Month: May 2014

Everyone should visit the Harry Potter studio tour.

This weekend I drove over to Watford to meet up with my sisters and Mum and look round Warner Bros Harry Potter studio. This was a part of my 21st birthday present from my family, which is coming up this weekend (I feel so…old. Need to go to another hacker event and mention how I was 1 yrs old when Netscape came out etc. to make me feel better).

Harry Potter, for most people my age, was a large part of my childhood – I didn’t read as many of the books as my sisters did, but I feel it’s a little sad that the children of today don’t need to read them, so probably won’t, whilst for my generation it got a lot of kids from around the world reading.

The tour made me think a lot more about Dan, Rupert and Emma, who’s childhood was completely Harry Potter: spending 10 years on a set and then it ending has got to be something hard to get over.

Anyhow, the tour was really awesome, plenty of detail and whilst I probably wouldn’t do it twice, would recommend it to anyone. I particularly liked seeing the details on the effects departments who had to work meticulously to build animatronics, moving doors and motion rigs. The level of detail put into everything is amazing.

There were really only 3 things I didn’t like:

1: the lack of mention of the orchestra, and John Williams who wrote the initial soundtracks, as well as…that erm. that other guy who did the later films. A lot of movie tracks make me shiver, but none so much as Harry Potter, for which every piece gives me that feeling. It’s important to me and my sisters because music’s taken up a large portion of our childhood: Harry Potter is obviously also one of the big soundtracks we used to play in bands (a hilarious memory being the glockenspiel player swearing every time he made a mistake…)

So often orchestral musicians are forgotten, but yet while you’re sat there watching a musical, a film, or a TV program, imagine how much less of an impact the work would be if the soundtrack were not there.

Issue number 2: Stunt Doubles. I know that Daniel’s very supportive of his stunt, David Holmes and to this day I think I read somewhere that they’re still good friends. If they weren’t in the film, particularly for big stuff like Harry Potter, it would make far less of an impact. In particular knowing that David was injured during filming and now can’t walk means I really feel that they should have some form of dedication to him, and to the other people who risk their lives so that the actors don’t have to.

Issue number 3: Butterbeer is revolting. Don’t buy it. Or if you do, get the tankard between however many of you there are.

Other than that I had a really great day, took a lot of photos, and now I want to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter 😛 And yes, now that I’m back in Bristol, I am listening to the soundtrack.


Plug: wearable resources

This is not a full blog post, I’m just writing to share my wearable resources which I just pushed to github after several months of saying I would: link

Ha-yoooge shout out to Craig who reformatted my old worksheets so they look nice and are easy to use. I hope to release them as LaTex/Markdown files so people can submit suggestions or changes, but for now they’re just PDFs.

Please let me know how you get on with them: I also have a contact form on the Wearable Workshop page if anyone wants help over email with anything.

Enjoy 🙂

The Institution of Engineering and Technology Present Around The World: The Writeup

Last night I took part in Present Around the World, an awesome competition in which 18-26 year olds get the chance to present a technical idea in order to gain experience presenting, as well as potentially win some monies.

I found out about this through my good friend Mr. David Whale and entered a talk on my recent Wearable Electronics workshop.

Other people spoke about e-taxi, an alternative to taxiing an airplane from the gate to the runway by using electric motors; utility belts for actual people, not just super heroes; the Internet of Things (yes, smart fridges were mentioned…); and producing energy from waste.

I spoke about my own interest in Computer Science, the statistics and problems with the school curriculum as it focuses on consuming, not creating technology, the statistics and problems with minorities not electing to take an interest in technology, which lead on to becoming a STEM ambassador, my own DIY projects in wearable tech and finally, the workshop and how it was funded and ran itself, as well as the future I have planned as far as this project goes.

At the end of my 8 minutes (intended to run on for 10 minutes: I don’t know what I missed out, as previous recordings I’d got up to about 10:10) I had 5 minutes of grueling questions about what I did, about wearable technology and why people should buy these devices, as well as what device I would make if I could make anything with it.

