Dear all, we’re excited to share with you that Amazon has awarded our course with credits for trying and using Amazon’s famous Elastic Computing Cloud (EC2).  Teams angling for a taste of EC2 will be assigned an account for US$100 for their work on their Orbital summer project.

Stay tuned for more details around the Liftoff workshop.  Looking forward to the exciting summer again!  We’re very excited to be supported by AWS in Education Grant award.

Photo credit: Jake Christensen

Tomorrow afternoon will be the one and only pre-Liftoff briefing about Orbital, for prospective students.  We hope to get you fired up about the upcoming summer programme and look forward to your questions, concerns and general discussion.

Don’t forget to visit the registration form aka “interest form” to help us convince management and our corporate sponsors (Google) that we need all the help we can get for the magnificent summer ahead!

Here’s that link: http://goo.gl/forms/5IU2EiGhoH

See you!

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 11.52.30 am
Photo Credits: Jay Williams @ Flickr

This is it!  Tomorrow’s the big event — Splashdown — the capstone to your project!

Some tips:

– Make sure you eat a good meal tomorrow and have a water bottle for drinking.  It gets noisy with 200+ people all talking in one classroom!

– Do print out your posters early.  It will be busy tomorrow and you should try to get your posters done early.  If you do them today, you can drop them off at the “poster locker” in the Undergraduate Office (COM1 #02-19).  Ask Ms Mah Chain Yee, or Ms Nur Arifah to help you place the posters in the right area for pickup tomorrow.

– Make sure to practice your pitch and presentation, even having a way to show your off your products — small leaflets or QR codes with reminders (with project IDs) can be helpful.  Also, no one looked bad by dressing up a bit for these types of events (we will be taking pictures!  Hope you’ll put your selfies on Facebook and link them back to the Splashdown FB page — we have one, didn’t you know?).  There will be some first year students coming to Splashdown, so you can also chat with them to tell them about your lessons learned.

– You will be receiving your voter ID tomorrow either by email (most likely) or at the registration desk.  You will need to take note of this for tomorrow’s best project voting.  Keep an eye out for it.  You will need your smartphone (or stop by the registration desk) to do the voting.  Please do it to keep our event lively!   Note down the projects you think are worthy of being crowned best of Vostok, Project Gemini or Apollo 11.

– Do reciprocate that effort — take the session you’re not in to look around and to see what your other teams have been able to do.  Say “Hi” to your peer teams that you may have only known virtually and give them a boost too for this final run.

– We will be starting an alumni of Orbital page soon, and if you want your name to be captured on there (with your level of achievement), please send Min and Wee Sun a private note by Piazza or by email <kanmy@comp.nus.edu.sg>, <leews@comp.nus.edu.sg>.  If you have a LinkedIn or other social media account and would like to be endorsed for specific skills — by default it would be Google App Engine and Python — also send an invitation to us so that we can eventually (in a few weeks after Splashdown) do this for you.

That is all.  Houston, out.

 

Dear Orbitees:

Congratulations on making it this far!  Hopefully you’re finishing with your evaluation of peer and adviser feedback – due 13 Aug (next Wednesday).  This step should be relatively fast and will be a key step in enabling your peers to make it to their achievement levels.

Now it’s time to start preparing for your very last milestone — Splashdown!

Splashdown is the complement to your Ignition pitch (remember that, way back in May?).  Each team will need to present what they were able to accomplish in their Orbital project.  Teams will have to prepare an A1 sized poster to describe, pitch and demonstrate their work to the audience.  The Splashdown session is broken into two separate poster sessions, held back to back, in SR1 (Seminar Room 1).  Roughly half of the teams will be presenting in the first session and half in the second session.  When your team is not presenting, it’s your chance, privilege and responsibility to go scout out the other projects and talk with your peers about their experience.  After all, you’d like to share (complain?) about how much time you wasted trying to figure out that small bug that was actually absurdly simple, so perhaps you’d like to hear your peers other stories?

