Fundamentals of Success, Life and Academic Performance

The following videos outline some general rules of success and how one can ultimately change the world, through focus, dedication and commitment coupled with giving back to the world / community that has contributed along the way.

Arnold Schwarzenegger – In this video he outlines 5 key Rules of Success. A far more detailed and in-depth interview exploring Vision, Goals, Confidence and Time Management may be seen (online)

One of the key elements mentioned in the video above is to have a clear vision, a destination. Perhaps the following video from Star Trek VI – The Undiscovered Country, 1991 (IMDB) is a good example, as the Enterprise is asked by a Klingon outpost for its Destination – “What is your Destination, Over”. Even with a warp capable Starship like the Enterprise, without a Heading / Destination one will just drift through space without ever getting anywhere. Many star athletes “begin with the end in mind” to quote Stephen R. Covey and “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, they visualise and see the ultimate goal the wish to achieve.

As with all journeys one must first have a direction of travel, in the case of Samwise and Frodo departing the Shire in The Fellowship of the Ring, 2001 (IMDB), their initial destination was the village of Bree. As with all journeys one must set off by putting one foot in front of the other and embrace the adventure that lies ahead.

Admiral William H. McRaven – highlights 10 key life lessons that are very much centered around how one can change the world by adhering to some basic principles. A more detailed account, along with a 20 minute video may be seen (online).

Many of the above Rules & Life Lessons can be readily applied to Academic study. As Schwarzenegger mentions one has to “work your butt off”. Putting in hard work and focus is essential, however perhaps even more importantly is to focus on working hard at doing the right things. The following video below highlights several key things that the top 10% of students do in stark contrast to the other 90%. Two of the key things that make all the difference is to develop a Schedule / Plan and also to put in the work doing Practice Exams / Homework.

An interesting article in which the speaker in the video above contributes, can be found (online) and is aptly named the “Science of Student Success”.

Just turning up to class for example, isn’t going to guarantee success in coursework / exams. One must put in the work. Its just like having a Gym membership, paying the membership fee, and going to the gym for just a few weeks or on the odd occasion will not produce any results. One must put in the work over and over again, moreover it is important to do the right thing, hence how one works out at the gym with the correct form is also crucial. The real key to building muscle mass is not stopping once you have done 10 reps just like everybody else, the real value comes at the very end by putting in that extra couple of reps. This extra bit of effort is what makes all the difference to making the most of the training session. This is something that Schwarzenegger mentions time and time again in many of his interviews.

Perhaps it is apt quote Colonel John Hannibal Smith from the A-Team – “I love it when a plan comes together”. The videos below depicts Hannibal (George Peppard) from both the TV Show and the more recent move (Liam Neeson) saying the well know line.

Commitment is also a key ingredient, as is well voiced by wise Jedi Master Yoda “Try not, Do or Do not, there is no try” – Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, 1980 (IMDB). Trying to do something half-heartily will not lead to success, if you are going to do something the commit to it 100%. Another very good example of this is from The Karate Kid, 1984 (IMDB), at the point where Mr. Miyagi ask Daniel if he is ready to begin his Karate training. Daniel responds by saying “Yeah, I guess so”. Mr Miyagi in turn outlines a short story about walking on a road, both the left and right sides are safe, but if one walks in the middle, then sooner or later you will get run over. Again it all comes down to Commitment, either you are going to do something and give it 100% or not.

Perhaps one of the most important thing at University, especially in Computing is to treat it like a Gym. Only by working out and learning to tackle new problems can one problem solving skills improve along with their programming ability.

Any other tips for success?
Do you know of any other good strategies useful on the road toward Academic Success?
Have you seen any interesting videos recently about how to focus, do the right thing and ultimately achieve the best results?
What interesting things have you learned from watching the videos above?
What are the most profound / useful things you can take away and action from the above videos?


Kainos AI Camp and Hackathon – Week 1 Summary

Over the first two weeks of September 2018 Kainos has been running a AI Camp and Hackathon event (online) hosted at BCU Computing. The AI Camp schedule runs from 09:00 to 17:00 Monday to Friday over the two week period, with a final Hackathon taking place on Saturday 15th Sept at Kainos’ office located in Alpha Tower, Birmingham. Around twenty of those who signed up were selected to participate in the AI Camp and Hackathon. The group consisting mainly of Computer Science / Computer Science and AI undergrad students along with some from Physics as well, spans a number of university institutions across central England.

Just prior to this event another had been held in Belfast during the last two weeks of August with the final Hackathon taking place on Saturday 1st September. That left the tutors running the AI camp with just the Sunday to get packed and fly to Birmingham to get going again first thing on Monday morning with the second instance of the camp.

