Students visit Isaac Computer Science QMUL

Dated: 11 July 2022

 
Last week, a group of our A level computer science students were fortunate enough to attend an event organised by Isaac Computer Science at Queen Mary University London that not only gave them a taste of what university life has to offer, but gave them the opportunity to meet with two eminent lecturers and researchers: Dr Paul Curzon and Dr Paulo Oliva.
 
Woodhouse computer science teacher Mr Gosselin, who accompanied the students told us "Dr Curzon (BA/MA/PhD Cambridge) is a well-known and well-respected computer science researcher and lecturer. On top of the myriad projects he has set up to encourage the learning (and teaching!) of computer science in schools, Dr Curzon specialises in Human-Computer interaction, and the one-hour lecture he gave us challenged the very perceptions we have of standard/traditional electronic engineering and software development, by placing the human first and the finished application or machine second.
 
By taking real-life situations (for instance: infusion pumps that fail hospital patients, or plane navigation systems that betray pilots' ability to safely land a plane), Dr Curzon emphasised how the human mind is prone to making mistakes (specifically: mistakes based on humans' limited sensorial capacities, which in turn lead either to attention deficit or the complete opposite: an excess of focus), and raised interesting ideas on how machines should address this.
 
Instead of giving engineers and software developers the freedom to build machines and software solutions which they technically imagine will help hospital staff and pilots with their duties, it is the users (with their lack of extensive technical training and technical know-how, coupled with their sensorial limitations) who should first and foremost be the focus of experts' attention and work.
 
After a short break, attendees were lead to an impressively well-equipped lecture room, ready for Dr Oliva's coding workshop. Dr Oliva (who is no stranger to Woodhouse College, since he was invited to give a presentation at last year's Higher Education afternoon) currently lectures on functional programming and web development, and his research has focused on mathematical logic and proof theory. He presented our students with an hour-long activity encompassing some of the most important fields in computer science: databases, web development and cybersecurity (techniques of which will have been unknown to most of our students).
 
Sat in front of their personal computers, and under the expert eye of some helpful undergraduate students, this activity enabled attendees to experience first-hand a 'live' university workshop. Thanks to Dr Oliva's pedagogical skills, students were methodically guided through this multi-tasking challenge which gave them a glimpse of what it is like to "learn on the job" and to develop those all-important self-learning skills. Finally, after a swift lunchbreak, students were offered goodie bags (containing a great exercise book by Isaac Computer Science) and had a chance to meet QMU student ambassadors. This wrapped up the event nicely and offered plenty of time for students to ask as many questions as they liked about the computer science course at QMU."
 
 
 
Woodhouse computer student Jerry said "Living in a world where machines have become inseparable from our daily lives, it was eye-opening to see how much interface design impacted our attention to detail and consequently the ability to use them to their full capability. Learning about how data and information is exchanged between the client and the servers also helped us as users appreciate the intricacies that go on behind the colourful webpages we see on the frontend."
 
And classmate Sharlene commented "I enjoyed learning how saliency maps are used to design user interfaces and I found the practical session very interesting as we learnt how to exploit the fact that most websites don't encrypt passwords before being sent to the server so the contents of the password can be revealed using the inspect tool." 


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