Team News from the Vale

We have a short break in the schedule for our induction event here at the Cardiff Vale Resort Hotel. Yesterday we had a full schedule of presentations, an excellent interactive training session by Cardiff PhD student Ed Fauchon-Jones about version control and the use of Github, an ongoing `hackathon event’, and a networking event with our industrial partners. It’s been a busy but very exciting and enjoyable start to the new Centre for Doctoral Training. This afternoon we have more activities, but this morning the new students have been sent out into the countryside in land rovers for a `Team Building’ event, leaving us old fogeys behind to enjoy a little bit of peace and quiet back in the hotel.

One of the aims of the hackathon has been to build teamwork. The students are in groups of three or four. Each group has been given a bit of old software (written in Fortran) and charged with the task of figuring out what it does and then rewriting it in a modern programming environment (most of them are using Python). That plan was that by the end of this afternoon they should be able to present us a working piece of code. Unfortunately I don’t think we’ve allowed enough time so it may be that the teams don’t all finish their challenge, but it’s been fun to see how they’ve tackled the problems. I’m old enough to remember Fortran very well, so I was able to help a couple of the groups by explaining some of its idiosyncracies.

We discovered last night that the Leeds United football team is staying in this hotel in advance of their game this evening against Cardiff City. Some of the players were in the bar last night, but I didn’t recognise any of them. With Leeds currently top of the Championship I’m not sure to what extent their team needs building, but they’re playing a Cardiff City team which is in third place, level on points and separated only by goal difference, so it should be a good game tonight.

Anyway, I’d better get on and get some work done before the students get back. We have a full afternoon in front of us, and then we have to tackle the logistics of getting everyone back to Swansea, Cardiff and Bristol respectively!

Here is a picture of the students along with a few of the staff that attended the event, taken during the last afternoon. Happily the students all got back safely from their adventures this morning!

UPDATE: 27th September. This event finished yesterday evening and we left just as Leeds United were getting ready to depart in their team coach for their match against Cardiff City last night. Cardiff City won 3-1.

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13 Responses to “Team News from the Vale”

  1. I write a short article every month about the history of astronomy in the Vale of Glamorgan.

    As one does.

  2. “Each group has been given a bit of old software (written in Fortran) and charged with the task of figuring out what it does and then rewriting it in a modern programming environment (most of the are using Python).”

    Why?

    Note also that when they are finished with their studies, Python might be as obsolete as Algol.

    • Why not?

      I think it was a nice idea for a challenge. The idea wasn’t mine, by the way.

      The scenario is that these new PhD students meet their supervisor who has some clunky old code which they need to update and extend to work with a much bigger data set, modern graphics, etc.

      The bits of code were volunteered by staff members, most of whom had been meaning to rewrite in Python, so the students were like consultants doing this task on their behalf. Except that we didn’t pay them, of course..

      I don’t think anyone ever finishes their studies in this field.

      • “The idea wasn’t mind”

        Nice Freudian slip. 🙂

        What I meant is that often apples and oranges are compared, e.g. old dusty-deck (it would be interesting to know if the young whippersnappers even know what that means) Fortran66 code with modern Python, say, and porting the latter to the former, because the former is better in some sense, without considering modern Fortran as an option.

        Time to mention the great Captain Starlink cartoon on page 7 again.

      • “The idea wasn’t mind”

        Nice Freudian slip. 🙂

        What I meant is that often apples and oranges are compared, e.g. old dusty-deck (it would be interesting to know if the young whippersnappers even know what that means) Fortran66 code with modern Python, say, and porting the latter to the former, because the former is better in some sense, without considering modern Fortran as an option.

        Time to mention the great Captain Starlink cartoon on page 7 again.

      • Second link above is correct. Blame WordPress bug in embedding URLs. (Probably should have written it in Fortran!)

      • Ah, the old Captain Starlink cartoon. I remember it well.

        Unfortunately, I also still remember the trauma of converting from VMS to Unix.

        There was a real cat called Muon at the Institution for Astrology, Oxbridge Institute for Astronomy, Cambridge.

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