Saturday, 30 November 2013

Junkbots – it is not one thing!

Junkbots – it is not one thing!:

The School of Science and Technology at the University of Northampton have been working with local schools to create robots made from junk. This is an initiative by the University to introduce environmental sustainability, engineering and computing to students and has been funded by Northampton Enterprise Limited and east midlands development agency (emda). 

For more details on the junkbots project go to: 

This and other posters at Engage 2013 can be found at:

'via Blog this'

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

DOIs and Enhancing the Learner Experience in Higher Education

Reposted from:

DOIs and Enhancing the Learner Experience in Higher Education

I mentioned in a previous post that the University had recently registered with CrossRef to allow us to allocate Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) to published articles.
Our first use of these has been within Enhancing the Learner Experience in Higher Education (ELEHE), the university’s first open journal.  Each issue of the journal now has a DOI, as does each article within the issue. For example:
There are a couple of advantages to having DOIs assigned to articles.  In the first instance the DOI helps the reader locate the originally published copy of the work – even if the publisher moves the article (say to a different web address) the DOI system will redirect the reader to the new location.  This principle underpins the second advantage: the DOI acts as a unique identifier for the work and so can be used as a shorthand for referencing it.  For example, in the forthcoming REF exercise HEFCE have asked for DOIs, where possible, to be supplied instead of full text copies; these will be used by the REF team to access the research outputs directly from the publishers’ websites (HEFCE, 2013).
CrossRef places certain conditions on publishers wishing to assign DOIs to their journal articles.  One requirement is that editors should, where available, show DOIs against items within their articles’ reference lists. (Towle and Howe’s article demonstrates how DOIs appear in ELEHE reference lists.)  It is easy to imagine how these will build a complex interlocking network of scholarly outputs and form the raw material of future bibliometric tools and services.
Another CrossRef requirement is that publishers should make provision for perpetual access to their journal content.  This means that if an online journal ceases publication, past issues should still be accessible to readers.  A number of publishers have joined theLOCKSS (Lots Of Copies Keep Stuff Safe) scheme to support this requirement – but that’s a subject for another day.
Going forward, any future publication within the Northampton Open Journals collection will also benefit from the allocation of DOIs.  If you would like to know more about creating your own electronic journal then see our information for editors or get in touch with Miggie Pickton.

The Journal Enhancing the Learner Experience in Higher Education can be found at:

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Editing and STRiPe: Scott turner

The STRiPe actively takes part in disseminating practice. As an example of this a member of the group's journal editorial activities include:

  • Enhancing the Learner Experience in Higher Education.
  • Innovation in Teaching And Learning in Information and Computer Sciences

Journal: Enhancing the Learner Experience in Higher Education
Taken from:


  • 2008-mid 2009 Learning and Teaching Coordinator (0.5PL), University of Northampton
  • 2001-current Lecturer/Senior Lecturer University College Northampton/University of Northampton
  • 2001  Research Assistant, University College Northampton
  • 1995-1996 Research Assistant, University of Oxford/Medisense Ltd.


  • 1993 Member IEE/Institute of Engineering and Technology
  • 2003 Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (including the IEEE computer Society)
  • 2007 Member of the British Computer Society
  • 2007 Fellow of the Higher Education Academy


  • 2007 Teaching Fellow

  • Robotics
  • Problem-solving and computer-related pedagogy
  • Genetic Algorithms and Neural Network Applications
  • Signal Progressing

The Journal Enhancing the Learner Experience in Higher Education can be found at:

Journal : ITALICS

Taken from:

ITALICS - Innovation in Teaching And Learning in Information and Computer Sciences

Members of the Editorial Board:

  • Stephen Hagan (Editor in Chief), University of Ulster
  • Tom Crick, Cardiff Metropolitan University
  • Neil Gordon, University of Hull
  • Alan Hayes, University of Bath
  • Lyndsay Marshall, Newcastle University
  • Andrew McGettrick, University of Strathclyde
  • Rebecca Strachan, Northumbria University
  • Scott Turner, University of Northampton
Details about the journal can be found at:

Saturday, 9 November 2013

An Embedded Pedagogic Model for Computer Forensics within an Undergraduate Programme

An Embedded Pedagogic Model for Computer Forensics within an
Undergraduate Programme
Authors: Ali Al-Sherbaz , Amir Minai, James Xue, Rashmi Dravid 
10th Nov 2011.

