Category Archives: Students

GOLDSMITHS’ STUDENTS ORGANISE THE GLOBAL GAMES JAM

Hacksmiths is the tech society at Goldsmiths, University of London that partook in the Global Games Jam. The Global Games Jam is the world’s largest game jam event that brings together thousands of people for a weekend of collaboration and creativity. Each year the Global Games Jam have a set theme and this year’s theme was duality. Students had 48 hours to create games either individually or in pairs on this topic.

We interviewed Omar Tahir, the lead organiser of the event for more information about the event. The full interview can be found below.

The Hacksmiths team worked hard on making sure the event was safe, accessible and welcoming to all abilities. The society encourages students to join their discord and follow their socials for more information about upcoming events.

Online Portfolios

This blog was written by Eilidh Macdonald, Industry Employability Champion, Department of Computing, Goldsmiths and is intended to encourage students, no matter what stage of their studies, to work on creating an online portfolio.

COVID-19 is already having a huge impact on the graduate recruitment market. One way students can help strengthen their career prospects is to build a really compelling online portfolio of their work. To help students we spoke to alumni, staff and employers to gather some top tips on creating a portfolio to help our Computing students stand out.

An online portfolio is essential for students

“These days an online portfolio is expected by many employers, if you haven’t got one then it could ring alarm bells, perhaps you’re not cutting edge” (Glassdoor)

“An online portfolio is essential for coders and artists. Showreel for animators and VFX artists” (Andy Driver, Aardvark Swift)

“We won’t even read an application if there is no portfolio included”, James Walker, Goodboy Digital

“The ability to view examples of work puts a candidate to the top of the pile”, Jessica Luck, Gradcracker

Some key points to remember:

  • Many employers now won’t even look at your application if you don’t have an online portfolio
  • Don’t make your portfolio hard to navigate – people will give up!
  • Show your passion
  • Your portfolio needs to reflect the kind of work you are looking for – in terms of skills demonstrated and passions
  • Provide some context about how you produced this work – how you developed and iterated the work

There is a range of advice below. All of these people work in slightly different fields, so there are some differences according to industry, but also lots of common ground to consider.

James Walker, Managing Director, Goodboy Digital

Goodboy Digital are a team of creatives who blend code, design and interaction to make meaningful experiences. Clients include the BBC, Lego and Sega.

“For us we specialise in visual development so a portfolio for developers is definitely just as key as it is for designers, not only does it show their skills and capabilities, it also communicates passion, proactiveness and autonomy in the areas we most care about too.

We won’t even read an application if there is no portfolio included, so for a smaller independent company such as ourselves it really is essential.

Other things that excite us are:

  • Prototypes and Experiments in emerging technologies – This can indicate additional value to us if they have explored areas we may not yet have got to ourselves
  • Collaborative projects mixing disciplines – this shows they are capable at working in teams of other people with differing skill sets and have the drive to get things off the ground as a collective. We are visually focused so look for creative coders who can share an open dialogue with designers too
  • Contributions to OSS – this is a big yes for us as it shows coding is their passion, not just a job. We look for people that live and breathe the same things we do and fortunately it’s very easy to read this from a person’s portfolio
  • Finished things – The hardest part of development. Any developer can do the first 50% as it’s the fun bit! Very few have the grit to drive something through to 100% commercially shippable standards as it’s really, really hard – evidence of this is impressive. On the flipside portfolios full of half-finished ventures is a warning!
  • Games – developing a game is hard and requires a broad range of knowledge and skills to accomplish. For us these show off creative code capabilities more than anything else
  • Working with tech most relevant to the companies you apply for – for us we are all about javascript and web technology, so portfolios showing work in this area have a huge advantage to us compared to say a pure Unity portfolio. The tech will differ per company of course, but you’d have a big advantage if you can match up at portfolio stage”

Sumit Paul-Choudhury, writer, technologist, entrepreneur & Visiting Research Fellow at Goldsmiths

Between 2011 & 2017 Sumit edited the New Scientist, the world’s most popular science weekly. At Goldsmiths he is exploring the commercial, scientific and recreational applications of creative computing. He is approaching online portfolios from the point of view of someone commissioning art for commercial purposes.

“Two points that might be worth making – the first being that New Scientist might not sound like an obvious market, but we actually commissioned a great deal of art and photography – and because the subject matter often defies literal depiction (you can’t draw dark matter, or consciousness) but also needs to be precise, it made for challenging briefs.

