The final day started a little late as we didn’t have as much to do. At 10am we kicked off with a quick end-of-course note from me, thanking the students for their enthusiasm and their participation, and their willingness to go along with the whole scheme. They, in turn, presented me with a very large book about cats (a running theme in the course and my own family contains three cats – where, by contains, I of course mean exists for the service of) which they had all inscribed. It was a delightful way to start the day!
Shally and Louis from the OAL came along and we presented them with gifts to thank them for all of their help and support during the last three weeks: Australian wine and excellent chocolate, in case you’re wondering. They, in turn, presented us with lemon cake, a CUHK dessert speciality, which is a sort of lemony.. frozen.. corn flakey… iced? treat that is deliciously indescribable! Thank you again to everyone at CUHK: Shally, Louis, Phoebe, Daniel and Cora, for all of your help while we’ve been here!
After a very pleasant 30 minutes, we got back to the final on-campus business, the quiz and the short-answer exam. With that concluded, I was able to inform the students to check their marks to look at their progress and some students will notice that they already have enough raw marks to pass – although they won’t stop now!
That concluded the course, except for a vegetarian dinner at a Buddhist “mock meat” restaurant in Hung Hom, arranged by David, our Alumni Ambassador for Hong Kong and China. The meal was astounding and we got take a double decker bus ride through Hung Hom from the MTR to get there – adding another experience into the mix! Here are some of the photos and dishes from the meal:
Here are two pictures with David serving from the (ample) banquet and the students enjoying themselves:
(The very small student is David’s daughter – Ashley.) Those of you with sharp eyes might recognise the fruit on the table as Durian – the King of Fruits and the fruit with one of the most amazing reputations. David went out specially to go and get two beautiful durians for the students to try something new (Kelvin and I needed no convincing as we are both strongly committed to the durian) and most people were very pleasantly surprised that the smell wasn’t as bad as they’d heard and that the taste was very much worth pursuing It is, however, amazingly rich, there’s a lot of the avocado richness concealed in the ultra-mango and (being honest) spring onion flavours of the durian.
Here’s the final picture of the course, standing proud in front of the defeated durian. We came to Hong Kong to learn, to experience and to have a lot of fun. And we did all three. Thank you, Hong Kong!
After another busy Monday, we had a discussion of all of the material that had featured in the podcasts and the podcasts themselves. It was quite obvious that the students had picked up the concepts involved and had a good working and application-level understanding of what was going on. (It turned out later that the students had in fact formed a study group for some of the podcast material, watching as a group for discussion. Nice to see that can happen without prompting!) This Tuesday was an important day because it was the last day of formal ‘coursework’ in the sense of new material being discussed in the course.
We covered network security, which is one of my many areas of interest, and went through all of the many ways that horrible things can happen to nice people. I had original wanted to extend this part of the course beyond the base course content but it had quickly become apparent that jamming more into this course wasn’t going to help anyone so I covered some of the material but not in as great a depth.
A vast amount of the stuff that we cover in security is actually really well summarised at XKCD, here’s an example:
The end of the day was a briefing session, as we were off to Macau the next day for, well, getting a sense of the culture around here and seeing how another SAR functions in its new relationship with China. I also reminded the students that passports were required and, armed with excellent local knowledge from Louis Wong at the OAL, we prepared for a Macanese adventure.
I think the third week crept up on us a bit. I asked my students about it later and they said that it had really started to fly – although everyone was feeling the pressure towards the end of week 2. On the Monday morning we met late to have the short exam and then I gave the students an hour for lunch before we headed off to tour the labs that are found around CUHK itself. Another OAL host, Cora Chan, picked us up from one of the many food outlets (it’s Hong Kong, food is very serious business here) and took us to visit the Virtual Reality, Visualisation and Imaging Centre, where our students got to see research and industrial application mixing together. We saw 3D imaging displays and a really interesting example of a training device to help medical professional develop their expertise at carrying out biopsies of tumours, using computerised measurement to give a quantified indication of accuracy. Usually, a human observes you to assess your technique. In this case, computerised measurement can tell you exactly where your probe went in relation to the ultrasound and the ‘tumour’ – actually a special sponge. Had you told me that my students would be carrying out biopsy practice on this trip, I wouldn’t have believed you. We’re all learning!