Probably more importantly, you’ll need to take note of which projects you think are really good.  There will be public voting to determine the best project for each of the three levels of achievement (Vostok, Project Gemini and Apollo 11).  Public voting is done by you, your peers, any guests (you can and should invite some friends to come boost for your project) and staff.  Staff and staff guests’ votes figure a bit more in the final tally, but much of the prize determination is done by all of you!  So get ready to sell your project to guests — it’s also a chance for you to make good on your communication skills (after all it’s got a bit in common with a job interview).  We’ll be sending you a voter ID on the day of Splashdown so that you can weigh in on which teams projects are the best in class.  Google Singapore will be supplying the prizes and is subsidizing the poster printing, so please go thank them when you see them in person at Splashdown!

We hope you have had an epiphany during your summer self-study and found Computing really the right choice for you and your life path.  Perhaps you’re really fired up about your project and want to know more about how to take it further, or have an even better idea for your next project? During Splashdown, there will be a few short talks by industry guests and by the Entrepreneurship unit of our school, that are on relevant “where to go from here, life after Orbital” topics.  You should review all the information on the Splashdown page now (http://orbital.comp.nus.edu.sg/?page_id=854), and one more time closer to Splashdown (as things change as they get updated).

See you soon!

Dear students:

We’re almost at the end of Orbital!  We hope your summer self-study journey has been productive and that you have learned and broadened your horizons significantly on the topic of your choice.  Now that you’ve finished the final official Project README, video and log, it’s time to wrap up by evaluating your peers, and preparing for Splashdown on 22 Aug (Friday).

We’ll be posting a separate announcement about Splashdown later next week but for now, let’s concentrate on the evaluation of peer feedback.  This is the (very quick 1 question) evaluation that you do to assess how useful your peers have been in their feedback and critique of your project.  You’ll need to evaluate your peers as well as your adviser on this.  Details about this process are available on Post @1273 in Piazza and also as an 11-minute video recording on YouTube.

A quick note:  Those of you trying for higher levels of achievement may plan to get a lot more done on your project between now and Splashdown to meet that level of achievements’ criteria.  That’s fine — your peers will evaluate you on what you’ve done up to Evaluation 3, but you can petition (by writing to your adviser or to us (Min and Wee Sun) directly) to have your project re-reviewed for the higher level of achievement.  Make sure to do this by Splashdown (22 Aug) as that is the hard deadline for determining level of achievements, and we are likely to need to see your project’s outcome during the showcase to assess your final achievement level.

 

Photo Credits: Philipp Pohle @ Flickr
Photo Credits: Philipp Pohle @ Flickr

Dear all:

Your second Orbital hurdle is here!  Please make sure to put up your project’ revised README and log into Piazza (see pinned posts @793 and the updated @235) no later than 30 Jun 11:59pm SGT, but preferably as soon as possible).  Make these posts visible to all in your EG.

Thanks to the groups who have at least put in a preliminary or final project README and log into their EG group.  Note that you need to inform your EG adviser in advance of the deadline if for some reason you cannot make the deadline.  You must inform your advisers in advance, or lateness may count against your eligibility for getting credit for Orbital.

In the next week, you’ll also need to do the peer evaluations of your three peer teams in your evaluation group listed in Post @235. These evaluations are due as private posts addressed only to your adviser no later than 7 Jul 11:59pm (exactly 1 week later).

Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 1.22.44 pm
Photo credits: Photo Credits: mclcbooks @ Flickr

Hi all:

If you’re in China over the summer and need access to videos that we have recorded, we now have a solution for you.

You can watch them on Youku, as we have posted them to this well-known video sharing site in China.

http://www.soku.com/search_video/q_nus%20orbital

You can use the URL above from soku.com to search for videos tagged with “NUS Orbital”.  I’ve uploaded four of the important videos so far, but will upload additional as time allows.

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-01 at 7.48.56 am
Photo Credits: James M @ Flickr

Dear all:

Your first Orbital hurdle is here!  Please make sure to put up your project’s README and log into Piazza (see pinned posts @233, @224) no later than 2 Jun 11:59pm SGT, but preferably as soon as possible).

Thanks to the 13 or so groups who have at least put in a preliminary or final project README and log into their EG group.

In the next week, you’ll also need to do the peer evaluations of your three peer teams in your evaluation group listed in Post @235. These evaluations are due as private posts addressed only to your advisor no later than 9 Jun 11:59pm (exactly 1 week later).