The other thing is that is that I would not want anyone to think I’m unaware that people have lots of different reasons for creating online portfolios, and lots of different impacts they might want to make. If you’re trying to get hired to make whizzy websites, then of course you might want a clever navigational system or something.

Re. portfolios, there are a few initial thoughts from the point of view of someone commissioning art for very straightforwardly commercial purposes

  • People in my (former) industry are often working at speed. Don’t make your portfolio hard to navigate: I am more likely to move on than to spend more than 10 seconds figuring out how to browse your portfolio. If it breaks in my browser, it’s a non-starter
  • Present yourself, not just the work. That doesn’t (necessarily) mean your biography, but the kinds of things you like to work on, a suggestion of your approach. etc. (Be honest. Some people want lots of collaboration and discussion, some want to fire off a request and forget about it until it’s due. Don’t assume one or the other.) That’s often useful because –
  • Presenting yourself as able to do everything has its virtues – for example, where you’re applying for the only creative role at a small firm. But if you’re going to be pitching for individual gigs, it can help to point out what you’re really good at or engaged with, in terms of subject matter or execution. Consider theming your portfolio in a way that makes sense to a commissioner, not according to your own conception of your work (“here is editorial photography I have done”, not “this is my series JUXTAPOSE i-iv”)
  • Try to provide a bit of information about the circumstances of projects you’ve done, not just the beautiful final work. Consider showing how you developed and iterated a work – your first commissions are an act of faith on the part of the commissioner, so try to give them confidence that you will deliver something appropriate on time and can work with feedback”

Nathaniel Okenwa, graduate of BSc Business Computing last year, now Tech Evangelist at Twilio.

“Having content online is a great way to stand out when you are looking for a job in these times. It’s always good news for an employer if they google your name and see that you have great content and a following online. So, get out there.”

Jessica Luck, Gradcracker

Gradcracker is a careers website for STEM students

“The ability to view examples of work puts a candidate to the top of the pile. Having work of any ability publicly viewable on ‘GitHub’ or ‘BitBucket’ shows the interviewer they know how to use Git and they are applying what they have learnt. Uploading any coursework or hobby projects also gives the interviewer something to talk about with the candidate and backs up what they have said in their CV.

Our employers will mention the coding languages they look out for in an application so if they show off any knowledge of that, it always goes a long way.”

First Goldsmiths computing phd student passes their viva online

Dr Fatima Sabiu Maikore is the first Goldsmiths Computing PhD student to complete a successful online Viva. Alongside her studies Fatima works full time as a lecturer at Baze University, Abuja and is based in Nigeria.  

Dr Fatima Sabiu Maikore is a researcher whose work has very clear real-life applications. She used her time as a PhD student to address challenges that clinical labs face when developing and using standard operating procedures (SOPs). These SOPs are guidance for workers to safely and correctly complete their work when running tests in the lab.  

Fatima’s research developed a framework which includes a formal data model, a natural language processing tool to convert existing SOPs into machine readable format, and a mobile application for use within the clinical labs. Her mobile app is already being used by clinical lab practitioners to allow them to quickly and easily access the information they need to safely complete tests in the lab.  

As her PhD research came to an end, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Since Fatima is based in Nigeria, she had to cancel her trip to London for her Viva. She was initially nervous to be the first PhD student to complete an online Viva in the Department of Computing. A trial meeting to test the signal had not gone so well and she feared poor signal could throw her off or cut off the call completely.  

However, on the day of the viva, the call went extremely well and by the time it was halfway through, she forgot she wasn’t in the same room with her examiners. Knowing that her supervisor was logged into the call, even though her camera and mic were off as she wasn’t allowed to contribute, gave her an added strength and confidence.  

Fatima’s journey to her doctorate has been varied,  she completed her undergraduate studies at the American University Nigeria and her Masters at the University of Manchester. She knew she was passionate about academia, but also knew she wanted to move back home to Nigeria after her Masters to get married and settle into her life before pursuing a PhD, so she did just that.  

After a few years she was ready to pursue her PhD, she started at Brunel working with Dr Larisa Soldatova. She enjoyed her studies and found Dr Soldatova to be a great mentor however the move to London was hard and as she was now balancing her studies with two young children. Eventually she opted to take her studies part time and move back to Nigeria. During this time Dr Soldatova left Brunel and joined the team at Goldsmiths, Department of Computing and Fatima made the decision to come with her.  

