Posted on March 31, 2014 by orbital

PyCharmAs part of the Orbital summer programme, we will be engaging the wider industrial community to help guide you and let you experience what the real-world industry and development is like.

As part of this endeavor, we are pleased to let you know that JetBrains, the folks behind PyCharm, the popular Python integrated development environment (IDE), has decided to give NUS Orbital students a period license for their Professional version of PyCharm.

You may want to test-drive the IDE and see whether you’d like to use it.  Of course, you’re not obligated to use it (it is third-party software and only a temporary license for you to use during the course, but if you find it useful, please go ahead and use it.

Details will be posted in the Piazza forum (where it’s private to our class).

(Disclaimer: Neither NUS or SoC officially endorse this product or company; it is an option for you to use if you find useful).


Posted on March 24, 2014 by orbital

Photo Credits: US NASA

Hi all:

Thinking of Orbital, but haven’t yet decided to enrol?  Or perhaps you’ve already enrolled but you still have some questions about what Orbital is?

Then come to our short briefing session that will help you understand the Orbital process on Monday 31 Mar, from 18:00-19:00 (sorry for the confusion! was incorrectly written as 7-8pm).  Some of your seniors from Year 2 may also be around to help you understand what Orbital meant to them.

See you then!

– Min

Posted on March 1, 2014 by orbital

Registration now open
Dear 2014 Orbitees:

The countdown has begun!  You may now register your interest to join the Orbital programme.  After registering, you’ll be placed on the email list for the summer programme that we will use to keep in contact with you and you’ll be assigned an advisor who will give you more details on the summer course as it progresses.  Just click the link below:

We know you are wondering about some questions, so here are some answers that may help you clear your doubts:

Q1) Is there any obligation by filling out this registration form?
A1) Nope, it just allows us to know who you are and to establish contact with you.  You can decide not to participate in Orbital even after you register, with no risk to yourself.

Q2) Is there a deadline for filling out this registration form?
A2) Nope. You can register as late as 12 May, the first day of the mandatory* Liftoff workshop.  However, the sooner the better for the administrative staff, as we can better estimate the interest from all of you potential first year SoC students.  Since there’s no risk (see Q1), why don’t you register? (hint, hint)

* Attendance at the Liftoff workshop on 12-1314 (13th is a holiday) May is mandatory, but students who want to participate in Orbital who cannot make the workshop dates need to let Orbital staff know in advance.

Stop the presses!  I’m ready to register!

(or try if that doesn’t work for you)

Posted on February 10, 2014 by orbital

Photo credits: NHS Confederation @ Flickr

We’re pleased to hear that many of you are considering Orbital for part of your summer adventures for 2014! We’ll be releasing a signup form soon so that you can express your enrolment interest and stay up-to-dates with announcements.

But don’t worry, official registration won’t close anytime soon. The first mandatory milestone is to attend the 2-day Liftoff workshop happening right after the final exam period.

Meanwhile here are a short list of Frequently Asked Questions (also broadcasted verbatim on the CS 1010 and CS 1020 forums), to keep you in the know:
We wll be having an information session about Orital again closer to the recess week period. Keep a look out for the official email, a well as the announcement here in your course.

– Q: Is there a formal process to get into the Orbital cohort?
No, there’s no selection or bidding for the module. If you want to do Orbital you can, provided you qualify.

– Q: Then who qualifies to be part of the cohort?
Any SoC freshman (CS/IS/CEG/BZA). Students at other years or in other faculty cannot do this programme. Orbital is also unfortunately, not applicable to exchange students.

– Q: Can I do this while overseas, or while doing an internship, etc.?
Yes! You can do most of your development overseas or at any time. There’s no physical or temporal requirement — just that you finish the project within the three summer months.

– Q: Must I do it just with one other person?
Yes. You must work with one (and only one) other SoC freshman student for Orbital.

-Q: The video says that weekly hacking class will be held. What if a person is not here in Holidays?
No worries.  The hacking classes are optional and notes are likely to be distributed so that you can follow the topic, even if you are not around.  Only the initial workshop (first 2 days of summer) and final closing ceremony (likely during second week of Sem 1) are mandatory for you to attend.


