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 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.

Posted on May 21, 2013 by orbital

Please check your email (as per your team registration) for the assignment of peer evaluators.  You should receive them within the next 24 hours from Min’s email address (knmnyn at gmail dot com).

Feel free to introduce yourselves to your CC:ed “booster” (the Orbital TA assigned to you to help encourage you to get through Orbital), and to your fellow teams (in the To: list)

Due to way IVLE configures project evaluation, you’ll be able to evaluate all of the other teams, but you only have to give feedback to the project teams that we’ve mentioned in the email.

Your peer evaluators may change over the summer, but we hope they will mostly stay fixed with these assignments.

Posted on May 20, 2013 by orbital

I’ve uploaded some slides for the project documentation requirements for the “log” and “wiki” parts of the documentation. They are available in the IVLE workbin for the course: Click here to go to IVLE Workbin

I’ve also created a 25 minute video that you can watch for the purpose of the documentation.
You can watch the video here:

Posted on May 10, 2013 by orbital

Hope you did well on your final exams and are ready to begin Orbital with our Liftoff workshop on Monday and Tuesday next week.
As preparation we need to you do the following few things (may take 1 or 2 hours to do):

  1. [10 minutes] You should plan on fully attending both days of Orbital’s Liftoff workshop.  If you cannot attend, please let A/P Lee Wee Sun <> so that we can approve your request for leave from this mandatory event.
  2. [10 minutes] As part of Liftoff (and Orbital in general), we will be using third-party websites and links to give you pointers to resources where you can learn and practice hacking skills yourself. SoC and NUS does not explicitly endorse these websites but we think the global community has developed very useful resources for one to learn many hacking skills on your own.For starters, we would ask that you register yourselves on  We’ll be using this online resource to teach Python, HTML/CSS and Javascript.  Go to and create an account for yourself, and poke around if you have time.
  3. Installation and testing of software is one of the potentially difficult things that you will have to do in Orbital.  Sometimes installation can be straightforward, but occasionally instructions for certain platforms (Linux in particular) can be fraught with difficulties. Please attempt to install the following on your laptop computer to enable us to conduct the workshop more efficiently:
  • [30 minutes] Python 2.7: You can find it at
  • [30 minutes] Google App Engine SDK for Python: You can find it at It is likely to be better to install python 2.7 before installing Google App Engine to allow the install script to detect python 2.7 for you.
  • [15 minutes] A good text editor.  You may have and/or used “vim” before.  That would be fine.  If you haven’t used a text editor much, it’s a good idea to pick one that you will become an expert in.  NUS Hackers has recommended Sublime Text:
  • [30 minutes] Git: Sign up for if you don’t already have an account.
    Linux users, install git the way you normally install stuff (yum, apt-get)
    Mac users, install XCode, under preferences, downloads, install command line tools as well
    Windows users, install the latest version of git from here ( that generate the SSH Keys and link it to your Github accounts by following the guide over at

    You may also find it useful to install a git client for your particular operating system/platform.  Some choices are available here: . You may want to check reviews on the web to see which (free) client is best for you.  Some default choices are SourceTree and the GitHub client (just for your information: GitHub and Git are not the same).

Posted on May 2, 2013 by orbital

Students should maintain

  • A project journal where you record the work periods and work done weekly. It is okay to do more on some weeks and less on others, but to get course credit for CS3108B, the total number of work hours must be at least 130.
  • A project wiki where the project documentation is kept.
  • Both of these are available on IVLE project.

We will follow a simplified agile methodology ( for Orbital. The main part of the methodology we will use is as follows:

  • We use iterative development where each iteration (sprint) is done over around 4 weeks (2 iterations over the entire Orbital project).
  • For each sprint, a small subset of features is specified using user stories ( and accepted ( by the peer evaluator at the end of the iteration.
    • For Orbital, we will not use any formal specification method. User stories should be done in natural language, but your peer evaluators must be able to understand the stories clearly. We will also not use any automated testing. The peer evaluators do acceptance testing manually until they are satisfied that it meets the requirements based on their understanding of the user stories. You will learn more about specifying requirements and testing (including unit and regression tests) in your software engineering courses.

Each group will act as peer evaluators for three other groups. If you are traveling or have other activities that do not allow you to meet the peer evaluation schedule, you need to discuss alternative dates with your peer evaluation groups. If your evaluation dates are after the scheduled dates, you need to get permission of the instructors for the alternative dates.
Passing requirements are described at, but will be moderated by the instructors.

Week 1 (13 – 19 May): 

Monday & Tuesday: Liftoff Workshop

  • Work on mockup and requirements.
  • Update journal.

Week 2 (20 May – 26 May):

  • Mission control (optional).
  • Work on mockup and requirements.
  • Update journal.

Week 3 (27 May – 02 Jun):

Submission Week

  • Mission control (optional).
  • Update journal.

Monday: Submit

  • Mockup. This can be a powerpoint mockup with simple interaction, or more sophisticated mockup on other platforms if you wish.
  • A 3 minute video describing the aims of the project with the help of the mockup.
  • At least 3 user stories describing at least 3 features to be implemented in the sprint over the next 4 weeks.

