Personal

A few things that aren’t work-related but I’m into anyway, so they may as well go here.

Arty stuff

I’m really into modern British and Irish theatre. I did my undergraduate dissertation on Beckett and neural lateralisation, and have been a round-table discussant at the Beckett and Brain Sciences symposium series organised by Birkbeck and the University of Warwick.

As part of my English degree I took a module in creative writing, which I loved. This led to some of us on that module who were into play writing forming a collective which briefly had a residency at Pleasance, London, and a couple of performances of shorts and excerpts. My short play Horror Show was one of three winners in the Churchill Theatre Bromley new writing competition in 2010 and received a rehearsed reading with professional actors and director on the Churchill stage. And had a free bar.

I’m also interested professionally in the power of narrative to influence beliefs and behaviour, and to motivate engagement with a task or activity.

Nerdy stuff

Scales

I’m piano teacher to my three children, and supervising scales practice is about as much fun as you might expect. So I bought an Arduino and did this. It uses MIDI output from our piano and tests all the Grade 5 scales and arpeggios. The kids seem to be more than happy to be in this musical Skinner box. I’d like to make this more useful by using audio input with some kind of fast Fourier transform to actually listen to scales rather than require midi input, but that’s a much bigger project.

Escape room challenges

After going to some interesting talks about playful learning I have started developing locked-box escape room style challenges for education. These involve students solving a series of puzzles, searching around the lecture theatre, exploring campus, using ultraviolet torches, barcode scanners and NFC readers to reach the next clue; finding the information hidden beneath a box’s false bottom, decoding a phone number they have to call to work out what to do next, all the time learning about aspects of university life or psychology. I particularly like creating collaborative challenges where different groups can each make unique contributions to a big final task by solving their clues. This year it has involved sorting through a thousand index cards to find the one with the correct combination on, using the solved clues to narrow down the options.

nulpoints.co.uk

This was a voting web app I built for the Eurovision song contest using Meteor and MongoDB, with live voting and ranking, and a chat function. It was a lot less stressful than the more typical WhatApp-your-score-and-I’ll-enter-it-into-a-spreadsheet setup (we take the song contest very seriously) which is always difficult after a dozen different national drinks. The codebase for this is easily adaptable to a planned feedback app in which students can give supportive feedback to their peers as they give presentations, indicating what they particularly liked.

mythousandlives.com

This was great – using the mortality statistics published by the ONS I build a web app where users could enter their age and gender and then run a monte carlo simulation of the rest of their life with a thousand little cartoon Mii-style versions of them showing when and how each one died. Users could do a deathmatch with famous people “What are the chances I will outlive…”, and there were plans to allow users to enter lifestyle changes to see their effects on their longevity. Unfortunately I coded it in Flash/ActionScript so it is, itself, now dead.