We then moved on to the Radio-frequency Radiation Research Laboratory, where the team look at interesting ways to send and receive communications-band radiation, while also carrying out formal assessment work of the possible effects on humans. To do this, they have one of the most amazing looking labs in the world…
Thats the door to an anechoic chamber, designed to completely isolate anyone inside from outside electromagnetic radiation – and it’s also eerily silent because it absorbs all noise. Of course, all of us had to step inside – it’s 7m tall, which makes it one of the biggest labs of this type that there is.
It is eerily quiet in there and that giant ring, studded with sensors, is the detector array. Here’s a vertical panorama that tries to capture what the whole chamber looks like. I have included an ISO Standard Tullie for scale.
With this apparatus, and a range of things including human substitutes and replay-able mobile emissions, the team can check that an antenna is putting where it should be and not cooking anyone. Always good! The last lab on the tour was the Networked Sensors and Robotics Laboratory, where we started the tour by looking at robots designed to assist in surgery. In the picture below, the small robot to the front takes the role of a human and stabilises the patient’s internal organs for a 90-120 minute operation, where a human would typically tire. This is classic assistive robotics – they do something that we potentially have neither the strength nor patience to be able to achieve with high reliability.
In the background, yo0u can see a device that helps a surgeon stabilise the tools required for keyhole surgery – an assistant who never shakes and never tires, no matter how long it goes on. Right now these all have to be manually positioned, which still needs human involvement, but the team go to their cadaver trials very shortly and would hope to have devices like the organ assistant robot deployed into surgical theatres by 2015-2016. Good thing to keep in mind when you’re visiting hospital! We then went to see some more work being done by the students in the group on robot autonomy and position determination – taking robots to the point where, instead of careering around the room like a deranged Roomba, they learn paths properly and can follow them, on land and or on water, but without ground assisted guidance. Overall, a fantastic day for seeing research in action and, as one of the students noted, he now knew more about research at CUHK than he did about what we did back home. Hmm. Good point, we’re going to have to fix that! Thanks again to Cora and all the teams who helped us out today.
Friday the 18th was a quieter day after such a busy week but I’m very glad to say that the students had not only looked at the podcasts but they had done the pre-quiz prior to attending! So we were able to go through two or three topics and discuss them in lectures, getting students to frame the ideas and then explore how correct they were, combining mental priming and good ol’ Vygotsky to drive understanding. Still, everyone was looking a little frazzled by the end of it and I was glad that we had rearranged the timetable a bit.
The quick quiz had 10 questions in it, versus the 5 from the previous one. As it turns, later feedback indicated that this was preferred by some students because you could be a bit wrong and not lose so many marks – it’s easy to forget that 2 marks out of 5 can be high stakes to some people so this was a pertinent reminder.
We finished up with the quiz and then I briefed all the students on their requirements for the next week. Rather than have a traditional lecture set on the MOnday, they would do the podcasts and quizzes over the weekend, as they finished their assignments and we would then go through that material in class as a tutorial/socratic dialogue on the Tuesday. This gave them time to step back, work on their assignments, revise for Monday’s short-answer exam and also gave us time for more visits on Monday!
That was it for week 2! Come back soon for what happened in Week 3!
Day 9, Thursday the 17th, we were back in the classroom again but with a 10am start to let the students get a bit of rest after the night out. We had a busy afternoon planned with a visit to the Hong Kong science park so we focused on issues in networking such as Software Defined Networking, network management and then did the tutorial in class as a group discussion activity. (I love having the flexibility to move things around in the classroom like this!) On completing that, I assigned the students some work to be done before the next day, which was going through 5 of the podcasts in the next section and doing the quiz before they showed up. However, as we will see, I adjusted that because of the afternoon activities!
The local Office of Academic Links has been a great help in setting up visits and they had also arranged a visit to the Science Park to look at what was being done by their amazing body and we also had an arranged visit to Huawei’s Noah’s Ark Lab. Our host from the OAL was Daniel Chan, who wrangled us with great expertise and also assisted us in correctly observing local customs for visits – thanks a million, Daniel!
At the Science Park we attended a briefing on the Science Park’s role, in conjunction with a number of universities including CUHK, to provide support to the R&D infrastructure in Hong Kong, led off by a great talk by local entrepreneur Kenneth Chau, a graduate of the Science Park’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship program. Hong Kong is hungry for innovation and it was never clearer than when the local manager outlined their program for innovation support, which included giving opportunities to foreign nationals as well as locals, as it would be of local benefit in driving industry and innovation. The idea of being able to apply for a program which gives you free space, access to investors and mentors, and it being this well supported was excellent (and a little surprising from our current climate) to see.