The discipline of computer forensics which has a strong mutli-disciplinary background derives from the computing subjects in networking, programming, security and mathematics. Increasing awareness of cybersecurity and emphasising the need for a common vision among students addresses the challenges. The proposed pedagogic model is to embed the computer forensics materials within the undergraduate modules to extend students’ knowledge and skills in a practical context. However, it is also recognised that the depth of knowledge required learning such topics as cyber security should be offered from the underlying principles to their abstraction.

Cyber crimes are on the rise however, Cyber security professionals are in a depressingly low numbers. The lack of focus on this area has certainly resulted in a limited number of experts. Today, there is a demanding need to create new cyber security jobs, which should hopefully bring leverage to the uncontrollable rise of cyber crimes. It is, therefore, necessary to develop the analytical skills which create challenges in building a constructive approach to learning. Also, reflecting the technological fluctuations, it is seen as essential for students to be continuously updated.

The proposed model focuses on the delivery and assessment of certain computing modules, with an evaluation of its efficiency on the use of time and effort in order to satisfy the minimum requirements of the curriculum. The study has also discovered that some of the modules already cover part of computer forensics implicitly. Therefore, highlighting these topics to the students and making them more visible as computer forensics is one of the main objectives. Another objective is to enhance the existing computing modules by dedicating certain amount of lecture time on computer forensic related concepts. The model can then be adopted by Universities when considering developing new modules.

Over  the  last  few  years  there  have  been  large  increases  in  cyber-crimes  which  have  threatened individuals and organisations. To reduce the threat it is imperative that the computing courses within universities increase the level of student awareness by providing them with professional education in computer forensics and cyber-security without the need to create a separate specialised pathway.

For more information contact: 

Teaching Ultrasonics using Spreadsheets


The International Conference on Engineering Education 2012 Turku Finland July 30 – August 3, 2012

Proceedings can be found at:

The University of Northampton,

Whenever an ultrasonic wave encounters a boundary between two media it is partially reflected and refracted, as any acoustic wave would be. Unlike light, the wave also undergoes mode conversion so that in the general case a single incident wave could produce two reflected waves and two refracted waves. The angles which define the path of the wave are determined by Snell’s law and are easily calculated. The relative amplitudes, on the other hand, require quite complicated formula when the angle of incidence is anything other than 0 degrees. This problem gets compounded when the angle of the incident wave goes beyond the first critical angle. At this point the angle of the refracted wave becomes imaginary and the equations to calculate the relative amplitudes become complex. This paper describes a tool that has been developed, using a spreadsheet, which performs the calculations for all incident angles. The user selects the media and the type of incident wave and the resulting waves are shown graphically as well as numerically. The tool was developed primarily as part of an undergraduate course on ultrasonic testing, but could be used more widely. 

Mind the Gender Gap – Reflections on addressing gender diversity in Computing and Engineering

Worldwide, many studies have shown that numbers of women choosing to study and work in the respective industries is low in  both Computing  (for example Wilson, 2003; Tillberg and McGrath 2005) and Engineering (only 9% of UK engineering professionals are women (IET 2010)). Figures from EngineeringUK (2010) show the UK lags behind the rest of Europe for the percentage of females students obtaining first degrees in Mathematics/Computer Science (UK [27%] compared with Europe [32%],and Engineering (UK[15%], compared with Europe [20%]). 

This presentation is a reflective account of the range of activities (including some which are award winning (see, which the School of Science and Technology  has put in places to raise the aspirations of potential future women engineers and computer scientists in  both primary and secondary education.  The work reported has been heavily supported by contributions from our own UK and overseas students.


  • EngineeringUK (2010) Women in Engineering and Technology [online]. Available from: URL: [7/2/2011].
  • IET (2010) Mind the Gender Gap IET Member News 14th June 2010.
  • Tillberg,HK, McGrath CJ (2005). Attaching Women to the CS Major Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies - Volume 26, Number 1, 2005, pp. 126-140
  • Wilson F (2003) New Technology, Work and Employment 18:2 ISSN 0268-107

Problem solving and creativity in Engineering: turning novices into professionals

The full paper can be found at:

Adams J, Picton P, Kaczmarczyk S, Demian P (2009) "Problem solving and creativity in Engineering: turning novices into professionals" Enhancing the Learner Experience in Higher Education pp. 4-8 Volume 1, Number 1,  ISSN 1234-1234


Recent UK and European benchmarks for both undergraduate and professional engineers highlight the importance of problem solving skills. They additionally identify creativity as an important capacity alongside problem solving for both novices and professionals. But, how can we develop and encourage these important skills in undergraduate engineers?

