Tuesday, 28 September 2010

EnvironmentYES: The Result!

So the updates fell by the wayside a bit but there was good reason for it. Firstly, the Internet provided by our hotel was shockingly bad and it took the best part of Thursday afternoon to load our blog from Wednesday! Secondly, the competition was peaking and all our resources were ploughed into generating the best business plan that we could!

Our hypothetical business had some credited members who provided a well rounded team of entrepreneurs. Introducing PIP (People Inspired Power)...

Managing Director: Dr Anna Evely, having recently been a senior manager at Solar Central Ltd Anna is well placed to lead our business into the renewable energy sector, her natural ability to enthuse others makes her a driving force in the team.

Financial Director: Emily Lambert, with a strong background of financial representation and a personal interest in environmental issues, Emily has spent many a late night working streams of numbers into understandable business projections.

Science Director: Dr Laura Lehtovirta, a string of academic accolades make Laura highly equipped to deal with the technical logistics of the PIP strip, prepared for any question she will excite interest in this product like no other.

Marketing Director: Gina Maffey, coming from Hydro Electric Gina already knows the energy market well, her attention to detail may result in late finishes but PIP is now ingrained on many people's memories.

So with this fantastic team we ventured into the board room to face the investors. After a 5.30AM finish we were riding purely on adrenalin, however lack of sleep was never going to stop us. The standard of competition was high but we felt we delivered an exciting and high energy pitch, and left the investors asking for more... literally... they were genuinely interested in the idea and had a lot of questions. We left the room relieved, happy and ready to hit the bar. Which is exactly what we did.

After a two hour wait all the teams returned to the board room for the results to be delivered. We soon found out that the investors had chosen...

the Northern Irish group...

in all honesty we were a little sad, how could we not be after the intense few days we'd been through. However, all was not lost, we found that the University of Aberdeen BiotechYES group had won their round!! Congratulations guys!!

In retrospect what are our take home messages from this event:
  1. Have Fun!! We managed to avoid arguing all week, despite the stressful nature of the project.
  2. Application is key! Having to use skills we had only been taught minutes before increased our level of understanding at a phenomenal rate.
  3. Keep it simple stupid! Keeping communication at a level that is understandable for a broad audience is key. If people want to know more they will ask questions!
Finally... PIP has the People, PIP has the Inspiration, PIP has the Power, all PIP needs now is YOU!

Gina, Anna, Emily and Laura

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Day 2 at EnvironmentYES!

Well today has been intense! After an educational taxi ride, where we were lectured on why the government is failing society today, we arrived at the conference centre. With 15mins to spare before we started, Emily and Gina managed to sweet talk the cafĂ© manager to give us some biscuits having missed out on breakfast. We were all very grateful of these as from 9.30am till 1pm we were put through five packed lectures on aspects of finance, marketing, patenting and business plans. If you were following our tweets you’ll see that some of these were far more interesting than others!

Following lunch refreshed, refuelled and ready to go we headed to our individual conference rooms to begin outlining our business plan. Throughout the afternoon we were visited by four experts to help us develop our ideas. As the blog detailed yesterday we had been playing around with three concepts, and having slept on them we were all equally enthused by the energy transfer idea (Sorry Mark and Steve!), and had begun to explore this further doodling logos and the like throughout the morning.

The input from the experts has been invaluable this afternoon and as things drew to a close at 5.30pm we were reminded that at 6.30pm we had to give a 60sec elevator pitch to the rest of the groups. An elevator pitch is a hypothetical scenario where you are in a lift with an investor, and so have 60sec to concisely communicate your idea. Whilst sitting in the room waiting to hear the other groups speak we suddenly recalled that this pitch was also a competition, with a prize for the winning team! The tension increased!

Below is the transcript of our pitch that Gina delivered, hopefully you should understand our business idea from this, although please remember the technology is entirely our imagination, it is our business understanding that is being tested here!

As we are continually reminded energy resources are depleting, yet there is an untapped resource that continues to grow year on year, week by week and day by day… PEOPLE.
My name’s Gina and I am from ‘People Inspired Power’ or ‘PIP’. We have developed a new product that harnesses the power of footsteps. At its simplest the PIP STRIP is a pressure pad mat that converts kinetic energy into electricity.
Imagine a tube station where 10s of 1000s of commuters pass through ticket barriers everyday. Installing a PIP STRIP into this forced thoroughfare would generate enough electricity to not only power the station but to give electricity back to the grid as well.
PIP is safe, green, simple and cost effective.
Money may make the world go round but with PIP footsteps will drive it.