We then went for a tour of Green 18, the Science Park’s green building, where a lot of technologies have been developed and tested that will be used in the next phase of the Science Park’s development. We were able to get up on top of the building and get some great views of Hong Kong, as well as appreciating its energy efficiency!
Here’s a panorama that shows you the view from the top.
There’s some amazing stuff on the campus. Here is one of the most distinctive lecture halls that I think I’ve ever seen.
We were then very lucky to be able to visit Huawei’s Noah’s Ark Lab. Huawei are a very serious player in the world of networking and they have a great deal of interest in how they can use software defined networking for a wide range of reasons, fortunately I had covered this in a lecture today! Their big data analytics are also very advanced and there’s a lot of cross over with what we’re doing in student analytics – but not at the same scale. Professor Qiang Yang hosted us and he and his team shared a lot of good project progress with us. From a teaching standpoint, this is great, because I can talk about things in the classroom but visits like this bring it to life!
At the end of the day, I reviewed things with the students and, after two social events and a really busy week (teaching wise), I adjusted the schedule. I dropped the amount of work required for the next day and moved the short answer exam from Friday to Monday. With assignments due, two very complex conceptual areas, and everything else, I was worried that the students would be plodding through rather than actually enjoying and getting the most out of the trip.
Work delayed, after all, is still work but rearranging it gave my students a little more time to make up for all of the other interesting things we were doing.
Overall, a great day, and thank you so much to everyone involved – we really got a lot out of it.
Sorry about the delay in filing these but we got seriously busy with the whole “learning and teaching” thing so I’ve had to wait until today to catch up.
Wednesday the 17th was pretty much day off for the students – I took the opportunity to catch up on some course preparation – but in the evening we were heading out to meet the Hong Kong Alumni association for the University of Adelaide. Hong Kong local David Wong, our Alumni Ambassador for Hong Kong and China, here had discussed a meet-up in a conversation with Luke van Trigt from our Alumni Relations and University Engagement section. We all met up at a German restaurant and beer house called Brotzeit, down in East Tsim Sha Tsui. Rather than shepherding the students, I decided to meet them down there and this worked out very well, with all of us getting there pretty much on time.
We had a great evening out, meeting Charles Ng, the President of the local Alumni Association, and Timothy Lok and Belinda Poon, both Directors of the association. It was great to be able to sit around and talk to people about working and living in Hong Kong, with people who were connected to our own institution.
Here are some pictures of the night, to show you that an intensive overseas course isn’t all work. (Although my students will tell you that there’s quite a bit of it in there!)
We then wandered out for a walk along the Avenue of Stars, which pays tribute to Hong Kong’s amazing film industry. Of course, Hong Kong itself is pretty amazing.
Of course, the Director’s Chair can prove too much of a temptation for some…
The whole point of a trip like that is to get out and about, adding to the classroom with some local flavour. Thanks again to the Alumni for setting this up and coming out!
I write today’s post over a cup of chamomile tea, as I’m taking a break from preparing for the next stages of the course and also doing some work on an ongoing research project. Like many (most) research-active academics, the contribution to research and the requirement to keep on plugging away never quite stops, wherever I am in the world. What is great, however, is that working with an active small group for teaching is quite energising, although it is intensive teaching, so I’m usually in a very positive mood for the afternoon’s continuing work. (Hooray!)
We went through the introduction to the network layer today and finished up with a small lab on practical use of this knowledge. It’s quite a lot to go through in this short a time (this sequence of lectures would usually take a week and a half) so there are additional materials, including podcasts, that I provide to make this easier. I recorded these some time ago but they have proved very useful as this section of the course “sticks” at different rates for different people.
As it happened, I had a producer working with me, so I narrated the slides and they were fused together post recording. These days I’d just use Camtasia but it’s very interesting to think of the techniques that we are still using up to just a few years ago. Now, between Explain Everything and Camtasia, I basically have a one-man recording studio!
No pictures today but we’re going to meet up with the Hong Kong Alumni of our University tomorrow down in Kowloon, which will be a great opportunity for our students to meet people who, with an Adelaide degree, are making their way in Hong Kong. Lots of great opportunities on this trip for everyone!
(I’ll pop up a picture of the Alumni magazine, The Roar, as I can’t find any HK chapter pictures.)