Hursley for a number of years is the annual Quad-Department Games (previously known as the Tri-Department Games). Each year, the Barbarians, Hatters, Mavericks and Titans compete in a series of events with a rolling aggregated scoreboard. It is not just about outdoor sports, although the running, football and touch rugby are major parts of the calendar… the departments can also demonstrate their prowess in a cake bake, in a quiz, or at table football. It’s a lot of fun
Yesterday’s event was a running race around Hursley Park. On a brilliant, sunny and clear November day, a total of 57 runners completed a 5km course. There are a couple of sets of photos on Flickr, but here are some highlights…
Congratulations to all involved, congratulations to the Mavericks for the overall team win, and to Dave Currie for his organisation (and for bringing along MiniMe support!)
Last week saw the start of a new year for IBM Hursley’s MentorPlace programme. The idea of MentorPlace is to connect people from the lab with female students from local schools who might be interested in pursuing a career in one of the STEM areas (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). We work with the girls over the course of the year, providing a weekly email mentoring session, and run some activities on-site to build up their knowledge of different topics and work together in teams. The idea of engaging more with students to help them to learn more about technology and careers is something I’m personally passionate about, and I wrote about it on my own blog last week.
It’s a lot of fun, and I think the people from the lab get as much out of it as the girls do! Last week’s activities at Hursley saw 48 students learn some Java coding in the morning, and in the afternoon to build bridges using paper, string, tape, and craft sticks – they had to support a number of text books in order to be successful. The girls were divided into teams named after different inspirational women in science, technology and other areas of achievement. Here are some of the resulting pieces of work:
All of the bridges performed to the required specification and it was left to the judges to decide which one was the most creative and successful design – tough job! Looking forward to working with the schools during the academic year…
It’s not all about process, software development, and quadricopters…
This week we’ve had what could be described as a “mini Hackday”, instigated by an idea from Andy Stanford-Clark and organised by Hursley newcomer Vaibhavi Joshi. The idea was to spend a few hours exploring the world of plug computers (in this case, a model called a Guruplug); to brainstorm some ideas around utility computers; and to generally see what we could do with this kind of a form factor.
Some great ideas emerged, and quite a few of us were severely tempted to order our new shiny gadgets on the spot… by the end of the morning the Really Small Message Broker was built and running on the Guruplug and some exciting MQTT-related thoughts were flying around. A nice break from the norm for all of us!
Inspired by some of the “social technologies for internal communications” discussions I’d had with Abi Signorelli at Social Media Week London the previous week – in particular, the ease of capturing a brief audio snippet on any particular topic – I thought I’d ask Vaibhavi what she thought – here’s a quick interview:
Straight after the hacking, it was time to move on to the Open Technologies event that was being run to promote Linux, Firefox and Symphony. I’m a user and a big fan of all of these tools so it was nice to see a local Hursley event as part of IBM’s global awareness month dedicated to helping those within the internal community not yet up-to-speed on what people were using. The best part? Free stickers
As with yesterday’s post, I really don’t have to do too much work on this one, as the detail has already been written up elsewhere…
If you watched this week’s edition of Bang Goes The Theory on BBC1, you will have seen Nick O’Leary and Kevin Brown from IBM Hursley helping Jem and Dallas to drive taxis. That probably wouldn’t have been entirely revolutionary, had it not been done through a combination of an Emotiv brain-signal-reading headset, and some MQTT and Arduino funkiness… no hands on the wheel or feet on the pedals!
There’s a snappy new website about IBM’s Ideas Lab in the UK. It talks about the kind of people who work here, and has links to a virtual tour of the site, a Smarter Planet video, blogs by recent graduates Ed and Clare, a simulation game, and some pictures of shoes.
Welcome to the IBM Ideas Lab – the recruitment marketing team have been working on a bit of a rebrand of the UK Software Labs in reaching out to students and graduates.
Check out the microsite here. Students and grads can find out about what it is like to work at the labs and some of the cool things that people work on here. We want to shout about all the fantastic stuff that comes out of the ‘Ideas Lab’ and attract males and females from all degree backgrounds into these roles.
So where are all those brilliant biologists, fantastic philosophers, genius geographers, clever chemists, marvellous mathematicians…? You’ll have to come up with your own descriptions for English, History, Psychology… but they should apply, too.
[oi! I'm an historian thanks very much Peter! ... hmm... enlightened English graduates? psuper psychologists? hintelligent historians...? - Andy ... and if you want to read more about what life is like at Hursley, there was a lovely piece in the Sunday Times "Inside the IBM Dream Factory" a couple of weekends back]
Using some clever IBM middeware, The microcontroller sets the illumination colour based on a signal from the internet or via SMS over a GSM network – so you can tweet “ibmlights” with the word RED, GREEN or BLUE to change their colour.
In fact, the commands got a bit more sophisticated than that, with more colours and lighting patterns. Towards the middle of last week the lights ended up over Laura‘s desk, and a growing band of folks delightedly tweeted the @ibmlights account with instructions to change colour or pattern. She took some pictures for me (and some video as well, but I didn’t have time to edit it…).
Another year of innovation and fun at Hursley! Happy Christmas!
(by the way, well worth taking a look at the rest of the Computer Weekly article I linked above – lots more coolness from Hursley! oh, and I’m not sure how long the lights will be online… it’s just a bit of fun really)
Hursley is a culturally as well as a technically diverse place, so we’ve got some great opportunities to learn from each other. This lunchtime I popped along to one of the events organised by the lab’s Chinese Connect team, which was all about Understanding the Chinese Calendar (the title of the post refers to a significant date this week in that calendar, September 23rd).
Previous talks in the Chinese Culture series, which is organised by Hursley’s Jenny He, have covered subjects such as the evolution of the Chinese languages, how to understand Chinese names, and Chinese music and instruments. I’m embarrassed to say that this is the first of the talks I’ve been to, despite working here for some time… I really should take more advantage of the range of activities and opportunities that Hursley has to offer!
Today’s talk was delivered by Darren Beard, who was particularly interested in the astronomical background to the Chinese calendar (having published a paper on the same topic several years ago). Darren covered the scientific background of this lunisolar calendar, and the changes that have taken place to it historically over the ~3500 years it has been around – particularly interesting to me, since I’m a historian by background. It’s a complicated system which takes account of 19 year lunar cycles, requires things like leap months, and has a set of rules which specify how it works… but it is certainly more comprehensible once you understand those aspects. It was interesting to realise just how much my own perceptions of time are based on the calendar system I’ve grown up with!