After all the groups had presented we had to vote for what we felt was the best pitch, although we were banned from voting for ourselves! HOWEVER, we managed to walk away with over 50% of the votes and an unquestionable win! Our winnings consisted of ‘The growing business handbook’ and a choice between book tokens or bubbly… naturally we took the wine. We have received a lot of praise from experts and teams alike, but have no fear this has not gone to our heads as we settle down to continue working and building on our early success.

With a late night ahead, and an early start tomorrow we’ll leave you now and look forward to hearing your feedback soon!

Gina, Anna, Emily and Laura

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Day 1 at EnvironmentYES!

Blogging from the EnvironmentYES competition in Edinburgh, a young entrepreneurs scheme aiming to increase the level of entrepreneurial awareness in the environmental science community.

Hi all,

So we have finally all made it to Edinburgh (Anna Evely and Emily Lambert all the way from London! Gina Maffey and Laura Lehtovirta from Aberdeen), and managed to find our apartment in preparation for tomorrow. We are currently camped out in true brain storming style... papers all over the floor, pizza delivery on call and wine chilling in the fridge!

Tomorrow on the agenda we have a morning of talks on various aspects of business and marketing, this is followed by an afternoon of exploring our current ideas with experts on tap. To give a brief outline of the competition, we are asked to market a real or hypothetical solution to an existing environmental problem. We are judged on our ability to market the product, not the product itself, although of course our knowledge of the problem has to stand up to some questioning! We have been asked to come with some ideas but nothing set in stone, so we would love to hear your thoughts on the following...

  • Vertical gardening - Similar to green roofs, utilising this commercial technology http://www.verticalfarm.com/ but marketing it on a domestic scale, and in a way that can be installed in existing buildings. This holds potential for small scale food production as well as bringing nature to communities and children that currently do not have access to outdoor spaces.
  • People powered energy plant - Harnessing the kinetic energy stored in each of us to effectively produce electricity. Applications include looking at games consoles, like the WII, to power the TV while it's in use, gym classes in schools to supply lighting in other classes and using the footfall of commuter traffic to light the underground (This last example has been piloted successfully in Tokyo station). This holds both small scale and industrial possibilities, along with running alongside health campaigns and energy bill reductions.
  • Flood warning technology - Using sensor systems that work on three levels. The first level sensor would be activated when water levels are moderately high and would alert the local meteorological station, the second level sensor would be activated if water levels continue to rise alerting local governments and councils that evacuation could be possible. Finally, the third level sensor would be activated when water levels are dangerously high to alert local communities that evacuation is imminent.

Right, we are off to watch another episode of Dragons Den, all in the name of team bonding and research!!

We will also be tweeting on @AberdeenCES this week and would love to hear from you!

Gina, Anna, Emily and Laura

TechFest Activity Weekend - technology museum pushes all the right buttons!

Another One Bytes the Dust
9.00am - 4.30pm, Saturday 18th & Sunday 19th September 2010
Beach Ballroom, Aberdeen

Ever wondered what one of the world's first computers looked like and what it could do? Want to find out how mobile phones can shrink? Curious to discover the link between musical drums and a hole-punch?... Then you should have joined the ~3000-strong crowd of visitors at the Beach Ballroom last weekend to find out!

With a van load of kit, a team of dot.rural researchers (and TechFest-SetPoint's Techie the Terrier!) were on hand to answer all of these questions and more!

After an absolutely jam-packed, exhausting and fantastic weekend, two days of lunches consisting of corned beef sarnies (the glamour!) and the gradual loss of our voices... we made it!

dot.rural's technology museum workshop proved a roaring success. Early estimates from the TechFest organisers (TechFest-SetPoint) suggest ~3000 people - adults and children - raced through the doors of the Beach Ballroom over the Activity Weekend.

Special thanks go to:
Ruth - for crazy amounts of hard work before and during and, of course, your ridiculous dedication to getting the Spectrum up and running!
Nico - sorry for plunging you in at the deep end.. you didn't sink! I've not seen you since so hope you've managed to survive after your 'scare'!!!
Gorry - what a help! Firstly, representing the Co-Investigators (dot.rural's first Prof to engage with the public!), enabling Ruth's Pong to join in the workshop, and then with the crucial transportation! (Note to self: Never get in a car in Aberdeen with no windscreen wipers!!)
Lizzy - for expert researching on the 'history of computing' and the TV that wasn't to be.
Gina and Hien - for dragging themselves down to the Ballroom on a Sunday afternoon to show their support for dot.rural! Good effort guys :-)
Everyone at TechFest-SetPoint - Yvonne, Liz, Sam, Sean... for a super efficient, slick event and the chance to take part.
John Reid - for passing on just a smidgen of your unlimited knowledge and the generous loaning of exhibits (courtesy of the University's Natural Philosophy Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments)... and for your patience!