Social Media Feeds
Kainos (online)
Kainos Academy (online)
AI Camp Tutor – Chloe Thompson (online)
AI Camp Tutor – Jake Young (online)
AI Camp Co-ordination – Don Le (online)
Guest Speaker (Convolution Neural Networks) – Alan Dolhasz (online)
Guest Speaker (AI & the Media) – Kari Lawler (online), Youth4AI (online)
BCU Computing (online)
AI Camp Hashtag (online)

AI Camp Week 01 in Tweets
The following embedded tweets below should give you some sense of what the first week of the AI Camp was like.

Life Lessons and Leadership Principles

The video below is of Lt. General Hal Moore discussing Leadership, recorded at the 2007 American Veterans Conference in Washington D.C. He highlights a number of principles that has guided his life and also guided him on the battlefield.

1 In baseball, three strikes and you’re out. In the game of life three strikes and you are not out, there is always one more thing you can do, to influence any situation in your favour. All you have to do is think, what else can I do, and after that there’s one more thing you can do. The more things you do the more opportunities that open up.

2 On the battlefield always try to be where the action is going on. A battlefield leader has to lead on the battlefield.

3 In any situation you’ve got to think what am I doing that I should not be doing and what am I not doing that I should be doing, to influence the situation in my favour. There’s always one more thing.

4 Trust your instincts. Your instincts are the product of your experience, your reading, your personality. Your instincts are your best resource. Your gut tells you one thing and your heart tells you another. Go with your gut.

5 Life is not a bed of roses. You are going to be hit with adversity, now and again. When hit by adversity, you’ve got to believe that you will prevail in the end.

The trailer below is of the 2002 film We Were Solders depicting the Vietnam War  battle of la Drang in 1965. The film stars Mel Gibson as the then Lt Colonel (imdb).

Another interesting example of a speech revolving around life lessons was by Navy Admiral William H. McRaven during the University of Texas 2014 commencement. It can be summed in the following principles below.

1 If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

2 If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.

3 If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers.

4 If you want to change the world get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.

5 If you want to change the world, don’t be afraid of the circuses.

6 If you want to change the world sometimes you have to slide down the obstacle head first.

7 If you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks.

8 If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest moment.

9 If you want to change the world, start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.

10 If you want to change the world don’t ever, ever ring the bell.

Many of these principles can be summed up as “Start each day with a task completed. Find someone to help you through life. Respect everyone. Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often. But if you take some risks, step up when the times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up”.

Another key idea discussed is that by changing the lives of just a few people within a few generations this can impact the lives of everybody on the planet.

One can read the entire transcript of the speech (online) at the University of Texas website.

The video below is again of Admiral McRaven highlighting eight key leadership lessons.
1 Know your troops.
2 Communicate constantly.
3 Set the example.
4 Accountability matters.
5 Allow room to maneuver.
6 Own the problems.
7 Learn from failure and move on.
8 Be a servant leader.

Some other blog posts that may be worth reading:
Prof Randy Pausch Time Management & The Last Lecture (online)
Schwarzenegger Interview: Vision, Goals, Confidence and Time Management (online)

Do you know of any other interesting videos / articles discussing interesting life lessons or leadership principles?


University incoming Class Photos – (Examples in Video), an engaging Start?

It seems that quite a number of Universities start off the academic year by organising a class photo for all the new incoming students. A number of such examples can be seen in the videos below.

As can be seen in the video directly below, such group photographs aren’t just limited to the University arena but also spans across the Universe, in particular with this example of the 10 year anniversary group photo of the Marvel Universe.

Marvel Universe 10 year Class Photo

1. Is this a good method of building a sense of community, pride and belonging right from the very start of the University experience?

2. Do many other Universities create incoming class photos?

3. Is it nice to receive a hardcopy print of the photo, or is it better & more environmentally friendly for it to be available online through the likes of Facebook so participants can be tagged, given we are nearing the end of the second decade of the 21st century?

4. Have you seen any institutions outside of the US taking on this form of welcome activity?

5. Have you seen any other interesting forms of welcome activity that generates a sense of community and excitement?

6. What is the smallest & largest gathering you have seen for a University class group photo, 3000, 5000, more?

7. Are such incoming class photos generally taken at the University level for all incoming students, or have you seen any that are at College/Faculty or School/Department level?

