ISS_Flight_Control_Room_2006Orbital will also feature weekly hacking sessions during the summer semester. These sessions (named “Mission Control”) will be held in the evening hours on weekdays so that launchees can come together to work on their projects together.

Teaching assistants will be available during Mission Control sessions to answer questions and give feedback on projects.

TAs will also be present during Mission Control sessions on virtual collaboration software such as Google+ and Skype, as well as have dedicated time to answer questions on the askbot forum.

Details about the mission control sessions will be posted in the askbot forum when they become available.  Note that certain levels of achievement in Orbital require student teams to participate in mission control sessions.

Orbital will feature three levels of achievement that student teams self-select.  Prospective teams need to indicate their preferred level of achievement when they express their interest in the programme. The level for each team will be finalized shortly after the workshop/hackathon session, and students will be notified of the outcome.

gagarin50_insignia_vostokВосто́к (Vostok) (Easy/Beginner) – Attend at least 12 hours of workshops, complete a basic web application (following the Python + Google App Engine, or Javascript + Express, as outlined by our programme). Complete the weekly check-ins and monthly peer-grading exercises.  Participate in the end of summer showcase.  Must score a minimum of 2 stars on feedback given to other teams and on own peer-graded project.  Must show evidence of development progress in all three months of the programme.

(Восто́к was name of the series of spaceflight program started by the Soviet Union which was the first to successfully launch a human, Yuri Gagarin, into space, and return him safely to Earth).

200px-GeminiPatchProject Gemini (Intermediate) – Completes the milestones for Vostok, and extends it further, completing at least 4 additional extension milestones.  Possible extensions include but are not limited to: social integration, mobile client, iterative usability testing, application-specific feature extensions, multiple / administrative frontends, downloading of user data.  Must be active on either Slack or the Mission Control sessions.  Must score a minimum of 2 stars on feedback given to other teams. Must score a minimum of 3 stars on own peer-graded project.

(Gemini was the second manned spacecraft programme by the USA.  It launched ten missions between 1965-1966.  Neil Armstrong cut his chops in Project Gemini before returning in the USA’s Project Apollo series of missions.)

201px-Apollo_11_insigniaApollo 11 (Difficult/Advanced) – Custom project defined by either the student team or the mentoring staff.  Must fulfill requirements of Project Gemini while extending further.  Strong evidence of project management, data security, user testing and/or source code control.  Must render assistance to other teams, by participating on Slack and in the Mission Control (Where possible) sessions.  Must score a minimum of 3 stars on feedback given to other teams  Must score a minimum of 4 stars on own peer-graded project.

(Apollo 11 was the first mission by the US NASA agency to land a human on the moon, and safely return him to Earth.  The distinction of being the first men on the moon belongs to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.)

The selection of the difficulty level is binding in the case of teams opting to do Apollo 11 or Project Gemini with external mentorship; i.e., student teams that elect to do A11 or PG and but do not complete the necessary achievements as judged by the mentoring staff may be deemed to have failed the course.  This because mentorship involves industry professionals and/or student mentors (i.e., costs manpower to run).  Both A11 and PG level passes allow the team to bypass Round 1 interviews for the NUS Overseas Programme, as a recognition of the skills achieved by the team.

We do encourage inspired students to try for this highest level of achievement, as this will enhance their programming capabilities and inspire a higher level of confidence.  Students who complete Apollo 11 or Project Gemini may opt to continue this line of development in future coursework in the School’s set of Entrepreneurship modules.

Important Revisions

2016 – Added PG as eligible for mentorship.  2015 – Added NOC credits for PG and above.

(Insignia: courtesy Wikipedia)

A critical component of this programme that we take from other massive open online courses, is that the student cohort helps themselves through the problem.  One student’s problem may have been faced by many, and a good vehicle that helps to record questions and answer them is an important component in helping students find answers.

To address this, we are going to use askbot, an open source Django project that builds a forum similar to IVLE but with voting mechanisms and easy authentication via OpenID (e.g., Google account, FaceBook account).

We hope that all students will participate and help on the askbot forum.  Student’s participation will be a factor in the S/U grading of the student projects.

Jump to the Orbital Askbot forum here.

Why Orbital?

Well-rounded SoC-ians need exposure to the real-world computing’s opportunities and landscape before graduation.  This module is to encourage that important aspect of exploration and self-learning that is sometimes called “hacking”, so that students can be inspired right from the get-go in the first year, even before formal exposure to team projects and proper Software Engineering best practices in Level 2xxx courses.

It takes its local inspiration from two popular SoC modules: CS 3216 – Software Development on Evolving Platforms and CS 3217 – Software Engineering on Modern Application Platforms, which also encourage the same objectives.  But these courses give such opportunities to a select few, and typically only in their senior years.  Orbital hopes to bring this opportunity to all interested students and as early as possible.

Globally, it takes its defining structural constraints from the wave of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), which are large online courses, characterized by recorded events and minimal teaching support.  Not graded, these courses have openly accessible materials, which students can watch, Cheap Portable Swamp Coolers watch and watch again, until they have mastered quadcopters for aerial photography the material.

For hacking skills, we are encouraged by Codecademy as methods for the layman to learn programming skills, and by HackerSchool to fine-tune these through intensive training.

imagesThe Orbital programme will be administered by fellow senior students, in the guise of training events such as workshops and hackathons, and also partially graded by your fellow Orbital batchmates through peer-grading.



Here’s a timeline for the structure of the programme (current as of 15 Feb 2013):

  • Jan 2013: Stakeholder interviews to give program its basic structure
  • Feb: Orbital programme launched.  Prospective launchees to express interest in programme to manage logistics.  Launchees also to express which self-selected level of achievements they wish to strive for.
  • Feb-Apr: Optional, Orbital-sanctioned workshops run by student groups.
  • Summer Week 1 (13-14 May): Liftoff: 2-day series of talks and workshops at SoC Seminar Room 1.  Matching of self-selected advanced groups with industry mentors.
  • May-Aug: Teams work on their progress.  Weekly reports to be filed.  Monthly check-ins and peer grading to be done by project groups.  Mission Control (weekly hacking) sessions to be held in SoC on weekend evenings
  • Sem I Week 0 (5 Aug): Splashdown (showcase) at SoC Seminar Room 1.  Final report to be submitted for checking.

After the summer term ends, students will be notified whether they have completed all of the necessary achievements for the pass (S), by Week 1 or 2 of Sem I.  If so, the students can enrol for the course and be guaranteed 4 MCs of unrestricted elective (UE) credit at the end of Sem I.