Since then, she worked remotely to finish her PhD. Once her minor amendments are completed, she hopes to work at a prestigious university where she can broaden her research experience and eventually bring her skills back to Nigeria to contribute to the national research environment there.  

What impact will Covid-19 have on my future career?

This blog was written by Eilidh Macdonald, Industry Employability Champion, Department of Computing, Goldsmiths and is intended to give advice to students, no matter what stage of their studies, to think through their future career during this crisis.

In this post I have pulled together some insights around the impact of COVID-19 on the graduate recruitment market. In a rapidly changing situation, this is an attempt to help current students get a feel for some of the views of employers, recruitment companies, the press and one of our ex-students.

I have not included freelancing here – that will pose its own challenges. Many lecturers have had or still have freelancing careers or know people who have so for help please do reach out.

The key message is to not give up hope, to try and work on your profile during this difficult time and continue to apply for opportunities. We are here to help you in the department and we are working closely with the Careers Service, who are available for online one-to-one sessions and other support.

What can you do to help future career plans?

  • Be flexible and open-minded
  • Keep looking for opportunities (e.g. Gradcracker, Ratemyplacement, Indeed.com, LinkedIn)
  • Keep in touch with employers if you have had previous conversations about work or even a job or placement offer
  • Work on your online portfolio and LinkedIn profile
  • Have a look at postgraduate courses if there is an area of development you would like to focus on
  • Think about getting some volunteering experience, especially where you can use your technical skills
  • Make use of our Career Services e.g. book a 1:1 appointment; get a CV check; do a practice interview. Book through CareerSpace
  • Access resources on the VLE Employability Portal, including videos on how to prepare for general and technical interviews. More to come soon
  • Take part in our weekly Online employability/careers drop ins

Impact of COVID-19

Recruitment is severely affected but it hasn’t stopped. Many placement opportunities are on hold or even cancelled and businesses are scaling back their graduate recruitment. However we are seeing placement opportunities moving from on-site to virtual and in the technology sector this is easier to do. The recruitment process is also moving online, so expect interviews being held over Skype or zoom or even telephone interviews.

Last month a survey with employers was conducted by the Institute of Student Employers (ISE). Numbers have probably shifted in the meantime but the figure below gives an indication of mainly larger employers opinions about hiring.

Figure taken from ‘COVID-19 Challenges for student recruitment and development’ report, ise, March 2020

Tristram Hooley, Chief Research Officer at ISE summarises the potential effects in a recent blog post:

  • In the short-term employers will be managing the chaos of the lockdown and its aftermath and many will delay or cancel normal recruitment
  • In the medium-term, graduates will be operating within a more competitive labour market
  • In the long-term, this year’s students will be graduating at the start of a recession that could last for some time.

Other ISE insights (from recent webinar):

  • Many employers have paused recruitment e.g. where current staff have been furloughed.
  • Many are hoping to restart recruitment in June/July for September starts
  • ISE summary view: For now, at least, student recruiters seem to be reacting cautiously and avoiding panic

What do employers say?

“Even in this crisis, some employers are booming. Technology companies, the food sector and logistics firms are busier than ever. You might not end up with the job you hoped for but you can get a job.”

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute

The ISE think that there will be growth in the public sector, so this could be another area to look at in your job searches and research into potential areas of work.

Charlie Ball, labour market analyst and speaker, sees the following trends:

  • Postgraduate course demand will rise
  • Demand for healthcare, some forms of logistics, some forms of supermarket retail and hardware/networking roles is holding up well
  • Demand for roles in finance and IT looks to be down a bit but activity is currently going on
  • Hospitality, entertainment, public transport, some sales and some business services has been hit significantly

Alison Partridge, OneTech Managing Director at Capital Enterprise:

“The unemployment rate in the UK has doubled in less than a month due to COVID 19 and over 1 million young people will be leaving full time education this summer and face limited employment prospects. As in other recessions or economic shocks, interest and demand to start a business will rocket upwards from the new army of unemployed and as is the case now, starting a business in the tech sector or starting a business that is digitally enabled for marketing, sales and distribution will offer the best opportunities for success for these first time entrepreneurs.

At Capital Enterprise we have been fortunate to secure additional funding from JP Morgan to launch a new StartUp Resilience Programme for tech founders who can’t access the help they need elsewhere.”

Some other insights from recruiters:

  • Indeed say that internship opportunities are drying up
  • LinkedIN say that finance and IT are weathering the storm and many roles have gone virtual

What do our Alumni say?