So many visitors (more than we could have imagined!) turned up to see the progress of everyday technologies through the ages. Although there was a team of us on hand to host the workshop, in hindsight our dot.rural human resource needed doubling to cope with the demand...

The 'retro arcade' (Pong, BBC Micro, ZX Spectrum and iMac G3) attracted both the young and the, err, not so young!

The 'punch programming' activity was a real hit with the littluns. Gimme a bit of paper and a hole punch and I can program 'Claire' in the Baudot code in about 3 seconds flat.

The 'computer biopsy' activity provided an opportunity for parents to show off their knowledge of the inner workings of computers and for kids to surprise me (well done to computer whizz Calum, aged ~8)... and their parents!

Keep your eyes peeled for photos of Gorry and random TechFest attendee (Jack) appearing in local media and the College Bulletin soon.

More of our amateur photos - of course, all with the subject's approval - are on their way...

Check out http://www.techfestsetpoint.org.uk/emag/2010_public_programme/ for more info on this and other events in the TechFest in September programme!

Bye for now... and see you next year!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Last News from Birmingham

Hello world!!
Here at the British Science Festival we almost arrive at the end. In these last days there were a lot of interesting exhibitions and workshops. I'm going to give you just two little examples....
How happy are you in your life? Good news if your are around your 40s you will be happier than what you are at the moment, not really good news if you are around 20s-30s, things will get worse :( I hope I'll be an exception.
Dora, a robot that can discover the environment, was showed in an interesting event about how far we are from having robots that behave as humans.

This is all from Birmingham and it's already time for me to come back to Aberdeen. This festival is very interesting and exciting, it's an opportunity for discovering the new wonders of science and for meeting nice people. If you want to have a look to the news and some more information look here NEWS. And if you want some material from the festival just let me know!!
Goodbye from Birmingham!!

Thursday, 16 September 2010

British Science Festival: DAY 3

Have you ever thought about how to define NOTHING? Can you imagine it? The number zero, an empty space, a vacuum cleaner..... what about doing maths with CATS? Can you do one cat times zero? What's the result? Here in Birmingham we spend the evenings trying to find an answer... Any help?
Although I couldn't stop thinking about this today I also discovered a lot of interesting things happening around the world. The day has started with "how to predict earthquakes". They are not so easy to predict as all of you could probably guess but a combination of researches in history of the earthquakes, in structure engineering together with measurements of different factors can definitely help in saving lives. After these good news we met George!! George is an autopilot introduced in an award lecture of Dr.Young about the benefits of automating tasks in our lives but also the potential risks. The lecture was really interesting, even more for me because George is the name of my coffee machine :)
Let me know if you have any solutions...
Good night!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

British Science Festival: DAY 2

Hello people!!
Here in Birmingham the Festival is very very intense, no time for lunch or dinner today (luckily there is a chip shop :P )...
So today I started with virtual design of cars and simulations of crash tests. I give you just two numbers that have impressed me: for a new vehicle the engineers need to design 4000 new parts and the electrical components require more or less about 10 millions of line of code. AHHH!!!
I attended, then, a Charles Darwin Award Lecture by Dr. Grahn about the sense of rhythm in babies and how rhythms and musics can aid movements in patients with Parkinson's disease.
What we can follow here is incredibly exciting and various. In the afternoon I watched a Real play by a Real theatre company to describe the importance of having a unified database of medical records across the country and related issues about online data and privacy.
Walking around and attracted by a familiar accent I then discovered an "Aberdonian" research group. They use a Virtual Landscape Theatre to modify a landscape and discuss about that. We had an argument about improving accessibility versus enlarging the villages in an Aberdeenshire zone. We all agreed that we should change the weather first. :P:P
Ok, I think you are all bored enough but I just want to tell you that we finished this long day with the last results on the science of dating people. I got a lot of tips ...but I'm not going to share them with you.....
Goodnight everyone..and I apologise for all the mistakes I made but I'm really really exhausted...
See you tomorrow!!!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

British Science Festival: DAY 1

Hello everyone!!
I'm in Birmingham attending the British Science Festival 2010!!