Posted on January 21, 2014 by orbital


Orbital is the School of Computing’s self-driven programming summer experience.  It is designed to give first-year students the opportunity to 1) self-learn and 2) build something useful.  Officially, it is a 4 modular credit (MC) module – CP2106: Independent Software Development Project – that is taken over the summer and graded on a Completed Satisfactorily/Completed Unsatisfactorily (CS/CU) basis.

Unlike the School’s traditional modules which emphasize academic learning, this module leverages the growing opportunity that computing students at all levels have in building useful applications.  This skill does not normally come by formal training, but rather requires time, experience, trial-and-error to hone.  Information foraging for technical details on the Web can be difficult, but we feel that through a combination of self- and peer-help, students will be able to put together useful systems and generate confidence in being able to go beyond the basics, and seek solutions on their own.  In fact, computing is the only discipline whose output can scale dramatically; a single person’s work can affect millions of lives, everyday.

Our School does not teach programming prowess as formal coursework, as it is not academic in nature.  Orbital is one mode where young energetic students can fill this gap by their own initiative.  Read more about the Orbital programme’s structure in pages tagged with ‘orbital‘.


Posted on January 20, 2014 by orbital

Art Credits:

Min will be visiting SoC classrooms for Programming Methodology and Data Structures and Algorithms (better known in SoC circles as “1020” and “1010”) to interest all of you in Orbital 2014.  Hope you’ll all bite!

Posted on January 20, 2014 by orbital

Art Credits:

We’ve finished interviewing our line-up of Advising staff for the 2014 Orbital iteration.  We’re pleased to have a dedicated cohort of so many great students to assist in the upcoming latest-is-greatest run of Orbital.

In fact, Min and Wee Sun have already arrowed them with a nice long 3-hour curriculum meeting to help iron out the details of what will go down over the summer.  Go team!

Posted on August 19, 2013 by orbital

Photo Credits: TerryDu @ Flickr

Dear students:

A very big thanks to all of you for making this first iteration of Orbital a rousing success!  You are all winners in that you have taken your own initiative to take charge of your learning through the hacking process of trial-and-error, assessment, iteration, and design.

Let’s be clear that Python and GAE are just the technologies of today, and even six months down the road, the technology will differ.  The constant will be your determination, to find out for yourselves and learn from and build on each other.  With the myriad talks that you have heard, you’ll have realized that your skills are in high demand and that you really can do something great with what you can pick up on your own.

As we sign off for Orbital, we have a few (four) announcements to make:

Certificates: We will be printing certificates for all teams that completed Orbital.  The achievements will have your name (as provided in the registration for credit form that you filled in this/last week), your Orbital level of achievement (Vostok, Project Gemini or Apollo 11) as well as a layman’s explanation of the level (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced).  You may pick them up at the Undergraduate Office, hopefully by the end of the week.  Your names and achievement levels will also be made public on the Orbital webpage (if you’d like not be listed, we’ll be happy to honor that; just send us mail) as the 2013 Orbital cohort.

Photos / Videos: from Splashdown will be published out on the Orbital homepage in the Splashdown page.  Look for it in a few days with the certificate announcement.  Student videos that are public on YouTube will be compiled into a public YouTube playlist (hint: use your videos, images of your posters in your next pitch for internships, jobs).

Feedback: This course was put together by learning from all of you (in the early feedback in Sem II) and your SoC club seniors (in Comp Club, NUS Hackers, Student Chapter of the ACM, Games Development Group and the Student Network Associates), but we need your help to improve Orbital for the incoming freshmen who will have a chance to do Orbital next summer.  We’ll be asking you to jog down memory lane and critique Orbital, by letting us know all of the ways that Orbital didn’t work, as well as your aha! moments when you knew there was a better way we could have done things.  We’re also looking for a few good men and women who would like to make Orbital happen for the next batch next year as mentors and TAs for the course.  Please stay tuned for a survey link within the next couple of days — we really do appreciate all your feedback — especially your most critical and helpful comments.

