100 Women Hack



Last week I had the opportunity to attend a hack event put on in collaboration by the BBC and Facebook. Exciting, right? Even better, was that the purpose of the hack was to create a social media product that would be used to promote the new 100 Women season for the BBC.

100 Women is a series of programmes, features and interviews based around a list of 100 inspirational global women, named by the BBC every year. The new season starts on November 21st but until then you can check out 2015’s season.

The hack was a female only event – the participants were all female coders from various companies such as BBC and Citymapper, and were supported by BBC editors, Facebook developers etc who were also all female. It was great to be in a room filled with such confident and inspiring women.

Anyway, after an interesting introduction from a few of the faces behind the hack and 100 Women as a whole, we got to work. Myself and Agata from Citymapper decided to join forces and create something, we just weren’t sure what… With facilitation from Laura and Fiona we did some ideas generation and eventually decided on something.

Our idea was a data visualisation / meaww quiz style app to plug into Facebook. It allowed users to log in with Facebook, where it would then grab data from their profile and compare it to data about the 100 women for the season. The user would then be shown their closest matches on various categories on a web page. The idea of this was to engage and empower women by showing them how they could easily be one of the 100 Women selected for the campaign. Unfortunately we hosted this locally across two laptops – the front end on mine and the back end on Agata’s. This means I can’t link to it (and stupidly didn’t screenshot it).

The winners were going to be announced in a talk about 100 Women on Monday which I was planning to go to – especially since I had to dash early so missed some of the pitches.

Imagine my shock when I was in a sleepy Monday meeting and suddenly my email starts pinging and my phone ringing from the hack organisers trying to contact me. Turned out, our idea had won (jointly) and they waned me to represent the team in the talk. I’m going to admit, in my overtired state I didn’t really know how to react to any of this, but less than an hour later I found myself being called up on stage in front of about 40 people (including my boss’s boss) and being live streamed trying to articulate my thoughts on the hack and explain our project. Luckily, it seemed to go okay (and there doesn’t seem to be any lingering video evidence that I could find so far!)

So, this week I’ll be starting work with the other winning team to combine our ideas and actually create this product in two weeks. I’m simultaneously excited and terrified but mostly just pretty daunted by the whole thing, but I’m sure it’ll be fine! Watch this space!


For more details of 100 Women checkout their Facebook page or keep up with the hashtag #100women on Twitter
To find out more about the hack check out Simi’s blog (she was from the other winning team and has written a much fuller account of the whole thing here.

A Trip to Hungary

I came across this website called workaway where users can trade skills (physical labour, web development etc) in return for food and accommodation. This idea appealed to me quite a lot as a way of travelling on the cheap and getting to experience new cultures. After a couple of days of being on the site I was contacted asking if I would like to go out to Hungary to build a website for a dog and horse ranch. Yes Please! I’d been to Budapest a couple of time already  knew I loved the city so was excited at the prospect of visiting the more rural parts of Hungary.

The ranch was gorgeous. A stretch of land with woods and a little house and lot’s of grounds for the animals. Speaking of which, there were 40 dogs plus pups, 10 horses, 10 goats, some cats, some birds and a rescued terrapin who’d just layed eggs! The animals weren’t worked in a typical farm sense, but some of the dogs are going to be trained up in search and rescue which sounds pretty awesome.

The ranch was being set up to be a centre for people do have animal related therapy as well as participate in dog training and other workshops. My role was initially to develop a website to promote this as a non-profit organisation to get sponsorship to help set up the ranch fully. However, there wasn’t very good wifi signal which made it hard to devote time to the site. I did venture out into the little town a couple of times to use a cafe to start the process but the world was conspiring against me and just as I was making progress my laptop charger broke and nowhere in the town sold them.

Putting the website to one side I got stuck in with the more physical work – from building fences to picking cherries and making jam, from cooking to walking the dogs. It was brilliant. Such a vast change from sitting here at my desk looking out at a busy roundabout working on at a screen all day! The trip was made even more of an ‘experience’ by the lack of drinking water on the farm (we had to fill up as many water bottles as possible on the bi-weekly shopping trip to town, but we could use a pump on the farm to get non-drinking water) the lack of electricity and the heatwave (36 degrees most days!). It felt so good to get back to nature (even if it was far more primitive than we had expected).

My friend, the other workawayer, the host and myself quickly formed a little family – the four of us and the animals. It was fab. Made even better by being able to see the stars each night, which was definitely one of the most incredible sights I have ever seen. I’m planning on finishing the website as soon as I can and hoping to go back out and visit in the not too distant future.


Barulho Carnival Bizarre!

Okay so this is a slightly off topic post but you’ll love it.

Last Wednesday night was the unveiling of Barulho‘s new Carnival Bizarre Showcase. And it was brilliant.