After everyone else gave their talk, the other competitors and I, of which 2 were Airbus interns and 1 of those was from Hull University’s business school, had a chat whilst the judges left the room to make a decision. One of the other competitors was particularly interested in how you become a STEM ambassador which is heartening, and amongst what we discussed we learned about what we were each doing for a job.

After what felt like hours but was actually around 45 minutes, the judges returned, and told us they’d decided on the two top people, myself and Campbell who spoke about e-Taxi, but were not sure which won. This led to tie-break, for which the question was “why did you choose this subject and what’s your passion in it?”. I honestly don’t remember my exact answer: something like “I like computers and electronics and I got bored of the lack of girls and the lack of creativity in the curriculum so I want to change it” but put more eloquently – which led on to “What message would you want people to take away from this talk?”: again, not sure what I said, it basically came down to “the school aren’t teaching the right things about technology but through my workshops and other embedded technology we can teach it creatively as well as combine other subjects like electronics and physics”.

They left for another 10 minutes, in which the other competitors congratulated myself and Campbell and we discussed who’d win.

The judges returned and told me I’d won, and that they’d like for me to wait another 10 minutes in order to give some verbal feedback, which I found extremely helpful. During the feedback session where I took a whole bunch of notes, the head of the Young Professional network, George who organised the day, said as we both work in Airbus, he and the judge working at Rolls-Royce would be happy to help coach at a later date before the next round, which will be in Southampton in June, and for which the IET pays for all travel and accomodation.

Overall, I’m over the moon, and again a huge thank you to Craig, who helped with slide design and gave me some incentive to keep practicing and recording myself what felt like 100 times in order to get my presentation right, and to improve my body language and overall style: I’m thinking of taking the recordings I still have (seriously, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said “Hi I’m Charlotte Godley, I’m a computer science student from the University of Hull and I’m currently doing an industrial placement at Airbus”) and doing a cassette boy style remix…

Another thank you goes to David Whale who nudged me into this and who’s been a huge inspiration towards me becoming active in STEM and in Raspberry Pi, and is just generally a really great person to bounce ideas off of.

I’m completely over the moon and look forward to my trip to Southampton and to meeting the other folks from Local Network heats, and thanks so much to the IET for this awesome event – I will be nudging my fellow students into doing this when I get back to uni.

Presenting tips

This afternoon I will be presenting to a bunch of engineers, including 3 judges from the IET, in an attempt to win 150 quid, IET membership and an invite to the final in London.

Right now I’m bricking it, so this is actually an attempt to stop myself thinking about it too much, so here are some presenting tips on what to do and what not to do:

– read everything off them. They’re visual aids to remember what you need to say and give people the inkling of what you’re talking about.
– put stuff on there you won’t mention. A pretty picture of your cat isn’t exactly something that’ll come up when you’re talking about arduino.
– “here’s a graph. Next slide.” – if there’s something complex on your slides, give people time to take it in, don’t skip on to the next part.

– keep them simple, stupid. A lot if people favour putting pictures or graphs on over text: this helps people who can’t see and means that if you screw up, the aid is just that: an aid. Its not necessary to the talk, just nice to have.
(Yeah that’s my only tip. I’m sure other people have more.)

– rush. This makes you look nervous. If you do feel like this, pay attention to how fast you’re going, take a deep breath and slow down.
– say “uhm” and “err” – this is hard to snap out of it. For me the more practice I got in front of a camera, the less I did this.
– use too much technical language: this sort of depends on your audience, but in the case of mine, the people I’m presenting to are not arduino hackers so won’t know what a sketch is, or potentially, a comment in a program. This includes dropping acronyms like everyone should know them.
– talk too quietly or too loudly: again this will get better the more you practice.
– talk monotone: don’t force your voice to bounce around, but try and make sure you’re putting accents and raising or dropping your voice in appropriate places to what you’re saying.
– write EVERYTHING you’re going to say on a flash card. Write down cues and words to remind you what points to make.

