Final Round-up from our Citizen Journalist

This year we invited long-time Over the Air attendee “Phone Fighter” and “Teen Dragon” Peter Price to be our Citizen Journalist and give us the word from the ground. Peter told us about the first sessions he attended at OTA12, and also interviewed Keynote Speaker Ariel Waldman.

But Peter went on to share his impressions of the Ignite Bletchley Park talks on Friday night, in which he also participated!

Last night the Ignite talks took place, informing us of everything from the fact that the colour of something effects us, such as red making us hungry blue not. Or an ingenious if not slightly impractical strategy for the UK to win the Eurovision through breaking the country up into several parts based on native language. It was fascinating to hear the theory that the way we touch phones is too aggressive through our jabbing motions but something more similar to Monkeys grooming, stroking, should be more used increasing our affection for these inanimate objects. I too took part last night giving a talk on Kony 2012 and social media as a youth campaigning tool and I have to tell you there is nothing stranger then hearings ones own voice over a mic. Thankfully I was able to get through the talk and hopefully I wasn’t too boring. Well-done to everyone who spoke – you were great.  And thanks to the audience for listening!

Peter took advantage of the opportunity to take one of the tours graciously set up by Bletchley Park and it’s volunteers Over the Air attendees on both Friday and Saturday.  Attendees joined volunteer PJ Evans on a tour of the park, to find out more about the work that went on there and come face to face with the Enigma, Turing’s codebreaking ‘Bombe’ and the World’s first programmable computer: Colossus. On Saturday, the National Museum of Computing very graciously opened it’s doors to all attendees of Over the Air, as well as offering guided tours with volunteers such as Chris Monk.

Well yesterday I got to see the replica Bombe, the Colossus and of course the enigma machine and through it was able to learn much of the Founding Fathers and Mothers of computing. Today I get to go to the National Museum of Computing – a unique place full to the tip with computers, from Acorns to the BBC Master Compact. The museum seems to understand the need for interaction with its audience, with individuals being able to play PAC-MAN – which I particularly enjoyed – to the Microsoft Flight Simulator – which I still can’t get into the air. The place is one of nostalgia for a time of strange beeping noises and extremely frustrating games. It feels odd to walk through this place with my free I-Pad (thanks OTA!), like a man from the future looking down at some ancient civilisation.

The second day of workshops and tutorial sessions was wrapped up in the Marquee Tent by our Closing Keynote speaker Francois Grey from the Citizen Cyberscience Centre:

Francois Grey’s ‘Citizen Science to Open Science – the Road Ahead’ the closing keynote speech was a fascinating look into scientific and technological collaboration, innovation and of course citizen science. Citizen Science is the idea that elitism in science is not something to be encouraged but in fact destroyed, the people must be involved and Francois shows how these citizen scientists can change the world. Such as MalariaControl.net set up in Africa to tackle the deadly disease which we learn now is used by governments in Africa to decide on investments in overcoming the disease such as bed nets and drug treatment. I in many ways feel in connection with the idea of citizen science through my role as citizen journalist. Being able to be part of this event despite my lack of coding skills and being immersed into this world of mobile technology and innovation, through it my interest and passion has greatly increased and we must hope that more citizens can get involved especially the youth in Over the Air.
And then of course, the crowing glory of the event: the Hack Day demo’s and Awards:
Now on to the hack-day competition, which we all know to be always hilarious, inspiring and extremely creative and today was no different. The demo started up with an app that in the spirit of Bletchley Park that allowed for ciphered messages to be sent, received, and then deciphered. The demo continued through with candidates presenting apps of various types including maps, tracking systems, music, and alcohol including an app called ‘How Many Beers?’ which allowed you to notify all your friends what you drank, how much, and where.  There was also an app specifically about beer, allowing users to find all the beer in the world through use of a mapping system.
Perhaps one of the most awe-inspiring apps was one that used light and proximity and made it into sound, something with n0 practical purpose, but something I think we can all agree is both cool and wonderfully scientific – two things that normally aren’t in the same sentence. One of my other favourites was the ‘naughty step enforcer’ that stops anyone from leaving the step by the phone setting off an alarm once you leave that point. Both simple and practical. Or the robot that catapults sweets at you based on light. The creator is the youngest OTA has had and it’s wonderful to see youth get involved, keep up the good work!
Of course no hack-day would be complete without a few hiccups, of which we had a few, but that should not deter all those who participated. What we saw was innovation no matter how small or what mistakes there were on the demo. Developers came together and worked through the night to make something new and different, and this is exactly how technological and scientific progress should be made. Through the collaboration and determination of people with real passion and of course a really cool idea, all of which we had a lot of at Over the Air.
Winners of the competition include team Glitch for Best User Experience & Best Use of Open APIs that allowed users to share info on online glitches and track bugs online, and team Edent for Best in Show with an app that made proximity and light into sound, a truly amazing and awe-inspiring app with both the scientific and cool factor.
Thank-you for your fantastic coverage of the event Peter – we look forward to seeing a Hack Day entry from you in some future year!