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The FUNdamentals of Student Projects
The Computer Science topics you study early on in a computer science career give you the foundations that allow you to create software: innovative things to sell and make money from, programs to write just for the fun of it, or even programs to push forward the boundaries of what has been done before. So before we look at the detail, let's get an idea of what the point is. What kind of thing can you do once you've put the effort in to learn the skills and gain the understanding from all the separate courses? What can you do when you put it all together?
The best way to see is to look at a few student projects. After all the aim of the project module is for you to show off what you can do to the examiners (and create something that really interests you). All the following are projects of Queen Mary Computer Science students in their third year. Some you can even try for yourselves. Many of the interactive games in the cs4fn FUNdamentals pages were also written by our students. Many of these students had no computer science or programming skills when they started their degree!
Blaze, the emotional robot, had to be taken apart eventually - which was a very emotional thing to do as he seemed more than just lego somehow. From his rubble sprang a new project though. Ahmed decided his project would be to create two robots who fenced with each other. One robot was controlled by a flexible exoskeleton that the student built to convert his arm movements into movements in the robot. The second robot was controlled by artificial intelligence: its skills in fencing were created by obtaining 'know how' from experts on the college Fencing team and building a set of rules for the robot to follow allowing it to react to the attacking robot in a human like way.
Ahmed went on to work for Loyds TSB
Sign language tutor
Lila's individual project was an interactive tutor software that teaches deaf and non-deaf users Sign Language. The software, which includes games and quizzes as well as the learning sections (for beginners and advanced), is available on CD and DVD and is currently being commercialised by the company Microbooks. They believe it will do very well as it is the first interactive and substantial system aimed at children, both deaf and non deaf.
Emoticons (smilies) in a multiple users chat room application
Computer technologies mean that we live in a world where much of our communication is based on written rather than spoken words; phone texts, emails and chat rooms are popular examples. If we are speaking to someone face to face their expressions and tone of voice give us clues to what they are meaning. Text can be a problem though as often the meaning of phrases can be mistaken. In this project a multiple user chat room was built from scratch, where a face represented each of the users, the expression on that face was controlled by the users which we showed experimentally this helped better communication in the chat room group.
In this project, Sammy built two robots from Lego Mindstorm kits and developed software to allow the robots to communicate with one another to "play on a seesaw". (The project also involved some carpentry to build the seesaw!). The software to run on the robots was challenging, the code needs to be compact and allow the robots to react quickly. To finish it all off, Sammy wrote the Ringmaster program shown, which allowed him to control the robots and make them seesaw or stop as required.
Sammy now works for the Ford Motor Company
Hiren created a system to "make faces". We can think of colour as made up of adding 'colour elements' (wavelengths). Similarly can we find the set of images to add together to make faces. Shown are these 'face elements', and in the red box a set of new faces made by mixing together the 'face elements'. Interesting fact: the face element at the top left is the "average" face from the large set of different faces used to build the system, to most people it looks particularly attractive, so do people prefer average faces?
Hiren became a University systems programmer
Paul's project was about steganography (the word means hidden writing). His software allows the user to hide information in pictures. By understanding the way information is stored in a digital picture and also how human brains work when looking at a picture, we can find ways of hiding the extra text information in the picture so that the human observer wont notice it is there. Whilst this might be used for spies, it is also useful for adding a digital watermark to images, so the person who created it can prove it is theirs if pirated.
Paul went on to work for the Human Embryology Authority
Naresh developed a computer model of the human iris (the coloured bit in your eye) for his project. His model used an understanding of the biology actually involved in the growth of your iris. He turned this medical information into a computer simulation which gives the computer generated iris its realistic appearance. Application of this method could be in computer graphics for movies, or for testing iris scan security systems. An expert in the use of iris scanning for identification from Cambridge University said Naresh's Irises were the most realistic synthetic ones he had seen.
Naresh is now a start up company entrepreneur