A Cabinet Minister visits, Student Robotics and Exams

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A Cabinet Minister visits, Student Robotics and Exams

Last Monday, the UK Governments’ top Ministers all descended on Southampton for a historic first meeting of the Cabinet in the city. After it was over, Lord Drayson the Minister for Science and Innovation, came to ECS and I was one of a privileged few invited to hear him speak and give my views on the state of science, and in particular science education in the UK. It was a very interesting and broad-based discussion, covering such topics as the National Curriculum, tuition fees and women in science, amongst many others. He seemed to be genuinely interested in our views and stressed that he takes our thoughts very seriously, but only time will tell what will come of it all. To think that I might have some (albeit very minor) influence on the shaping of the UK’s Science Policy is quite an exciting thought though!

RoboticsHe then visited the newly-built clean rooms in the Mountbatten Building, before returning to an exhibition of various robotics projects being undertaken within ECS (he holds a PhD in robotics so this is an area of special interest to him). Amongst these was the Student Robotics initiative that I have recently become part of (see photo). The aim is to get local schools competing in a robotics competition that will be held here at the university later in the year. We provide the schools with all the necessary electronics but they have to build the mechanical design and program the robot to complete the task. This year the challenge is to identify coloured balls in our arena and return their designated colour to their home zone, or shoot them into a suspended net for bonus points. It is by no means a trivial challenge! Last Wednesday saw a major milestone in the project when the teams were invited here to ECS to receive the electronics kit and get guidance to start their programming. The competition day is fast approaching and I’m looking forward to seeing what they can come up with!

Finally, last Friday saw the release of the Semester 1 examinations results, and I really couldn’t be any happier! I achieved a First with an average mark of 84%, which included a score of 97% in Maths as well as 82% in the-exam-that-must-not-be-named, in which the average mark was a measly 44%! Not bad really and hopefully I can do the same this semester with the thought of the exams to come already looming in our minds. Is it just me, or has this term seemed to go about 100 times faster than the last one?!!

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