8. What was the most fun / interesting incoming class group photo you’ve seen?

Butler University – Class of 2021

Butler University – Class of 2020

Butler University – Class of 2019

Butler University – Class of 2018

Butler University – Class of 2017

University of Chicago – Class of 2019

University of Chicago – Class of 2018

University of Chicago – Class of 2016

University of Connecticut– Class of 2016

Cornell – Class of 2016

Duke University – Class of 2020

Duke University – Class of 2019

Duke University – Class of 2018

Duke University – Class of 2016 (Over 40 minutes duration)

Duke University – Class of 2013

Emory University – Class of 2021

Emory University – Class of 2016

Emory University – Class of 2014 (First ever class photo)

University of Iowa – Class of 2019

University of Iowa – Class of 2015

University of Massachusetts – Class of 2020

Michigan Technological University – Class of 2013

Michigan Technological University – Class of 2012

University of Minnesota – Class of 2020

MSOE – Class of 2018

University of North Texas – Class of 2019

Northwestern University – Class of 2021

Northwestern University – Class of 2020

Northwestern University – Class of 2018

University of Pennsylvania – Class of 2016

University of Pittsburgh – Class of 2021

University of Pittsburgh – Class of 2020

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) – Class of 2018

University of Southern Indiana – Class of 2018

SMU – Class of 2021

SMU – Class of 2020

SMU – Class of 2016

SMU – Class of 2015

University of Texas at Austin – Class of 2021

University of Texas at Austin – Class of 2020

University of Texas at Austin – Class of 2019

University of Texas at Austin – Class of 2018

University of Texas at Austin – Class of 2017

Wesleyan University – Class of 2018

West Point – Class of 2012

BCU Global Game Jam 2018 – Tweet Summary

The 2018 Global Game Jam event took place over the weekend of Friday 26th Jan to Sun 28th Jan. In the case of BCU registrations commenced around 17:00 on the 25th, with the opening ceremony starting at 18:00. The theme for the 2018 event was “Transmission” the previous year was “Waves”.

The event started to finish up around 13:00 on Sunday 28th Jan with the teams uploading their games (online). At 14:00 presentations kicked off, with a number of companies and organisers present to judge and give prizes. The Vice Chancellor also attended for most of this final presentation session along with half a dozen academics from the School of Computing and Digital Technology. After the handing out of a number of prizes, one being to visit Fish in a Bottle (online), the two day event wrapped up around 15:30.

In all over 70 people took part, from universities across the country along with a number of graduates out in industry as well.

The following tweets below, may give you some idea of what the event was like. One can also see a collection of tweets from last years event (online).

I also made a further post during the weekend of the Game Jam – highlighting a good few tweets that depict the use of Tents at these events and Hackathons in general (online). Some large hackathon events have been in tents that would have taken days to construct. Some teams bring tents with them and have in-tent coding going on during the event, while others take more a campfire approach. In the case of one hackathon held in a sports hall, a large portion of same was taken over with tents.

Bring your Tent: Global Game Jam & Hackathon Examples

Over the past couple of years one can see that Tents have been deployed during Game Jam and Hackathon events. You can see in the tweet directly below that a whole section of a sports hall was taken over with tents during the 2017 Global Game Jam.

Another tweet from Global Game Jam 2017 shows a tent and “campfire” in operation. The theme for the 2017 event was “Waves”.

Looks like one group are undertaking “Tent Projection Mapping” for the 2018 Global Game Jam, therein incorporating the camping experience into their game idea. The theme for the 2018 event was “Transmission”.

Looks like a “Fort” was constructed for the events below.

Here we have an entire team doing some in-tent game development.

This event from Sydney suggests brining your own tent to the Hackathon

These Hackathon events from 2017 takes the idea of a Tent to a whole other scale.

Here’s one from 2016 with a major Hackathon Tent under construction.

Here is the “Peach Pod” Tent from a 2016 Hackathon event.

In Tent coding from 2016.

Looks like this 2015 Hackathon is at quite some scale, with quite a significant entrance way in place.

A Microsoft Hackathon from 2015.

A tent in place for a 2014 Hackathon Event

A slightly different style of “Tent” than many of the examples above.

Here’s just a few other examples of Hackathon Tents.

The following tweets below, highlight some nice examples of Post-it note art on the walls adding a good splash of colour and fun to the environment. Post-its can be useful for many things and not just for planning out your Game / Hackathon idea. Here’s a previous post (online) highlighting some post-it note art on campus.

Having some mascots at Game Jams and Hackathons are always fun too.

Data Structures – Working with Queues and Games

Queues are really quite a fundamental data structure that all in computing should know. Probably one of the most popular real world examples of a queue in operation is that of a checkout counter in a shop. This is a classical example of First In First Out in operation. The first person to join the queue will be the first to be served at the checkout. All further customers join the back of the queue. Hence is a nice example of enqueue() and dequeue() in operation.

