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Showing posts from February, 2013

CodeClub Session 1 - what a blast!

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CodeClub materials prepared for Session 1
I delivered my first session of CodeClub yesterday at St. Bernadette's Catholic Primary School in Monkston Park.  We took a while to get started properly while some technical issues with laptops not being fully charged or user accounts not working were getting sorted out.  We used the time to get everyone signed up to the club with a nice name badge.  There are 15 children in total (8 boys, 7 girls) and a few of them had done some little bits of programming before (e.g., scripting animations and games similar to CargoBot).

I didn't hand out the worksheets right at the beginning because I wanted to do some step-by-step walkthroughs to get the kids familiar with the Scratch environment.  However, it was apparent that the children were really excited about getting to program their own game and impatient to get started.  So once they'd figured out the basics of putting blocks together, we handed out the worksheets and got stuck in! On…

Role-based User Interface Simplification

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Demonstration of Role-based User Interface Simplifcation
My research student Pierre Akiki, whom I supervise with Yijun Yu, is working on a model driven architecture for adaptive enterprise user interfaces.  The overall objective of this work is to allow developers and IT operations staff to configure enterprise applications to perform run-time adaptations that make the user interfaces of these systems easier to use depending on the users' context.  In the above video he describes an approach for using user roles as a way of specifying adaptative behaviours that will 'simplify' a given interface.  We define simplification as the process of selecting the minimal feature set required by the user to complete a task in a given context and then optimising the layout of the UI elements associated with this feature set.

Update (11 March 2013): This work has been accepted for publication at EICS 2013 and I will post more details once we've finalised the camera-ready version.

SenseHub: an online community of Digital Makers

SenseHub - Nesta Digital Makers Call from Arosha Bandara on Vimeo.
Some time ago, I helped put together a proposal to the Nesta Digital Makers Fund to create a online community portal that would help young digital makers to learn about, collaborate on and share Internet of Things prototypes, that were built using the Open University's Sense Kit.

The video above was part of this proposal and last week we got the exciting news that we have been shortlisted to come and pitch our idea in person to the selection panel.  This call for proposals attracted a whole collection of really interesting ideas and it is really great to have our idea selected for the next round of the process.  Pitch day is in a week's time and hopefully I'll have further good news to write about the SenseHub very soon!

Priming Code Club

Code Club Assembly Presentation from akbandara As part of my work with STEMnet, I recently signed up as a CodeClub volunteer at St. Bernadette's Catholic Primary School in Milton Keynes.  Working with Kate Clarke, the ICT leader at the school, I am going to be leading an after-school club that will introduce kids in Year 5 and Year 6 to the exciting world of programming.  CodeClub is a nationwide, volunteer driven, grass-roots movement to get kids learning about the fun that can be had programming computers, rather than simply using them.

In order to give the kids some idea about what they might be letting themselves in for, last week I delivered the short presentation (embedded above) at the school.  I started out by getting the kids to identify different computers, and think about what a computer really does, i.e. follows a set of instructions to complete a task.  We then played with a neat little iPad game called 'Kodable' which allows the player to program a character…

"Up Goer 5" Research Description ...

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Excerpt of 'Up Goer Five' from xkcd #1133
Recently I've noticed a number of colleagues refer to an xkcd comic which describes the Saturn V rocket using only the 'ten hundred' most commonly used words in the English language.  Because the words 'Saturn' or 'Rocket' or 'Thousand' don't occur in the allowable word set, the comic was titled 'Up Goer Five'.  It inspired the creation of  simple editor that would check the content against this allowable word set and soon everyone was trying out descriptions of 'stuff' that interested them using this spartan vocabulary.  Among the better ones I came across is a description of software engineering by Anthony Finkelstein.

So here's my own attempt to describe my research interest in adaptive computer systems:

"I study how computers can be made to look at the changing world around them and change how they work to match.  This might be to make the computer work faster, keep pe…