Nathaniel Okenwa, who graduated from our Business Computing course last year is now a Tech Evangelist at Twilio. This is what he advised students:

“I am very fortunate that my company has not been significantly affected financially by Covid-19, however I know quite a few friends working in software who have been laid off or furloughed.

One thing that this has highlighted to me is how important it is to curate an identity outside of your day job. Put out blog content, start a podcast or stream your coding sessions on Twitch. I have been amazed by the creativity I am seeing from developers as they move from working in person to creating online content.

Having content online is a great way to stand out when you are looking for a job in these times. It’s always good news for an employer if they google your name and see that you have great content and a following online.

So get out there. Highlight the things that you enjoy building. People will notice”

I hope this summary has helped give you a very general view of the impact of COVID-19 on current student recruitment. Please share your experiences with me so that we can help other students through this time.

Using Machine Learning to Design Movement Interaction in VR

Written by Nicola Plant, a researcher on the 4i project.

In celebration of International Women’s Day on Sunday 8th of March 2020, Nicola Plant, Carlos Gonzalez Diaz and Clarice Hilton from Goldsmiths Computing, ran a special workshop on Using Machine Learning to Design Movement Interaction in VR for a half-day hackathon held at the Tate Exchange. Organised by the people at the XR Diversity Initiative to help make XR more accessible, the event aims to inspire under-represented groups to pursue a career in XR fields and celebrate the stories of women, the female form and movement. There were also workshops teaching 3D sketching in Google Tiltbrush, creating 360 film and non-linear storytelling in immersive technologies. The XRDI hackathon was a part of Digital Maker Collective running a full week of events exploring digital and emerging technologies in the context of arts practice, education, society and the creative industries.

Our participants were a diverse group ranging from theatre directors, visual artists, developers, dance practitioners, academics and more, all interested in learning about how to better bring immersive technologies to their fields.

During the workshop our participants gained a working understanding of how to use machine learning when designing movement interaction for immersive technologies, along with an introduction to VR in Unity. We started with an active, hands-on session exploring full body movement practices to facilitate designing compelling movement techniques. Then dived into learning interactive machine learning concepts and how to apply them to recognise and implement movement interaction designs in immersive environments using our InteractML tool (interactml.com).

To demonstrate the potential of what our participants could achieve with the tool, the team built a special set of VR artworks inspired by female artists that have exhibited their work at the Tate Modern, the setting for our workshop. These included virtual homages to Louise Bourgeois’ ‘Maman’, Kara Walkers ‘Fons Americanus’ and Yoyoi Kusamas ‘Infinity Mirror Room’, each showcasing how various machine learning algorithms can facilitate different movement interaction techniques to control visual elements within each work.

Although many of our participants did not have any previous experience in machine learning or immersive technologies, in a little over three and a half hours our participants were able to implement their movement interaction designs by configuring and training a machine learning model with the tool, allowing them to control light colours, show different animations or control the flow of fountain water just by moving in VR.

This workshop was part of the EPSRC funded research project, 4i: Immersive Interaction design of Indie developers using Interactive machine learning. This is a joint project with University of Coventry, University of the Arts, London, Gibson/Martelli and CodeLiberation.


Meet the students from HTC Vive Developers Jam

On Jan 24th – 26th, Goldsmiths Department of Computing, ran a Virtual Reality Hackathon weekend with HTC Vive. Participants were challenged to use VIVE hardware, including Software development kits like eye, lip and hand tracking to create an innovative virtual reality project. Meet some of the Goldsmiths student teams who wowed the judges with their unqiue and brilliant projects.

Group 1: Active Listening Training in VR

(aka the winners of the HTC Vive Hackathon 2020)

Our team had a very strong technical strength, with extensive knowledge in machine learning, VR and Unity development”

Carlos Gonzalez Diaz

What was the biggest challenge?

For this group the biggest challenge was the use of eye tracking, as well as the additional challenge of adding experimental sensors together. This team experimented with movement, mouth, eye, fingers and EEG (brain electrical activity) trackers. Unfortunately EEG and finger trackers proved too difficult within the strict time restrictions so they dropped them. The team managed to successfully integrate movement, eye and mouth tracking into a machine learning model in the final prototype.

What made the project unique?

The combination of technologies the team used, paired with an interesting story line made the project stand out. The team used the InteractML machine learning tool, an interactive machine learning framework for Unity which was developed by Carlos and colleagues. The machine learning aspect eased the teams workload.

What did they learn?