The “Hot Potato” Queue Simulation
Another example that is often used is the “Hot Potato” (online), whereby a person has a “Hot Potato” that gets passed around by “people” in the queue. At each iteration a “person” from will become removed from the queue and placed at the back – therein enqueue(dequeue()). This will occur a certain number of times before the “person” with the “Hot Potato” will be finally removed from the queue. This process continues until just one person remains.

Print Queue
An example more tangibly related to computing is perhaps the “Print Queue”. When a new document is sent for printing it is placed at the end of the queue enqueue(). The process of actually printing off a document will remove it from the queue dequeue(). Under many circumstances this will removed the first print job. However many multi-function printers/photocopiers of today, will present a list of print jobs one screen once you log on, allowing you to select which job or jobs you wish to print. So the example of the “Print Queue” isn’t perhaps the best any more, although even with these multi-function one can often “Select All, Print & Delete” which will print off each job in the “Print Queue” following the standard FIFO ordering.

So what might be a good example of a queue system in operation that would be applicable to students studying Game Development? One nice example is perhaps that of Waypoints, the following (online) link is to an animation that moves an onscreen object towards a location the user has clicked (Waypoint), as the user clicks other locations, these are added to the “Waypoint” queue. When the onscreen object reaches a Waypoint location it is dequeued.

Message Queue
Another nice example is of how to implement a “Message Queue” in a game (online). In this case game avatars can pass messages to one another following a distinct packet/envelope structure, that of: sender, destination, type, data. Therefore instead of having Objects communicating in what could be almost considered as a fully interconnected mesh of messages (just consider what a system sequence diagram for this would be like). All Object / Avatar instances instead communicate with each other through a single queue based messaging system.

Production / Build Queues in Games
One example I considered quite applicable to Game Development students was that of the Production Queue. Many stratagy based games make use of “Production Queues” or “Build Queues” to creating anything from Tanks, and Ships to Aircraft and Experimental Weapons such as the AC1000 from Supreme Commander 2 (online) developed by Gas Powered Games.

The Noah Unit Cannon Experimental (online), is a fixed emplacement that can queue up the production of several types of land units, such as the Rock Head Tank, Titan Assault Bot and the Sharp Shooter Mobile Anti Missile Defense to name but a few.

Simcity Buildit
Simcity Buildit makes very extensive use of Production / Build Queues through the form of Factories that produce basic materials such as Metal, Wood, Plastic, Glass and Electrical Components. These items can take anything from 1 minute for Metal up to 7 hours for Electrical Components to be produced. When fully upgraded these factories have a production queue of 5 units. Materials produced in the Factories can then go on to be used in one or more of the nine Commercial Buildings. The Commercial Buildings take the form of Farmer’s Market, Furniture Store, Hardware Store and Donut Shop to give just a few examples. Details of all the items these factories and buildings can produce can be seen (online) (online). The following videos give some sense of what these building are like.

Given that one can wait almost an entire day to process a full production queue of Beef (11 units) it is very useful to have the opportunity of speeding up the process with “Speedup Tokens” in the form of: Turtle x2, Llama x4 and Cheetah x12. To create “Speedup Tokens” one must either earn them through the “Contest of Mayors” or create them from small pieces by creating “Epic Projects”. These are building that can create a fragment of a “Speedup Token” every 24 hours. The more “Epic Buildings” one has the more fragments are needed to create a “Speedup Token”, however as a starting point one needs 3 fragments for Turtle, 6 for Llama and 9 for Cheetah.

Perhaps tasking Games Development students with creating Production Queues that simulate the creation of Beef, Televisions, Popcorn or Pizza as is the case with Simcity, or Land, Air and Naval units in the case of Supreme Commander is a good way of demonstrating the use and need for queues – particularly in strategy games. Another interesting reason for focusing on Production / Build queues is that especially in the case of Simcity Buildit, many of the items produced are dependent on other items. Therefore quite long chains of production can be formed just to produce the necessary resources to create one “Expensive / Complex” final item.

Parallel Processing / Super-computing
Simcity Buildit provides a really good example of the costs associated with production / processing and relate very well to issues around Parallel Processing / High Performance Computing (HPC) / Super-computing and how jobs can impact one another in the determination of the overall execution time. The classical example of this is the process of making breakfast – many tasks can be done in parallel, though one will be constrained by the cost of the operation that takes the longest. Taking a parallel approach to making “breakfast” can however yield a good deal of cost / time savings over a step by step approach (online).

What other Games use Production Queues?
Do you know of any other games that make heavy use of “Production Queues” / “Build Queues”?