 

STS-133_Discovery_Lift_Off_Launch_Pad_39A_KSCLiftoff 2014 concluded on Wednesday, but it’s helpful to have a recap of everything that happened, especially for those of you who are overseas.  Here’s where we sum it up in a single post.  Feel free to watch this thread in Piazza, as it’s inevitable we missed out on some useful pointers (students, advisors and mentors, feel free to add to the post).

There’s a YouTube playlist for all of the videos that we broadcasted, but the individual links are below.

Day 1

Design Thinking – Giftbook

For the first session, we are going over the design thinking workshop.

Go through the slides that Wee Sun has posted at http://www.comp.nus.edu.sg/~leews/LiftOff.zip, and then after reviewing the materials, watch and do with your partner the entire Design Thinking Workshop Video from Stanford.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FzFk3E5nxM

Project Levels and Achievements

As Wee Sun pointed out, you can have your Orbital experience overlap and align with programming contests locally and worldwide.

Consider this (non-exhaustive) list (now merged and enhanced from Shubham Goyal’s list too)

Presentation Skills by Google

Presented by Darshini Santhanam, Google Singapore (starts from the video stream at 21m50s) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5KjiP9DLss&t=21m50s

Attached are the slides for the presentation, courtesy Darshini. Grow_Beyond__Presentation_Skills_by_Darshini_Santhanam.pdf

YouTube videos referenced:

Eric Schmidt Public Speaking Class http://youtu.be/bA1I6MUOKkU
Macworld San Francisco 2008-The MacBook Air Intro (Pt. 1) http://youtu.be/OIV6peKMj9M

Elevator Pitch Winner – Katie Sunday https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqIEE-g_-Uc
Eric Schmidt – Zeitgeist Americas 2013 http://youtu.be/hUPnhKf_Cnw

Enjoy and thanks to Google again for stopping by!

Python

We pretty much went over the materials from LearnPython.org and dashed over to Codecademy to do some exercises.  We had some fun with the Open Source Report Card Json service towards the very end.

Whenever you get down on your programming mojo, watch the Code.org videos.  They pep you up.  There’s suposedly one with Obama (US president) in it too.

Alternative learning platforms:

GrokLearning
Udemy – A list of courses (w/ star-rated reviews; fee and non-fee)
Lynda – for fee, monthly subscription-based
LearnPython – what we will be following for the first part, along with Codecademy
Pythonfiddle.com

Codecademy.com: Advanced Topics in Python
– Iteration Nation (Exercises 1-3)
– List Comprehensions (Exercises 4-6)
– List Slicing (Exercises 7-11)

Codecademy.com: The Devil’s in the Details

20 minutes: AfterHoursProgramming Python Quiz
http://www.afterhoursprogramming.com/tutorial/Python/Python-Quiz/

Here are the slides for the original version of the tutorial: python_tutorial.pdf  Note you can also find the videos of both parts of the Python tutorial online.  Google has a few versions of a Python tutorial that is much better than mine, I think but it may still be worth it to work through your understanding of Python.

There are lots of additional tricks in Python that you can try, so do try to figure them out.  Also important is to try to adopt the Python coding style, in the form of the PEP 8 “standard” or others: https://www.google.com.sg/search?q=python+style+guide For PG and A11 students: if you whizzed through our Py tutorial you can try watching some pretty advanced tips to get yourself more aligned to the Pythonic style:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=OSGv2VnC0go#!

Even seasoned (salted or pickled) Pythonistas benefit from watching this from time to time…

On Codecademy: So at this point, you should have some gist of what python programming is like.  It’s not so bad, is it?  If you haven’t finished the exercises, try to do them over the next week or so, and keep working at the Python course (and others) on Codecademy.  You can take a look at the other sites that I shared with you in the earlier @177 post.  Vostok folks, don’t be intimidated by the speed at which some students can do the exercises.  Practice makes things better and guess what — there’s no Bell Curve God for this module.  So take your time and get things done until you’re comfortable coding.  You can also ask your advisors for some tips — they will be really happy to share, trust me!

Software Installation (Post @168): Please do this by Wednesday early morning.  Ideally today if possible.  It’ll really help if you have the software installed.  We did Python together (and perhaps PyCharm).

