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News Archive : January - March 2015

SWEY Hackathon encourages future engineers

Date Added: 19th March 2015
Celebrating its first birthday, the Society for Women in Engineering at York (SWEY) held a successful Hackathon in the Department of Computer Science in February.

SWEY was formed by members of the Departments of Computer Science and Electronics at the University of York in response to the lack of equal gender representation within STEM subjects nationwide. One of the Society’s main goals is to encourage an interest in engineering in children from a young age.

The purpose of the Hackathon was for competitors to create a computer game based on an engineering topic that could be demonstrated in the classroom, and seven teams answered the call for participation. Representatives from the Bank of America Merrill Lynch kindly donated the prize fund, and were on hand to offer advice and act as judges. Representing the target audience, three children were invited to the evening session to provide valuable critiques of the participants’ work.

The winning team of four students from the Department of Electronics created a game designed to teach children about computer programming. By entering commands such as “run”, “jump” and “wait”, players could control a cleverly animated character. The competition’s runners up were from the Department of Computer Science, with a colourful game to teach children about different logic gates.

Organiser Anna Bramwell-Dicks from the Department of Computer Science said, “We were staggered by variety and breadth of the games ideas, which ranged from aerodynamic flight simulators to choices of logic gates.

“We’re currently organising visit days to local primary schools to showcase the exciting range of engineering topics that fall under the banner of Computer Science and Electronics. We hope to be able to take some of the games developed in the Hackathon to these sessions in the summer term.”

She continued: “SWEY is here to prove that engineering is a fantastic career choice for both women and men. We hope that SWEY’s presence within the Departments of Computer Science and Electronics will be encouraging to future students, and will help to inspire more women to consider pursuing a degree in Engineering-related subject.”

SWEY is open to all members of the Departments of Computer Science and Electronics. If you would like to join the Society, please email the team at sweyorkuni@gmail.com.

New research signals big future for quantum radar

Date Added: 27th February 2015
An international research team led by a Computer Science academic has made the breakthrough on a quantum radar.

A prototype quantum radar that has the potential to detect objects which are invisible to conventional systems has been developed by an international research team led by a quantum information scientist at the University of York.

The new breed of radar is a hybrid system that uses quantum correlation between microwave and optical beams to detect objects of low reflectivity such as cancer cells or aircraft with a stealth capability. Because the quantum radar operates at much lower energies than conventional systems, it has the long-term potential for a range of applications in biomedicine including non-invasive NMR scans.

The research team led by Dr Stefano Pirandola, of the University’s Department of Computer Science and the York Centre for Quantum Technologies, found that a special converter – a double-cavity device that couples the microwave beam to an optical beam using a nano-mechanical oscillator – was the key to the new system.

The device can either generate microwave-optical entanglement (during the signal emission) or convert a microwave into an optical beam (during the collection of the reflection beams from the object). The research is published in Physical Review Letters.

A conventional radar antenna emits a microwave to scan a region of space. Any target object would reflect the signal to the source but objects of low reflectivity immersed in regions with high background noise are difficult to spot using classical radar systems. In contrast, quantum radars operate more effectively and exploit quantum entanglement to enhance their sensitivity to detect small signal reflections from very noisy regions.

Dr Pirandola said that while quantum radars were some way off, they would have superior performance especially at the low-photon regime.

“Such a non-invasive property is particularly important for short-range biomedical applications. In the long-term, the scheme could be operated at short distances to detect the presence of defects in biological samples or human tissues in a completely non-invasive fashion, thanks to the use of a low number of quantum-correlated photons.

“Our method could be used to develop non-invasive NMR spectroscopy of fragile proteins and nucleic acids. In medicine, these techniques could potentially be applied to magnetic resonance imaging, with the aim of reducing the radiation dose absorbed by patients.”

Dr Pirandola was funded by the Leverhulme Trust and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

The paper ‘Microwave Quantum Illumination’ by Shabir Barzanjeh, Saikat Guha, Christian Weedbrook, David Vitali, Jeffrey H. Shapiro, and Stefano Pirandola is published in Physical Review Letters.

Creating games under pressure: what can be created in just 48 hours?

Date Added: 26th January 2015
Teams of students competed here in York over 48 hours in world's largest game jam event over the weekend of 24 January.

The York site of the Global Game Jam attracted 49 students, including a number from the Department of Computer Science. Other students joined us from Physics, Electronics, Theatre Film and Television, Archaeology, History and Mathematics.

The Global Game Jam was 48 hours of game creation, with 514 sites in 77 countries and an estimated 25000 people taking part.

York's Global Game Jam was generously supported by industrial judges: Andy Gibson from Team Pesky, Liam Twose from LiamTwose.com and Mark Hope from Aardvark Swift. Also joining the judges was Dr Marian Ursu from York's Department of Theatre Film and Television and IGGI. Nina Roussakoff, a local indie game developer, also delivered a pre-jam workshop on Gamemaker.

Twelve games were created at York, and the overall winning game was Kevin's Adventures in Space and Time - created by Rob Brown (Maths), Emma Green (from outside the University of York), Sam McNamara (Computer Science) and Andrew Thomas (Maths).

The winning game is a pixel art adventure through time and space. Players must help Kevin and his ancestors collect pieces of his time machine so he can fix the rift in space and time and get back to the present! The game progresses through a series of puzzle based scenes, each more difficult than the last: players will always find themselves in a new environment, with a new problem, wondering 'What do we do now?'

There were winning games in other categories: Purgatory winning for concept, A Midsummer Night's Murder for art and Where Do We Go Now? for mechanics. You can see all the games created at the York Jam at http://globalgamejam.org/2015/jam-sites/university-york/games

The Global Games Jam is part of the course for our PhD students in our EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Intelligent Games and Game Intelligence (IGGI). This year the event was hosted for IGGI students in Essex, one of the partners in IGGI. To find out more about IGGI, visit http://www.iggi.org.uk. We are currently accepting applications for October 2015 start until 31 January 2015.

Further information on the Global Game Jam can be found at http://globalgamejam.org/