Posted on March 26, 2013 by orbital

Did you watch the video teaser from Code.org that was posted in Orbital’s blog a few days back?  Well, now you can get started on learning what you need for the Vostok beginners programme by learning Python on your own.

Simply create an account with CodeAcademy and start learning Python.  We think you find Python an elegant and straightforward language for many tasks (including other advanced classes within SoC).  [Disclaimer: NUS SoC has no interest nor is it affiliated with CodeAcademy]

CodeAcademy and its ilk (websites for learning hacking by doing) are becoming a leading way to learn programming for the masses (we’re in the mass too :-).  You may find many of the fundamental tracks useful for your Orbital projects (we’re excited about the Web Fundamentals and the Javascript tracks.  Anyone up for API lessons?).

Posted on February 18, 2013 by orbital

There will be a short briefing about Orbital on Thursday 21st Feb (this Thursday) from 6:10-7:00pm in Seminar Room 1. Please come with your questions, or if you can’t make it in person, attend the Google+ Hangout (named “NUS Orbital” at the same time.)

If you cannot be there physically or virtually, please fill out this form to register your interest and ask other questions: http://goo.gl/hLDVC

Posted on February 15, 2013 by orbital

A key foundation of Orbital is intense involvement of student groups to help mentor prospective student teams.

Any student group helping to train on students on skills related to the program will be entitled to the workshop incentive scheme as communicated to your groups. If you feel that you can hold a training event that would be allied to the Orbital programme cause, please get in touch with the Orbital staff or nine undergraduate office for details.

Such training events can include using external websites, videos or exercises to train students.

Posted on February 15, 2013 by orbital

Orbital will also feature a kickoff event to start the summer semester. The kickoff event – named “Liftoff” – will feature a two-day series of workshops, a programming contest, and a pitch session.

Liftoff will happen during the first week after final exams in Sem 2. This is the week of 13 May.  Currently, we are planning to have Liftoff on that Monday and Tuesday, which will be the 13th and 14th of May.

The first day will feature workshops, run by student groups and industry professionals. The second day will feature a half day of workshops, external speakers, a programming contest, and the final pitching session.

The programming contest, Launch Window, will be a three-hour programming contest with student teams hack-it-out to build and simple application for a given theme.   Launch Window’s theme will be announced during the contest itself.  Teams must use the technology stack that has been taught during the first day of the workshops. The top teams decided by public votes for Launch Window will be the only teams eligible to participate in the Apollo 11 (advanced) scheme with mentors, but have no obligation to take up this role.

Liftoff will end with a project pitching session, Ignition. This pitching section is for both student teams as well as industry and school mentors to pitch their ideas. Both student teams and prospective mentors can give feedback on each other’s pitches; and in the case of Launch Window winners, can use the session to match with prospective mentors for the duration of the orbital program.  Ignition will follow a 1-minute madness format, in which teams will come on stage to present their pitch using at most two slides that they have prepared. Each pitch should last for no more than two minutes.

Note that Ignition is part of the assessment for Orbital, and accounts for 20% of the final S/U grade  The slides and the text of the pitch will need to be uploaded for grading and assessment.

There will be an optional mingling session for students, industry professionals and student mentors to converse about project ideas to close out Liftoff.

Posted on February 15, 2013 by orbital

Orbital 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.

Posted on February 15, 2013 by orbital

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.

Восто́к (Vostok) (Easy/Beginner) – Complete a basic web application with a database backend. Complete the monthly peer-grading exercises. 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).

Project Gemini (Intermediate) – Custom project defined by the student team. Completes the requirements for Vostok and extends it further with a good set of core features. 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.)

Apollo 11 (Difficult/Advanced) – Custom project defined by the student team. Must fulfill requirements of Project Gemini while extending further, such as including social integration, mobile client, iterative usability testing, application-specific feature extensions, multiple / administrative frontends, downloading of user data. Good evidence of software engineering, testing and documentation. 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.)

Artemis (Extreme) – Custom project defined by either the student team or the mentoring staff. Must fulfill requirements of Apollo 11 while extending further. Strong evidence of software engineering, testing and documentation. Must score a minimum of 4 stars on feedback given to other teams Must score a minimum of 5 stars on own peer-graded project.

(Artemis is an ongoing mission to land astronauts on the Moon, and to eventually take the next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars. )

The selection of the difficulty level is binding in the case of teams opting to do Artemis with external mentorship; i.e., student teams that elect to do A11 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).

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

2020 – Added Artemis and set it as the only level eligible for mentorship. 2017 – Removed PG as eligible for mentorship. 2016 – Added PG as eligible for mentorship. 2015 – Added NOC credits for PG and above.

(Insignia: courtesy Wikipedia)

Posted on February 15, 2013 by orbital

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. (Already broken link from old website)

Posted on February 15, 2013 by orbital

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.