Half-Way Through

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I write this a week after term has officially ended, this means that I can officially say that I’m ‘half-way through’ my degree. That’s two whole years done. Although, to be fair, the past year could probably count as two years in itself, with the amount that we’ve had to do!

When I last posted (which was at the beginning of the year, I didn’t really keep the ‘I’ll keep you posted’ thing up this year!), I was embarking on the first of many group projects, complaining about having to do work on it outside of labtime. Hah! I was so naive back then.

The second half of the first semester brought with it two more Design exercises (one of which was an individual lab!) and they brought along reports. We’ve had plenty of reports to write this year, they’re horribly boring. It’s much more fun implementing a Multiplier in SystemVerilog than having to write a couple of thousand words on it. That said, I suppose they’re good in the sense they prepare us for the monster of a report that comes along with our third year projects!

We also had another Software Development project – creating a Windows Phone 7 app that used the GPS functionality of the phone and was within Southampton. It was our Second group project – we were randomly put into groups, and so I got to work with another set of people (yay!). After throwing around ideas, we came up with a dynamic to-do list – the app was called ToDoIt!  and took up a pretty massive chunk of our lives for the 4 weeks we were developing it in. It’s safe to say that my programming experienced an improvement through practising ‘Extreme Programming’ , which is not, as I first thought it to be, programming while bungee jumping off a cliff. It’s instead the practice of programming with another (usually better) programmer. It’s supposed to make you a better programmer. It helped.

Semester 1 ended. I didn’t really think it would get worse than that. 2 group projects and almost continuous labs. It cannot get worse.

I’d heard about D4 being evil. I just assumed them to be hyperbolic. What was the worse that could happen?

I should really stop thinking that.

D4 was our final group project this year. It was, as far as I’m concerned, the group project of my degree (although fourth years, I believe, will disagree, and doubtless, after my first semester of my fourth year, I’ll disagree also).  We were required to:
build and design a football-playing robot in little more than THREE WEEKS.
I know, I know, it sounds rather hyperbolic, right? Three weeks? Nah, surely we had more time? Haha. No.
If anything, we had less, we had to order components, design it, and then there was the whole project-management side…

Each team was assigned a country. We were Libya (because there clearly aren’t any other countries that begin with L). Our robot had to play the National Anthem (the Libyan National Anthem is forever rooted in my mind), flash lights (luckily no one was epileptic), play football (haha) and be autonomous. Simple enough, we thought. We’d decided that our brilliant Libyan football player would ‘see’  using a camera. Biggest. Mistake. Ever. The cameras proved more difficult to use than we had thought – it ended in all teams having blind robots. Our Big Tournament After Easter turned into a bit of a fiasco because of this.

Our team was happy before Easter, though, after all, our robot spun (in vain attempts to ‘see’ something). Our return from the holidays crushed our spirits. Our robot no longer moved. I called sabotage (and to this day, I still do), but there was nothing we could do to revive it. We  created a TV ad to advertise our useless Glorified Light-Flasher and watched a tournament in which the robots did very little than move straight. (Though, to be fair, it was a very intense match when France was in the arena!) Our one saving glory was winning best ad! D4 might have made me want to cry, hurt people and things, but over all, it was the best educational experience yet. I’ve learned far more than I would have had someone sat down and told us how to do it!

After D4, I got involved in something a little bigger – ECSS. The ECS society’s made up of all the students of ECS, which is an awful lot of people. I decided it was about time I got more involved in student life in the department, seeing as how I’d spent most of March in the Zepler building (there was a time we’d convinced them to let us stay longer – we were in there from 8am-2am, and back in at 8 the next day!). I ran for President. After a lot of, er, debate, a set of re-elections, I was suddenly President of the University’s biggest society. For those of you coming in next year, you’re in for a real treat!

And now, I bid adieu to a tough, stressful, but over all fun year. (I’ve learned so much, made so many new friends) and welcome my third year with the treasures of the Big Scary 3YP to look forward to!

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