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Pontefract New College students take part in University of Warwick Computer Science conference

A selection of Year 12 and 13 students from Pontefract New College this term attended a conference at the University of Warwick, hosted by The Training Partnership and featuring a number of talks from industry experts in Computer Science and a session on exam technique. The students, who were studying either Computer Science A Level or BTEC IT, had the opportunity to hear from experts in Computer Science, talking about the future of the field and the impact it will have on society, as well as the career possibilities and the legal and ethical issues.

The event started with a talk on Smart Cities, looking at how current cities in the UK and Europe are run by governments and organisations who believe they are making the right choices, but are actually having no benefit to residents and in some cases impacting them negatively. With effective data analysis, artificial intelligence and a range of other techniques Computer Scientists can make a huge contribution to society with effective and efficient use of resources.

The second talk was from a post-graduate student at the University who gave a presentation on Big Data and the importance of managing data across multiple, linked systems, followed by a talk about how algorithms and programming are being used to generate animation. This was presented by a professor at the National Centre for Computer Animation at the University of Bournemouth.

Before lunch we had a talk from Paul Long, an experienced teacher and examiner for the AQA exam board. Although he had a number of tips on exam technique and revision strategies, the talk only served to prove to our students how ahead of the field we are at New College, with our work on metacognition. Revision guides were provided for all students.

Students had an opportunity to look around the campus themselves at lunchtime. A couple of students were seriously considering the University of Warwick, so it was an excellent opportunity for them.

The first of the two sessions after lunch was on the topic of machine learning, presented by a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge. In this talk he demonstrated how his ‘machine’ made up of 304 match boxes could be used as an opponent in the game of noughts and crosses and how it would learn from its mistakes of making bad moves to become capable of only making good moves and be impossible to beat (only lose or draw against) when challenged by a human. A good link between Maths and Computer Science.

The final session of the day was an excellent talk about the future of Artificial Intelligence and the impact it will have on society and how we live. This started with a discussion about Moore’s Law and how up to this point it has been possible to predict the pace of technological development, but as technology is now created at the atomic level it is increasingly difficult to predict.

This was an interesting, entertaining and informative day with enough variety of content to appeal to all the students who attended.