Judging at GradEX22

As a judge at the 2022 graduate exhibition, I saw some truly amazing projects. Here’s my experience of being a part of that process.

Staffordshire University’s final year project showcase

The graduate exhibition is an annual event where students put their final year projects on display for industry professionals to see.

The showcase was held at The Catalyst, at the university’s Stoke-on-Trent campus and hosted by Alastair Dawes, Director of Business, Development and Enterprise in the School of Digital, Technologies and Arts.

It’s an opportunity for final year students to show off the culmination of their studies. As well as the various awards and prizes up for grabs, it’s a valuable opportunity to network with industry professionals. I first met iWeb through GradEx when I graduated back in 2011.

The awards are judged by a panel of judges from the industry

I was asked to be a judge within the computing category. Joined by a freelance web developer and a representative from Cyber Media, a neighbouring business to us on the Staffordshire Technology Park.

The day kicked off with networking, coffee, and cake.; followed by an introduction from Alastair.

Armed with our judge’s pack, we began! Student projects are judged across a variety of criteria. Spending just 10-15 minutes with each student, a key judging criteria is effective communication. The students have to be able to explain what you’re looking at, what the intention was, and why something works or doesn’t work as well as it could.

Interesting projects

There was a broad range of computing projects this year which made things extremely difficult for us judges (we had to choose between some truly amazing projects). It wasn’t just the quality of the work, the creativity, or even the innovation that impressed us – it was also how each project combined all three elements.

The technology used in each project helped bring these ideas to life. For example, one entry combined sensors and cloud computing to provide live car park billing and availability information. Another project visualised digital forensic data lifted from a mobile phone – pinpointing locations and drawing a line on a map to show the phone’s movement as events are logged (text messages, calls and photos taken).

A standout project for us was an accessibility aid helping people with dyslexia to read the web. The project was called “Dyslexia web accessibility, theme creator/text scraper” by Joseph Findlay. Given a URL, the web application identifies the main body of content and presents it in an easier to read format for people with dyslexia. The user can personalise the formatting further by creating themes. The page alters appearance in real time providing a live preview as colours, fonts and text size are adjusted.

Conclusion

Overall, I had a really great time at the exhibition. It was a pleasure to meet all the talented students and to see their work on display. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of agency life but events like this help keep you grounded. There are some amazing people out there doing amazing things!

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