The students are back

So this is my final IGGI year at Essex, and this has been the first week of teaching. It’s been quite a busy week with a whole mixture of things going on within the department. We’ve got a whole new intake of about 370 students.

Challenge Week

This year the department is trying something a bit different with our new intake. Rather than stick them right into the thick of it, they are laying on welcome activities during the first week of teaching. It’s assessed work that seems to be included as part of our CE101 module (professional development things).

On Monday, the department ran an icebreaker activity. The students were given a bunch of different tasks including a programming quiz, a juggling tutorial and a scavenger hunt. Piers was assigned to look after juggling and I assisted with the scavenger hunt in the library. The library staff did most of the organising so my role was mostly to hand out codes to the groups. I also helped with directions and answered questions they had about the department. As well as getting to know each other, the students also used the opportunity to find their feet on Essex’s campus – it can be complicated to navigate for the uninitiated.

On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday the students were split into groups roughly based on subject topics. Prof Bartle was put in charge of the activities for the games students. He asked Piers and me to assist him. The students were asked to make a board game based on a hexagon grid themed on Vikings. The board games created varied in complexity and design but overall I was quite impressed with the games that they designed and created in the short time available. Richard a brief explanation of them on his blog.

GLA work

Monday also featured my first GLA related meeting of the term. My colleague from Amaryllis, Ed, is now a PhD student in the department. It’s good to catch up with him and we’ll be working as GLAs on the database module with Piers. This module will be the first module that I’ve GLA’d for Dr Steel. I’m not sure how I’ve managed 3 years of a PhD without doing so until now.

Thursday and Friday marked my first GLA sessions of the term. Essex’s second year Java module. My GLA timetable for this term is a little more relaxed than last year but still quite busy. I’m GLAing application programming and 1st-year databases. I’m also helping with marking for the AI module.


This week also marks the last week that Qi is with us. He’s back off to China this weekend. Having him around has been good – it’s always interesting to hear different perspectives on AI research for game-like environments. We went for a farewell dinner with him at Fusion, which is now apparently called Fusion grill and no longer serves noodles.

On a side note, the university has apparently decided to once again rename all of the food outlets on campus. This will, of course, be ignored by the existing students in favour of the old names confusing the newcomers. Quite why Happy Days is now called Smokey Joe’s and Zest is now called Zest Fresh we will never know.

I’ve been put down as Essex’s contact for these seminar things that IGGI are doing. The slight problem with this is that we’ve only got 4 active IGGI students at Essex this term. That’s basically enough to organise a game of Hanabi, but not really a set of talks.

Finally, car parking this week has been a mixed bag. We’ve got a large number of students so I had to park in a field  an overflow car park on Tuesday, but kudos to the Estates team for giving me somewhere to park rather than making me drive around the car parks looking for someone popping out to Tescos so I can steal their space.

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