– practice with a camera. Its hard to watch yourself, but I for example noticed I was swaying and slouching slightly. Doing it over and over again will also help you memorise what you’re saying, but…
– take flashcards in case you get stuck and have a brain freeze moment.
– see if friends or family will help you and watch you. As I mention, I hate watching myself (most people do) so I was lucky that Craig and David are awesome people who kept poking me to practice and show them.
-Add a little humour
-Use stories and personal experience
-Be yourself: its great that you’re able to impersonate Steve jobs, but he was never trying to impersonate someone else, and if you’re faking it, this will show. Develop your own style.

Body language
Its estimated over 80% of what is said is perceived through either nonverbal communication, or through your tone of voice.

– lean, wobble or fiddle: stand up straight. If you find yourself moving, walk about the platform rather than wiggling. Avoid wearing clothes you can fiddle with.
– stare at one person: keep moving your eyes or look just above their heads.
– talk to your monitor or your feet
– put your arms crossed over your chest: this gives off ‘I’m closed’ and makes other people feel and interact in this way

– smile
– do the opposite of that which is written above.

Before the talk
– panic. Take lots of deep breaths and distract yourself.

– drink a cup of tea. If you don’t like tea, something similar. I’m doing that now. Trust me, it works.
– make sure you have everything you need: notes, slides, any visual aids

Ultimately, enjoy it. If it goes wrong, have some apple juice, grape juice or barley water depending on your preference, and add it to the wealth of experience you’ve got. Then tomorrow stand up and try again. (This advice actually applies to most things in life…)

Please suggest any more tips via twitter or commenting.

As an aside, I won the IET present around the world Bristol heat, so a huge thank you to Craig Richardson and David Whale for being awesome at helping me prepare and practice for this, and to all of the hackers and makers who’ve inspired me to take an active role in educating people about stem.
There will be another blog on how it went…

Tips for minorities

I’ve recently been doing a lot of preparation for presentations, and my friend Craig (of blog fame) mentioned a blog post a while back called “tips for women in cs” – I attempted to read this again, but since the move, I’ve lost it somewhere…so I decided to rewrite this for any minority in any subject.
The original post was written because I got angry at someone’s comment on a Facebook group, so I’ll write this one with a little more maturity and a little more helpfulness.

1. Don’t hide. I was given this advice by a life coach at an event I went to about 18 months ago and I think this covers most things. Importantly:
A. If you’re stuck, ask for help
B. If you’re lonely, talk to people. Peers in particular, but also other social groups. If you can brave it, do it alone because this will force you to make friends, and won’t stop you if no one else from your group is interested.
C. Its important we show as many role models for the people who might follow you in your footsteps, so get active, and get showing that if you can do it, why can’t they? (Stolen from Dr. sue Black’s blog titled if I can do it, so can you…) Don’t feel pressured to do this, but this is why I get around (heheh…) as well as the fact I really love technology and meeting people who love it like I do.

2. Forget the haters cause someone will love you (yes, that’s a Miley Cyrus lyric): there’s going to be some horrid people who make horrid comments because they have yet to grow up and realise in order to get places, they need to do things with their lives, not put down others. Eventually you’ll pull through and find awesome people who will be like your family. Its also worth noting the nastypasties make up a small percentage of computer scientists who shout louder than the rest.

3. The people around you are probably just as scared as you are, but are acting like they know more. I met plenty of students in first year who rambled off 3 letter acronyms they’d picked up before uni – I was a little guilty of this too, I have to say – this doesn’t make them better than you. In fact its a sign they’re trying to act clever when they probably know very little. The wisest man (or woman 😛 ) knows he doesn’t know everything.

I can’t think of much more than that: if anyone else has anything to add to this, shoot me a tweet or a comment.