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7:52pm on Monday, 20th March, 2017:

Project Open Day


It was Final-Year Project Open Day today, when programs that have worked fine for the past two months suddenly fail to run and posters develop spelling errors that they didn't have when they were sent off for printing.

There are so many student projects that I only look at the ones to do with games or artificial intelligence. Nevertheless, I started at 2pm and when I next checked the time it was 5 minutes short of the event's close at 5pm. I'd figured it was maybe 4pm, so time had really flown by. Fortunately (because I had to mark their posters), I'd managed to see all my supervisees by then. There were still some others I'd wanted to see that I missed, though. There was even a room I didn't get to go into, which I didn't realise until afterwards. Another room was one I'd only visited once before in my entire university career: it has an electrified floor (for robots) so you can normally only go in if they have carpets down or you're wearing rubber shoes.

As always, there was a very wide range of projects. Happily, this year we only had one Sudoku-solver and no ants-nest simulators. Some of the projects on display were astoundingly good — one of my supervisees was offered a job on the strength of hers. There were games of professional-looking quality (almost all of which had an author who wished they'd had more time to "do a proper job"). Most of the other efforts were strong, too, sometimes to the evident surprise of the person who wrote them.

Some, of course, were absolute shockers, written by someone who either couldn't program or didn't want to work. There weren't so many of those this year, though (perhaps because a third of their cohort failed the first year). I find it slightly annoying that students who have spent a quarter as much time doing something an eighth as good as other students will nevertheless get more than half as many marks as them. I think we mark on a logarithmic scale.

Three of the projects involved recreating classic games (Bomberman, Pac-Man and Doom). They were sufficiently accurate that I was as hopeless at them as I was at the originals.

I even got swag! A rubber duck. The student's web site is based on his initials, jpbd.uk, and ends in "duk", hence the duck. I'm so glad his surname didn't start with an F.

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Copyright © 2017 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).