For many years researchers have explored how the differences between novices and experts might show educators techniques for improving the problem solving abilities of their students. Whilst it is often appreciated that knowledge and experience have a large influence on problem solving ability, it is not feasible to develop these fully in a three or four year degree course. There are, however, a number of other capacities relating to problem solving process skills that can be usefully developed, such as strategy, attitude and motivation.

A number of semi-structured interviews have been undertaken with engineering undergraduates at The University of Northampton, Loughborough University and Birmingham University in order to explore these issues. Analysis has been in the form of a phenomenographic study. The interviews extend their questioning and comparison beyond problem solving skills into creative thinking. This paper provides a brief summary of previous published research alongside interesting findings from the interviews. Early findings have been used to inform an action research project to develop a problem-based learning (PBL) module to improve creative problem solving skills in undergraduate engineers. Emerging themes that have been identified include: identification of problem solving processes in the case of professionals as opposed to simply identifying skills required in the case of students, confusion with the concept of ‘creativity’ in the context of engineering; issues with motivation and ownership with regard to academic problems and significance being placed on real life activities involving groupwork as an effective way of teaching and learning creative problem solving.

The full paper can be found at:


Adams J, Picton P, Kaczmarczyk S, Demian P (2009) "Problem solving and creativity in Engineering: turning novices into professionals" Enhancing the Learner Experience in Higher Education pp. 4-8 Volume 1, Number 1,  ISSN 1234-1234

Friday, 8 November 2013

Problem-solving and robots

Scott Turner and Gary Hill from the Division of Computing (along with Jonathan Adams from the Division of Engineering on a related project) have been investigating teaching and developing problem solving skills as a first step developing programming skills through the use of LEGO-based robots and graphics based programming.

Work on problem-solving has been on-going in the School of Science and Technology (was School of Applied Sciences) for the last four years looking at the concept of teaching and developing problem-solving first, then programming. The main vehicle for developing the problem-solving skills has been LEGO Mindstorms robotics kits and series of gradually more challenging robot-based tasks.

Lawhead et al (2003) stated that robots “…provide entry level programming students with a physical model to visually demonstrate concepts” and “the most important benefit of using robots in teaching introductory courses is the focus provided on learning language independent, persistent truths about programming and programming techniques. Robots readily illustrate the idea of computation as interaction”. Synergies can be made with our work and those one on pre-object programming and simulation of robots for teaching programming as a visual approach to the teaching of the widely used programming language  Java.

The main benefits that the students stated of this approach was they  believe robots provide a method to visually and physically see the outcome of a problem. The approach taken the module has been visually-orientated. The appropriateness of this seems to be borne out by the student comments. Student satisfaction  for a module based around this approach is over 92%. One of the comments made was that the linking of the problem-solving robot task and the programming assignment was liked. This feedback is similar to that reported by other authors when teaching programming using robots (Williams et al, 2003).  There is enough scope in this approach to have different levels of complexity/functionality within an assignment task offering a basic ‘pass’ level for a particular task, but also the scope for those students that desire more of a challenge.

To learn more please contact: Scott Turner

To read more on this go to 

  • Lawhead PB, Bland CG, Barnes DJ, Duncan ME, Goldweber M, Hollingsworth RG,
  • Schep M (2003), A Road Map for Teaching Introductory Programming Using
  • LEGO Mindstorms Robots SIGCSE Bulletin, 35(2): 191-201.
  • Williams AB (2003) The Qualitative Impact of Using LEGO MINDSTORMS Robot
  • to Teach Computer Engineering IEEE Trans. EducVol. 46 pp 206.

How do students use technology after graduating ?