Kudos: Orbital was put together by so much love from so many helpful individuals.  We can’t thank them all for helping out, but we’ll try!  They are hard at work behind the scenes to make it all happen as smoothly as possible.  You probably didn’t realize that the infrastructure requirement for running this course is really tremendous…

For the school: UG office staff (Pei Pei, Arifah: Admin support, Registration support), AV staff (Siti: AV support), Building Facilities staff (Judy: for use of SR1 and SR1 setup), Dean’s office staff (Theresa: Coordination of catering), Technical Services (for poster printing), TAs (Cuong, Tam, Pallav, Camillus and Mansheng; Advising, Booster services, Evaluation, Mission Control), Faculty ( Weng Fai, Khe Chai and all of our staff who came to visit you to see your projects).

External help: Mentors (Siva, Jan, Jing @ Google; Laurence, Ruiwen @ BillPin; Luther @ Gradeful, Pallav, Camillus @ SoC; Calvin @ PUGS; Mickey @ HiredTurf, Michael @ mig33: advising Apollo 11, Liftoff workshop), Venture capital and start-up firms, Orbital Liftoff Workshop / Splashdown Closing / Mission Control Sessions (Alvin @ PayPal; Jeffrey, Justin @ Golden Gate VC; James @ Silicon Straits; Winston @ Neo), Blk 71 Staffers (Liana, Nixon: sponsorship of Blk 71 space); IDA (Chris Ng,, Google Developers Group, Python User Group — Singapore, Singapore Python Platoon, PyConSG

We’d also like to thank Google (Cheryl, Minty, Shunjie, Jan, Siva, Jing and Davidson) for their stellar sponsorship of this programme.  They have devoted time, manpower and money (for printing of your posters AND the auxiliary Grow Beyond with Google programme AND food AND prizes) to help propel Orbital up several notches!

Posted on August 12, 2013 by orbital

Splashdown As part of Splashdown (just around the corner, next Monday 6-9pm), you’ll all will be reviewing and seeing your peers’ projects in person at the event.  To facilitate this final part, you’ll need to create a A1-sized poster for the event, detailing the highlights about your Orbital experience that you like to share with your buddies and industrial guests.

The details for the poster session are on the Splashdown page, but you can also ask questions on Askbot about it.  We’ll add your concerns to the Splashdown page , along with the answers.

Posted on August 5, 2013 by orbital

Photo Credits: US NASA

It has been a bug-blasting, hacking-all-around, action-packed summer thriller for all of you in Orbital!  Mission Control reports the all-clear for your reentry back to NUS, Singapore!  We’ll have a final, three-hour evening session, where all of you are required to participate (this *is* the very last milestone), in the form of a final Splashdown showcase!

Splashdown is structured as two poster sessions with following oral sessions after each poster session to serve as a transition period; see schedule below.  Orbital teams will be assigned to one of two sessions to present their work.  During each of the two poster sessions, each team will be presenting their work via a A1 sized poster that you will have to prepare and print (but we will pre-pay for you at SoC Technical Services).

17:30-18:00 Registration
18:00-18:40 Poster Session 1
18:40-19:20 Invited Talks Session 1
19:20-20:00 Poster Session 2
20:00-20:20 Invited Talks Session 2
20:20-21:00 Awards Ceremony

Splashdown will also feature peer voting for best projects.  During the poster sessions, take note of which other teams you think did the best projects and vote for their project electronically using your smart phone or tablet. We’ll tally your votes and announce the winner at the end of Splashdown at the awards ceremony.  Google has kindly sponsored some prizes for the very best projects, as voted by all of you and observers (SoC, project mentors and industry invitees).

Details for Splashdown (such as the final schedule and team allocations) are still ongoing, but you can check on the latest details on the Splashdown page on the Orbital site.

For those who cannot attend due to conflicts, you must let the instruction staff know ahead of time via emailBoth team members must attend the event.  Post-event application for leniency will not be permitted.