Gregynog 2006

Dafydd Vaughan on 30 November 2006

Gregynog House - Newtown, PowysAs you may have noticed, my blog has been rather neglected recently. This is because I’ve been completely snowed under with work including several pieces of coursework, weekend lectures and the 24th Annual Computer Science Colloquium in Gregynog. For those that don’t know, the Comp Sci department at Swansea organise a trip to Gregynog in Powys, Mid Wales. This three day trip includes lectures and seminars from all sorts of people, as well as providing an event for the final year students to give their third year project presentations, a staff student meeting and good social activities.

This year, we had lectures from a software testing engineer from Citrix systems, a computer science lecturer from Nottingham University, several of our postgrads, and a few lectures / professors from Swansea on various computer science related topics such as games and extreme ironing. More on these later.

Gregynog itself is a very large manor house set in the middle of 750 acres of gardens, woodland and farmland countryside near Newtown in Powys. The house was owned by the Davies sisters – granddaughters of David Davies Llandinum who was responsible for the development of Barry Docks and the railways in Govilon (where I live) and Blaenavon. Before the Davies sisters died, they donated the house to the University of Wales to be used as a conference centre. Since then, it has been used by university departments from all over the country, including the Computer Science department for the last 24 years.

Anyway, enough history… what happened this year?

Well, to start with, since this house is in the middle of nowhere, we were treated to a wonderful 3 hour bus ride from Swansea early on Monday morning (20th November). After arriving at Gregynog and selecting our rooms (I was staying with Helen, Gareth and James), we headed off to our seminar rooms to give our presentations. In my group of 7/8 people, I was amazed at the sheer difference in presentation styles. There were some people (very few) who gave really interesting talks, and some people who mumbled their way through and made an absolute mess of it. I was quite pleased with my presentation, although I think I might have rushed it a bit. However, according to my second marker it was very good, so I just have to wait for the marks to come through.

After dinner we had our first lecture/seminar – led by Professor Faron Moller from Swansea – talking to us about games and winning strategies. This hour long lecture included the chance for students to win £1 if they answered questions correctly… shame I didn’t win anything. Even so, it was most probably one of the most laid back lectures I’ve ever had! This was then followed by several hours of socialising and playing giant Jenga at the bar.

Next morning we had a series of lectures, the first of which was from a software tester from Citrix systems. The speaker was telling us about the processes they go through to test their software before they release them – it seems there is quite a bit of money in testing these days (a hint maybe?). Later on we were given a talk by Graham Hutton from Nottingham University about how to solve Sudoku puzzles in a functional programming language. Another interesting talk which unfortunately infuriated one of the department’s lectures as he believes functional programming languages are completely useless. Funny how he shut up when another suggested he show us how to do it in C!

We also had a very interesting lecture from our Head of Department – Professor John V. Tucker – about some of his favourite equations. Despite sounding boring, the lecture flew past and was actually quite entertaining. Lectures were also given by some of the postgrads about their research – unfortunately, I wasn’t paying much attention.

The final talk we were given was from Professor Harold Thimbleby on success – somehow turning it into a sub-lecture on extreme ironing. Definitely worth watching next year if Harold is doing another talk.

The final evening was spent taking part in the traditional pub quiz organised by Gimbo (Andy Gimblett), an amazing piano recital by Markus Roggenbach, a staff-student meeting led by Chris Whyley to give feedback on the course, and finally the usual piss-up… eh… social occasion at the bar.

It was definitely a very good few days, I really enjoyed it. Hopefully we can find an excuse to gatecrash next year’s event.

That’s it for this mammoth entry, next time – the fun of weekend lectures!

Any views stated here are my own and not those of my employer unless otherwise stated.