Tuesday to Friday:

  • If necessary, clarify the aim of your project and the features to be implemented with your peer evaluators.
  • Act as a peer evaluator. If necessary, clarify the projects you are evaluating with the groups you are evaluating.

Week 4 (03 Jun – 09 Jun):

Monday: Submit the updated version of the user stories after feedback from the peer evaluators. This forms the requirements that you are implementing in the sprint over the next 4 weeks.

  • Mission control (optional).
  • Implement features.
  • Update journal.

Week 5 (10 Jun – 16 Jun):

  • Mission control (optional).
  • Implement features.
  • Update journal.

Week 6 (17 Jun – 23 Jun):

  • Mission control (optional).
  • Implement features.
  • Update journal.

Week 7 (24 Jun – 30 Jun):

  • Mission control (optional).
  • Implement features.
  • Update journal.

Week 8 (01 Jul – 07 Jul):

Submission Week

  • Mission control (optional).
  • Update journal.

Monday: Submit

  • Prototype (url) with the features specified in Week 4 completed.
  • A 3 minute video describing the work done with the help of the prototype.
  • User stories for the remaining features that you wish to implement.

Tuesday to Friday:

  • Act as beta tester to see if the features of the projects you are evaluating can be accepted. Give feedback on any bugs found, or if the requirement is not met. This can be done through the evaluation form, or if necessary through face-to-face meeting or through videoconferencing.
  • If necessary, clarify the features to be implemented in the next sprint with your peer evaluators.
  • Act as a peer evaluator and give feedback on the features that are implementing in the next sprint by the groups you are evaluating.

Week 9 (08 Jul – 14 Jul):

Monday: Submit the updated version of the user stories after feedback from the peer evaluators. This forms the requirements that you are implementing in the sprint over the next weeks.

  • Mission control (optional).
  • Implement features.
  • Update journal.

Week 10 (15 Jul – 21 Jul):

  • Mission control (optional).
  • Implement features.
  • Update journal.

Week 11 (22 Jul – 28 Jul):

  • Mission control (optional).
  • Implement features.
  • Update journal.

Week 12 (29 Jul – 04 Aug):

Submission Week

  • Mission control (optional).
  • Update journal.

Monday: Submit

  • Prototype (url) with all features specified completed.
  • A 5 minute video describing the entire project with the help of the prototype.

Tuesday to Friday:

  • Act as beta tester to see if the feature of the projects you are evaluating can be accepted. Give feedback on any bugs found, or if the requirement is not met.
  • If necessary, discuss your project with your peer evaluators.


  • Submit final feedback on the project you are evaluating.
  • Submit your reflection on your project after receiving the final feedback from your peer evaluators.

Week 13 (Sem I Week 0: 05 Aug – 11 Aug):

<No activities; Work for Orbital should be complete>

Week 14 (Sem I Week 1: 12 Aug – 18 Aug):

<No activities; Work for Orbital should be complete>

Week 15 (Sem I Week 2: 19 Aug – 25 Aug):

Splashdown (tentatively Wed 21 August, evening)

Posted on May 2, 2013 by orbital

The schedule for the two-day Liftoff workshop is given below. This schedule is still tentative and subject to change. The workshop is compulsory for those doing the program unless you have prior permission to be excused. We will try to put as much of the material online as possible for your reference.

The aims of the workshop are
– To introduce you to the platform, tools and methods that you can use for the program. This is mostly familiarization and is enough only to get you started. You should expect to self-learn more as you do your project.
– To allow you to find a partner if you have not already done so. You may use to help you find a partner.
– To allow you to find a mentor if you wish to be mentored.

Please bring your own laptop (or at least have a shared laptop with your partner). Let us know if you are unable to do that.

Location: SR1

Day 1 (13 May)

  • 9:00-9:15 Opening
  • 9:15-10:45 Design Thinking (LeeWS)
  • 10:45-12:30 Python (Google)
  • 12:30-13:00 Lunch / Partner finding (on your own)
  • 13:00-15:00 CSS/HTML/Javascript (Google)
  • 15:00-16:30 Google App Engine (LeeWS)
  • 16:30-18:00 Templates (KanMY)

Day 2 (14 May)

  • 9:00-10:00 Git and collaboration tools (TBD)
  • 10:00-11:00 Talks by Silicon Straits and GoldenGate (TBD)
  • 11:00-11.30 ECommerce (PayPal)
  • 11:30-12:00 How to present your ideas (Google)
  • 12-13 Lunch (On your own. You should complete your partner finding after this.)
  • 13-16:30 Launch Window (Hackathon). Ideally you work on the idea that you’d like to do in the program, but you are not required to continue on the same idea.
  • 16:30-17:00 Briefing on Orbital schedule and peer grading (LeeWS/KanMY)
  • 17:00-18:30 Ignition (1 minute madness). Present what you did in Launch Window, elevator pitch style.
  • 18.30-19:00 Speed mentor matching (Only for those looking to be mentored)