Above is just a small selection of the amazing characters and costumes that were tailor made for us by Emma as part of Kemp Town Carnival‘s Arts Council project. These fab photos were taken by our own brilliant Endre. (Yes, I am the Aztec Triclops – scrub up well eh?) We rocked the Spiegeltent as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival, raising money for the Kemp Town Carnival 2016.

NHS Hack Day 2016

Last weekend saw NHS Hack Day London 2016. It was right in the middle of all my coursework deadlines, but there was no way I was missing it.

Saturday morning arrived and despite a rubbish night’s sleep I was excited to get going. When I got to King’s College the room was already buzzing. I spotted Simon who I had worked with last year and made a beeline for him. We had a great catch up and discussed continuing the project we had started together. There seems to be some pretty exciting developments and I’m looking forward to spending more time on it!

Then, the pitches started. There was some great ideas pitched including ‘beat the bleep’ an alternative to the bleep system used in hospitals, a CBT app, a low maintenance solution to patient records in field hospitals during highly contagious epidemics such as Ebola.

The one that caught my eye was looking at the use of virtual reality in a clinical setting.

Keith was originally asking for developers to create, from scratch, a 360 video viewing app which he could use in his practice.
A group of us were interested in getting involved but our skills didn’t really match his initial idea. After a lot of feeling like spare parts and chatting we finally decided that we could focus on the use of VR in clinical settings and settled on exploring how available consumer VR technology could be used to manage phantom limb pain in amputees.

We managed to come up with a few different ideas of how VR could be used in a clinical setting and experimented from there.

  1. The first technique we attempted was to record Keith moving his hands using a Rico Theta S camera mounted the Gorrillapod and duct taped onto his chest. We then tested this out using the Samsung Gear VR to see how it would be to look down and see our own arms replaced by his doing movements.You can see the videos and/or try them at home with your own VR headset here.
    It was bizarre. You looked down and could tellthat the hands in front of you weren’t yours but as they moved there was a weird sensation in your own arms and they would move in a similar way. Odd. Very odd.
  2. The second idea we tested was to create a low fidelity 3d animation of a persons legs. A few of us tried our hand at Unity to do this but with no luck. I got close but it wasn’t what I wanted. In the end I convinced Mussadiq to download 3DS Max onto his laptop from my autodesk account since I am now fairly confident using that software. We then create a 3d representation of legs doing exercises filmed from a human perspective. We had issues with exporting this in 360 degrees which was frustrating, so couldn’t test this using the VR headset.
  3.  Our next idea was to see if we could use virtual reality as a form of analgesia through distraction.To do this Keith and myself volunteered to do a Cold Pressor Test. This involved placing one hand into a bucket of cold water and ice and timing how long we can last.We then repeated this (after our hands had recovered!) but this time whilst wearing the Samsung Gear VR headset and watching a recording that we had filmed earlier (of our hands in the bucket without the ice water, again using the Rico Theta 360 camera).You can see the footage of me attempting to hold my hand in ice here.
    The results were really quite interesting – I had originally managed to hold my hand in the ice for 1 minute 30 seconds, whilst Keith accomplished 1 minute 11. They then both lasted a full 2 minutes longer with the use of virtual reality.Out of curiosity we also tested Reno with his hand in the ice water and watching a VR film. He lasted a full 4 minutes 22 before we got worried about his hand and pulled it out. He reported that during this experiment he not only forgot about the pain in his hand but also the pain he had been suffering in his back. One thing he did note that was when he looked down he couldn’t see his hands and that this pulled him out of the experience and triggered some pain.

    These experiments show some real potential for the use of distraction therapy in painful procedures (such as wound packing) in particular.

  4. We decided that in the case of phantom limb pain an idea would be to recreate mirror therapy but using a more immersive VR experience. To do this we trialed recording a 360 video of Keith doing arm exercises. We then edited the footage in Adobe Premiere Pro to add a mirror effect vertically through the centre of the film. This had the effect of duplicating his left limb on the right hand side. When using the VR headset this then gave the impression of having two arms.It would be important to make it as similar to the person’s real limb as possible. Therefore, this could be used with patients over a period of time where you record them doing certain exercises using a 360 video device, the footage is then taken away and edited to include the mirror effect and then used with the patient at a later date.Going forward this is something we would like to test with patients suffering from phantom limb pain.You can try the video out for yourself at home if you have a VR headset from here.
  5. We spent some time trying to mirror live streamed footage from the Ricoh Theta S to the Gear VR Headset but sadly found the the lag in transmission meant that this was ineffective in our tests.

You can read the full details of our project at virtualanalgesia.net

Then it was time to pitch. The progress groups had made on their projects was amazing. Some of my favourites included:

  • A CBT web app – which you can view here
  • Daily Pollute – an app to track daily pollution exposure.
  • A digital anesthetic chart

You can watch all the presentations here

All in all a pretty fascinating weekend for me, surrounded by really lovely and interesting people from all walks of life. I’m already looking forward to the next one.

