This year has been hectic, to put it mildly. The significantly increased workload of online teaching, combined with students' increased anxieties and the consequential increase in pastoral activities, combined to become an all consuming void that could not be filled --- however many hours one worked. On top of all that, the uncertainties of rule changes and the chronic lack of advance notice provided to HE by Government increased the number and frequency of staff and teaching related meetings. All in all a not-to-be-repeated experience. Work/Eat/Sleep/Repeat for 9 months solid.
Having said all that, there were some highlights, and I thought it worth mentioning them in this blog. Firstly, I was fortunate to have some really great PGT students this year. They threw themselves into the online teaching with exceptional engagement, and as a result many achieved some excellent coursework and exam results. They had to learn robotics software and hardware design completely remotely using laptop based simulation tools, accommodating Mac, PC, and sometimes even linux environments. I've written a blog about teaching with simulation, and it includes some video where students demonstrate their work. Here is the first of two videos:
From January though to May I ran our third year undergraduate group design and business project within the department of electronic & electrical engineering. Students work in groups, producing technical feasibility studies, designs and ultimately full business plans for real-world projects. Highlights included an online Dragon's Den event, with representatives of our industry advisory board acting as Dragons, and also an in depth assessed final group presentation and design exhibition, again all carried out online. I really enjoy working with well motivated students, and our third years handled the online delivery comfortably.
Remarkably, I've also squeezed in some time to continue participation on the IEEE P7001 standards working group, and we've just published a Frontiers in Robotics and AI journal article explaining our approach to producing the standard. We've been working on this for several years now, so to be close to a published standard and to have this paper out is particularly satisfying given the timing. Huge thanks must go to Prof Alan Winfield for leading this work.
Overall, it's been a long hard year, but nevertheless there have been some highlights, and some lasting success.
"I firmly believe that any man's finest hour, the greatest fulfilment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle - victorious." --- Vince Lombardi, 1913-1970