Introduction and Overview
Transition Out (TO?) was a six month intensive investigation (Jan – June 2012) funded as part of the URB@N project looking at how students want to use (or are already using) technology which will assist as they look towards completing their course and moving into employment or other future opportunities. This could be any type of technology ranging from mobile devices, social networking and cloud services. Students may not realise that the activities they are doing will assist with their transitions – they might be actively collaborating with peers (Ellison et al, 2007), using time management or planning tools, or generally enhancing their skills and experience using a range of technology. The work builds from the LLIDA (JISC, 2009) and SLiDA (JISC, 2010) investigation of supporting learners in a digital age.
Key Results (n=214)
•Word processing (85%) and email (88%) are the most popular technologies to support students as they leave the institution.
•Students under the age of 30 are more likely to use technology than those over this age (sig < 0.05)
•Males are tending to use technology to find future opportunities more than females (sig <0 data-blogger-escaped-.05="" data-blogger-escaped-div="">
•66% had suffered from a lack of knowledge / confidence with the use of technology, however 22% would not seek out resources supplied by the University to help them improve their skills
5 Key Messages For Students
1.Lock down your Facebook and Twitter accounts! Employers will search for you, make sure they can only see what you want them to – privacy settings are a must!
2.Get into Social Media – Open a LinkedIn Account and professionalise your Facebook! This is the ‘new’ job search, and it works!
3.Use the support services whilst you are here, have a problem with psychometric testing or need help on time management / planning ? Go and see Careers
4.Consider which email address you use to contact employers – is not going to give the best first impression!
5.Make use of MyPad or alternative portfolio system! Employers want evidence of your experience, and this is a great way to document what you do, as you do it, to then include in your CV.  If you go on a placement this is a tool which could help you to make the most of your experience.
From the data which has been gathered so far, teams which support students (e.g. Careers and Library) will be able to refine their support, engagement and provision. Those involved in the development and running of courses will be provided with further guidance and support to consider how development of the digital literacy of the cohort will impact on their ability to gain future opportunities on leaving. Provision should be integrated into the student experience rather than being seen as a bolt-on.
Resource Links
PDF of presentation made at Employer Engagement in a Digital Age – 4th July 2012 (University of Greenwich)
Ellison, N. B., Steinfield, C., Lampe, C. (2007), The Benefits of Facebook “Friends:” Social Capital and College Students’ Use of Online Social Network Sites. Available from: [Accessed 30th March, 2012]
JISC (2009),  Learning Literacies in a Digital Age [online].  Available from: [Accessed 30th March, 2012]
JISC (2009),  Study of how UK FE and HE institutions are supporting effective learners in a digital age [online].  Available from: [Accessed 30th March, 2012]
Rossi, N. (2011), Social Networking: Professional standards and boundaries must be maintained when you are online.  Available from: Page 8. [Accessed 30th March, 2012].
Project Team:
Rob Howe and Penelope Stanton
Further details:

Electronic Online Marking Of Software Assignments (EOMOSA)

Recently presented paper in Milan at 9th China-Europe International Symposium on Software Engineering Education.

 Electronic Online Marking Of Software Assignments (EOMOSA) 
Gary Hill and Scott Turner


With the advent of Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) and online electronic submission of assignments, computing lecturers are increasingly assessing code online. There are various tools for aiding electronic marking, grading and plagiarism detection. However, there appears to be limited shared advice to computer science tutors (and students) on the effective use of these tools.

This paper aims to stimulate peer-discussion amongst tutors involved in the assessing (marking and grading) of software code. Many United Kingdom (UK) Higher Education Institutions (HEI) are using electronic marking. This paper discusses the authors’ experience and proposes suggestions for appropriate and effective solutions to the electronic assessment of software code. This will be based on the authors’ experience of electronically assessing code over three academic years and the current advice given to their students.

Software engineering, online marking, online grading, online assessment, turnitin, computer code.

Some details on the conference can be found at:

9th China-Europe International Symposium on Software Engineering Education, Milan

Who are we?

The University of Northampton's STRiPe group brings together academic members of staff, from across the University, who are interested in ​research within various aspects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teaching and learning in higher Education. The group is based within the School of Science and Technology, University of Northampton but also has members from outside of the School.
Academic staff involved in this research group are:
Dr Jonathan Adams
Dr Ali Al-Sherbaz
Professor Kamal Bechkoum
Helena Beeson
Ruth Copeland-Philips
Paul Cox
Rashmi Dravid
Trish Goodchild
Adel Gordon
Gary Hill
Dr Naomi Holmes
Rob Howe
Louise Maxwell
Professor Phil Picton
Paul Rice
John Sinclair
Dr Scott Turner

For more information please contact Dr Scott Turner.
Special interest areas within the group include:
  • Problem Solving and Creativity for Engineers
  • Women in Science and Engineering.
  • Problem solving in Computing