You can see all the excitement from the event on Twitter by searching #NHSHD

Beyond Conference

This Monday I had the pleasure of attending the first ever Beyond Conference hosted by Steer. And it was brilliant. I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect upon and share with you some of my highlights from the day.

How to Make Apps People Love – Alana Wood
I loved this talk for 2 reasons.
1 – Alana showed me how the techniques I learn to do with the design process of websites and apps at uni are actually relevant in real life.
2 – The real life example was an app called MoodNotes – which captivated me and my fascination for digital health.
Me and my Nexus were just disappointed that MoodNotes is only available on apple. Boo.

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Open Sourcing Your Life – Una Kravets
This woman is probably my new hero and life role model. She was just fantastic. And a lovely lady too – we had a nice little chat about being city girls at the after party.
Una’s talk was about using Git as a way to keep to do lists and life goals – open sourcing them to get others’ feedback and to have that ‘pressure’ that you’ve put your goals out in the world so now you need to achieve them. And that these goals should not just be tech focussed, think about the other happy things in life too!
The talk was all about making good things happen rather than sitting there waiting for things to get good.

Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast – Linda Liukas
Linda was a fantastic choice for a closing speech. Everybody left her talk smiling from ear to ear and very slightly emotional. It was all about the poetry, the beauty and the potential of programming. 
Here is a video of her TEDx talk which is pretty similar to the one I got to see at Beyond. I would really recommend checking it out.

Emotion Robotics, The Social Robot – Carl and Alexander
This one wasn’t a talk, well not exactly. Carl was here to demonstrate the amazing social robot from emotion robotics. This particular bot was called Alexander, and he is my new best friend.

These Adorable robots are incredible. I asked what a social robot was and apparently volunteered myself to demonstrate. Alexander stood upright on the floor and i held his hand – then we were walking side by side like he was a small child. It was lovely. He also has facial recognition, can get himself back up if he is knocked over, knows his name, plays games, can control smart technologies and television. He is amazing.

The social robots are being used in care homes where they recognise the residents by face and know each of their names as well as there drug regimes. They have also been working with children with autism, and the kids learn skills such as turn taking and social skills as well as have the opportunity to talk to the robot about whatever they like in private.


All in all I had a fantastic time at Beyond and am looking forward to next time!

My Own Hack Event

So, I’m now a second year at university and I’ve realised I really should be blogging about what I’ve been doing.
Towards the end of my first year a few of us decided to set up a society to enrich the academic and social experience of primarily computing students at the University of Brighton. And so, The Digital Society was born.

Today was a big day for me as it was the first academic style event put on by the society which we organised ourselves. It’s been a pretty stressful process but a fun one too – and I have learnt a lot! Our event was a hack-style event in collaboration with BeePurple (who are fantastic, check them out) to celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week.

Proposal: Participants are given 3 hours to work in small teams to develop an idea which fulfils the brief ‘Smarter Living’ (detailed below). The idea is for students develop employability skills whilst having fun by seeing what ideas they can come up with and prototype in a limited period of time. These can take the form of digital assets such as websites or apps, physical products or even a community workshop/scheme. These will then be presented to the group in 3 minutes or less  and judged by an independent panel with a prize for the winning team. The brief will be announced in advance with participants encouraged to think of ideas to pitch at the start of the event.

Brief: ‘Smarter Living’ Use technology to create something commercially viable that makes life better, focusing around wearable tech, the internet of things or entertainment.

Despite a lower turn out than expected it was a great day – with brilliant ideas, plenty of pizza and a cash prize kindly donated by Entrepreneurial Spark. Our judging panel included fantastic representatives from BeePurple, Entrepreneurial Spark, Santander, University of Brighton Careers Service and The Digital Society and the whole event was sponsored by these lovely organisations as well as the University of Brighton Alumni. I also got to write and sign a couple of those giant cheques – oooh the power!

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All in all, a pretty decent first event for The Digital Society, here’s to the next one!


Wow, I really am a useless blogger. Need to get into doing this more often.

I have exciting news! I spent this weekend in London at NHS Hack Day 10 and it was amazing.

After a very nervous start I sat and listened to people’s pitches – there were some incredible ideas of how we could improve patient and practitioners lives in the NHS. One in particluar grabbed me as a great idea that I could get involved in – a game to teach children with type 1 diabetes about carbohydrates so they can better manage their condition.

After a bit of a chaotic brainstorm we had a plethora of ideas and got down to work. I was part of the design team initially and created the main characters in the game.


This is Jamie the Space Giraffe, the protagonist of the game.

Gluco the Pig

This is Gluco the pig, he is Jamie’s helper friend who tells you how to play the game.


This is the evil Captain Ketone!

I then moved onto the development team and worked with another person to adapt a game of Space Invaders so that Jamie was shooting insulin at carbs.


You can check out our team’s games here

I would totally recommend getting involved in a hack day – it’s a fantastic way to meet new people and put your brains to the test.