For who doesn't know what this festival is I suggest you to have a look at
British Science Festival. It is one of Europe's largest science festivals, this year the theme is "better lives through science" and it focuses the attention on many of the region's key research strengths including medical technology, health-care, energy, and digital communications. (I haven't really seen anything about digital communications yet....but anyways...). But I think it's also a great opportunity to meet something new, different from the field where we usually work, presented by great speakers in a funny environment.
Unfortunately I forgot at home the cable to connect the camera so I will upload some pictures only when I'll be back in Aberdeen but I'm gonna give you a short introduction about the events that I have followed during the day!!
I started with the talk "The new psychology of Leadership" and the only hint I'm going to give you is that a successful leadership happens when the leader represents a social identity of the group of followers and the followers believe in this sense of "we-ness". It was a really interesting talk leaded by prof. Alex Haslam.
The UKRC has presented an event where three great women have presented their successful carrier in science. I liked the talk of Dr.Sarah Baillie for her interdisciplinary carrier. Thanks to her veterinary background and a Phd in computer science, she invented the Haptic cow, a virtual simulator for training veterinary students in making diagnosis.
I don't want you to get bored but finally I have seen this incredible Zero Carbon House ...you have to take a look to these pictures to see what it is like .... have a look here...

And for today it's all.
Good night from Birmingham!!!

Saturday, 11 September 2010


Hi everyone, I'm posting from Desenzano del Garda, Brescia, in Italy. Although it may sound as a holiday, I came here for a conference: the 3rd International Conference in Computational Models of Argument (COMMA). As the interested reader might have guessed, this is the one conference entirely devoted to my subject, gathering more than 60 scientists from Argentina (2) and other countries (n-2). The event took place from Wednesday to Friday, with a pretty busy agenda: sessions from 9 to 5, plus a demo session and a discussion panel. Lunches, a cocktail and a gala dinner were included.
I had the pleasure of taking half a session for myself, painfully presenting two papers, long and short, respectively. The slides had nice drawings and animations. I could bore you with a summary of each paper but I prefer not to, and I believe you agree. In any case I'll be more than happy to do it in person, in the kitchen - you just have to accept at least two "mates".
See you guys on Tuesday, ciao!

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Profile: Alice Toniolo

Name: Alice Toniolo

Start date: Spring 2010

Project/area: Looking at how Software Agents can support human decision makers for planning joint activities.

Favourite biscuit? Biscotti Galletti!!! Sorry I'm Italian I can't hide my origins!!

Favourite place? "The world"- I'm fascinated by every place, big cities, small villages, mountains and seas, deserts and glaciers, every shred of this earth has something beautiful... unfortunately I won't have time to see every corner of this planet but I'm trying!!

Favourite word? "Smile"

Twitter? Facebook? Other? Find me on Facebook!

iPhone? Blackberry? Other? ...sorry only a very old Nokia!!

What can you not live without? Chocolate and music.

Which character from film, television or literature most resembles you? No idea.

If you weren't working at dot.rural, what would you be doing? I would run my own bar or restaurant or both.

Use ten words to describe a dot.rural colleague (without naming names): hard-working, funny, friendly, curious, sociable, patient, happy, encouraging....

Is there anything we don't already know about you? I don't know, if you have any question just ask me!!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Profile: Mukta Aphale

Name: Mukta S. Aphale

Start date: 14th Dec. 2009

Project/area: Security and Privacy Policy Management. I am planning to look at how intelligent agents can assist in policy authoring and refinement.

Favourite biscuit? Bourbon; Parle-G also called as Glucose biscuits (India); Anzac biscuits (Australia)

Favourite place? There are many places near and dear to my heart.

Pune - My hometown in India where I spent 25 years of my life;

Konkan - Coastal area of Maharashtra state, India - full of small and peaceful villages with minimal contact with the modern world;

Newcastle, Australia - Where I started a new life with my husband Sumeet;

Aberdeen, UK - Yes, Aberdeen is my favourite place. Here I could see my life shaping up in a different direction

Favourite word? Food

Twitter? Facebook? Other? Twitter (mukta_aphale), Also facebook, orkut, linkedin, shelfari

iPhone? Blackberry? Other? I was loyal to Nokia sometime ago but now I am with Xperia X10 mini.

What can you not live without? Singing

Which character from film, television or literature most resembles you? I don't know. I think all the characters in films/television/literature are larger than life and I have quite an ordinary personality.

If you weren't working at dot.rural, what would you be doing? Working for some software firm.

Use ten words to describe a dot.rural colleagues (without naming names): Motivated, Friendly, Sociable, Helpful, Courteous, Intelligent, Enthusiastic, Sincere, Modest, Generous.

Is there anything we don't already know about you? I was able to converse in Japanese for business purpose 4 years ago. It is a big joke in my house, as I can only remember basic vocabulary and greetings now. I really wish to brush up my skills and learn more.