Project Gemini / Apollo 11: Teams aiming for a bit more than the standard project can try to do a mobile app or other project — it’s up to you. If you’re interested in still doing a web application, don’t necessarily corner yourself into using Py/GAE.  There are many frameworks you can.  You could try Ruby on Rails (my personal favorite web framework, and experience that Winston was sharing is highly sought for in SG).  A few of our mentors are also Rails specialists, but Python / GAE is also a good combo, and many of the advisors will be able to help you with that.  Explore what’s right for you.

Agile Methodologies

Winston of Jolly Good Code has kindly made his presentation available to us.  You’ll probably want to have a re-look at the Agile software engineering methodology he presented to you once you get down to the nitty-gritty of actually starting on your project.  Agile_Methodologies.pdf

Post Day 1 – Software Installation

Probably you have these all done, but if not, please get it done soon.  Min’s note: the more you work with these tools, the more proficient you’ll be with it.  It does help to periodically go back and retrain on certain tools (especially your text editor — knowing shortcut keys is really beneficial — you can YouTube or Google hints for developers for any tool that you’re using.  Lots of people have made very helpful notes.  Find them and share with the class!

Day 2

Web structure, HTML, version control

Zhi An’s session on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zpbK78yt8RE#t=108
Slides and everything else: http://ngzhian.github.io/orbital/#/

Color Pickers:
http://www.colourlovers.com/
– Adobe Kuler ( http://kuler.adobe.com )

Update (Post Liftoff 18 May by Min): you may also find that Laurence’s session in last year’s Orbital specifically on git use and management would be helpful for those who have gotten git to install but don’t know what to do with it.  Please find the session here on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2-hJivIXZU
A screenshot of Zhi An’s description of “how the web works” mentioned at 4:40 into his video:

Min’s addendum:
– You will probably use your fav search engine to find more information about HTML tags and CSS directives, but usually a search for “<tag name> html” will work.  The technical descriptions from w3schools.com is usually fairly good.  They have HTML and CSS tutorials there too.
– Geeky stuff: Tim Berners Lee started the web in 1991.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_World_Wide_

Google App Engine

Follow along here in YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=db6CCPZ6b3U&feature=share
Please note that you need the materials to follow along http://www.comp.nus.edu.sg/~leews/LiftOff.zip

Update (Post @206) : Last year, I posted this video to YouTube to help some students come to grips with all the new shiny code that they learned in the Google App Engine session.  You may find this lo-fi video helpful to fill in some gaps in your understanding of what all the parts of the web work.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tC6hacD5Dcs

Students from last year also found self-studying from the Udacity web application course also very useful for general awareness of “how the web works”. You can also find some of the sessions on YouTube for free:

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=cs253+udacity

This source of information is probably very useful for those of us whom learn best by watching.  The Udacity course is pretty long but much more principled in its way of introducing materials to you in a “lecture” format, instead of dumping you all in the thick of GAE like we have done.

 

For those of you who have filled out the Orbital registration form, thank you in advance for making Orbital 2014 a success!  You should now be invited to join the Piazza forum (reminder emails were sent out earlier today, please check your accounts and spam folders). The forum has most of the answers to concerns that you have raised.  Additionally:

  1. Those of you who have already stated their project teammates clearly have been also enrolled to a specific advisor group (hopefully correctly assigned to the same group) where your advisors have written a short note of introduction.  If you’ve gotten this far, congratulations!  You’re ready for Orbital!
  2. If you have been invited to Piazza, but haven’t been allocated to a specific advisor, it’s probably because you didn’t specify a teammate, or that your choice was unclear.  If you have chosen a teammate, let us know (email Min at <kanmy@comp.nus.edu.sg>).  If you haven’t yet found a teammate don’t worry, you can use the Piazza forum to solicit for teammates and can find teammates at the Liftoff workshop on the 12th / 14th May mandatory workshop.
  3. If you have filled out the registration form but haven’t been invited to the forum, please let us know.  We sent out registration reminders this evening (17 Apr).
  4. If you’re interested in Orbital but haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet, there’s still time.  Please join us by filling the form: http://bit.ly/1d6zlZR

See you soon on the 12th and 14th (all day!).  See the Piazza forum for details on the Liftoff Workshop!