Tech summer school encourages industry collaboration

18 Jun 2009

A summer school for computer science and engineering students, organised by University College Dublin (UCD) and Dublin City University (DCU), will run for 12 weeks during the summer with the aim of developing research skills and strengthening industry links for university undergraduates.

Odysseus, or Online Dublin Computer Science Summer School (ODCSSS), now in its fourth year, will expose undergraduates to the ins and outs of postgraduate research, with a taste of what goes on in the big technology companies here in Ireland.

Some140 students applied for 18 funded places, and these will have both a mentor and a faculty member assisting them on project development.

To date, 60 students have passed through the programme, and some of the resulting projects have been so successful that PhD and postdoctoral students have continued working on them, with two students from last year’s ODCSS being credited in journal publications, no slight achievement for an undergraduate.

As part of the experience, there will be talks from IBM and Intel, as well as a walk through the anthropological aspect of research currently being carried out in the TRIL (Technology Research for Independent Living) centre, where breakthroughs are made on assistive technology for the ageing.

This kind of experience takes students out of the academic bubble and condenses into 12 weeks the know-how of collaboration with industry, explained Dr Aaron Quigley, co-director of ODCSS.

This year’s theme is ‘The digital physical divide: sensing the environment’, and will be encouraging students to work on innovative technologies in this area.

Quigley, a former TRIL researcher, discusses one project he is working on with a student: “Most smartphones on the market have an accelerometer built in, which detects orientation, and one of the ODCSS projects will involve working on wrist watches with accelerometers.

“As people shake hands, the application we are creating will record this and keep track, in place of exchanging business cards.

“This data can later be uploaded, and when patterns and times are compared, they should match when the wearers met.”

This could be extended to existing social networks and help people transition the connection from real-life handshakes to online networking services such as Facebook or LinkedIn, Quigley explained.

Following on from developing these projects, students will participate in a mid-term research day, held in DCU on 17 July, at which the chief scientific advisor to the Government Patrick Cunningham will make a presentation, talking about how science impacts on the lives of everyone.

By Marie Boran