Cristina Dobre said “I’ve learnt many things from taking part in this event but if I’d choose one, that would be integration-as-you-go. As the team members specialised in different areas and worked in parallel on various parts of the system, we managed to put everything together towards the very end of the event. This gave us only little time to test and fix integration bugs which made the final work very stressful (also given our sleep-deprived states). We managed to have a playable demo with most of the important parts working, but it would have been a much smoother process if the integration would have taken place throughout the development, even though each part might have been only partly finished “

Team members (from left to right in tweet above):

Cristina Dobre, PhD Human Centered AI Characters in VR,
Lili Eva Bartha, experienced Designer and Scientist,
Claire Wu, PhD Neuroscience,
Carlos Gonzalez Diaz, PhD Machine Learning for expressive interactions


Group 2: VR Illusion

This team was a group of Goldsmiths students, many of whom has just started to learn VR in October 2019.

What were the teams strengths?

The skills in the team were varied, Hankun’s knowledge of unity helped them to solve their biggest problem of using C# to set the relationship between the size and position of the object. Yaqi brought skills in 3D modelling, so could quickly create the models they needed. Chaojing is skilled with the storytelling and drawing, so could set the story of the game and draw assets they needed. Finally, Shuai Xu is experienced in user interface design and sourced the music for the project.

How did the project relate studies at Goldsmiths?

Chaojing Li said “For the production of virtual reality games, the sense of the presence of the player is essential, because I think the most important meaning of Virtual Reality is to give people an immersive experience. We think that if there is no such sense of presence, then VR games are no different from games on ordinary platforms. During last semester, in the “3D Virtual Environments and Animation” class, our teacher Xueni Pan and Marco Gillies explained a lot of theory about Virtual Reality and some related psychological knowledge. This gave us a preliminary understanding of how to create a sense of presence in the virtual environment.”           

(From left to right) Hankun Yu, MA VR&AR student & Programme developer,
Yaqi Chen, MA VR&AR student & UX Designer,
Chaojing Li, MA VR&AR student & UX Designer,
Shuai Xu, MFA Computational Art Student & Visual Designer

Group 3

What was the project?

The group focused on virtual reality object interaction and eye tracking technology and how to combine the two to work together. In their programme cubes are thrown onto a mechanical belt like you would see in a factory, the user must stack the cubes onto each other, the challenge is that when the user looks directly at the area where the cubes are their vision is blocked, so they must use their peripheral vision to complete the task.

What is unique about your project

Nima Jamalian said “for our project we reversed the use of eye tracking technology. In majority of application that uses eye tracking the focus is on where user eyes are looking at however in our application we reversed it, the progamme checks if the player is not looking and only then the user can perform the task – so we sort of track where the player is not looking.”


Magdalena Nuspahic – Goldsmiths student, MA Virtual and Augmented Reality
Elisavet Koliniati – Goldsmiths Strudent Computational Arts student / Architect
Andrea Fiorucci – Goldsmiths graduate in Games Programming
Nima Jamalian – Goldsmiths Student PhD in Computer Science
Johannes Tscharn – Goldsmiths Student MSc Virtual and Augmented Reality

CareerHack – the traditional careers fair reinvented

This week we ran our second CareerHack event in partnership with Hacksmiths.

What is CareerHack?

CareerHack is a career & developer event where attendees spend 4 hours competing challenges in teams, showing off their skills to potential employers.

Challenges tested technical skills, with things like building an interactive game, as well as employability skills, like writing a personal profile and skills section for your CV to get students to think about the resources they need when heading into the working world. Employers are there to let the students know more about working at their organisations.

It’s a collaboration between the Department of Computing, Hacksmiths (our student-led tech society), our Careers Department and employers.

Our employer partners, Goodboy Digital; Lewisham Homes; Richmond & Wandsworth Council; and Scored provided challenges to the hack and were judges, working their way around the 8 teams of students and awarding points.

We wanted to look at new ways of employers and students interacting and piloted the event last year to great success, including one student getting a placement and another applying successfully for a full time position on graduation.

Employer feedback from last year’s event:

“much more useful than a “traditional” careers fair.” 

“being able to watch your students do actual engineering as opposed to just talking about it was really helpful (I was able to flag a number of final year students to our recruitment team as people whose applications should be expedited, if they choose to apply).”

We’re now pulling together feedback from the CareerHack this week and will start planning for next year! Well done to the winning team.

If you’re interested in working with our students on other innovative events, talks, placements and lots more, please contact Eilidh Macdonald.