Day 34-40 A visit from MapleSoft and meetings

Hello, everyone!

Our last week was pretty busy!

On Tuesday the team received the visit of Michael Pisapia, VP Europe at Maplesoft and Aron Pasieka, who presented their most recent project Mobius, an online course environment that includes all the key features of Maple TA – natural math notation, visualizations, assessment tools, etc. Over lunch, the team also had the opportunity to showcase some of the questions we have written as well as reporting on our experience as Maple TA question authors – Aron even gave us some hacks! Overall, this was an extremely enjoyable session.

On Friday, the team met with Professor Kai Bongs, Head of the Cold Atoms Group. He was interested to hear how we felt about independent projects and interest in possibly setting up our own spin-off companies had changed over the internship. It was great to be able to discuss collectively our initial motivations in accepting the intership, and what we feel we have got from it.

We also met with Dr Steve Quigley, EPS Director of Education to discuss the project and its outcomes. Steve seemed impressed and confident that the project has potential to have a significant impact in the student learning experience across college.

The day saw an end with a Maple TA Team Curry Night!

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Day 32 & 33 – Completionists

At the end of the penultimate week, the maple TA team focused on finishing up the tasks that had been given to us from the other departments across uni. Our projects in Electrical Engineering, Maths, Nuclear Engineering and within Physics are all very close to completion. Projects within the department (Quantum, Radiation & Relativity, Stats) are making good progress too, but at a lower priority: external affairs needed to be dealt with first.


A small team visited Martin Long to see what he thought of the revision questions that had been written for year 1; maths for physicists. Martin said he was very pleased with the result and said he was a ‘happy bunny’!

On the Friday, another group spoke to Dirk Hermans about how some of the problems seen in some of his questions for Maths students had been circumvented. We spoke about the next steps such how the questions would be stored and accessed by students.

The team working on the repository released a little surprise! A chrome extension which would assist in writing questions. It contains tools which could: re-size question boxes, add an auto preview and provides info about the different grading functions.

I’ve worked on a frequently-asked-questions document, containing a list of problems and fixes that the team came across when writing questions. They should be especially helpful for those who will start writing their own questions after our placement ends.

Just 1 week left!
Mike W.

Days 29-31 Student Testing & things

Tuesday was the first day we had Physics undergraduates from outside the team coming in to test questions and go through the “student experience” of Maple TA, so we had a challenge on our hands in getting everything working perfectly. Thankfully we got a good cross-section of questions working in time for the outsiders.

On Wednesday we had another set of talks from the PhD students about their work on phase transitions. This was very interesting and almost exclusively dealt with physics that none of us knew anything about. Afterwards we had an opportunity to chat with them about what it’s like to do a PhD at Birmingham. There seemed to be a consensus among the team that this was incredibly useful and probably should be available for all Undergraduate students at the end of Year 3.

We’re starting to see the workload decrease as we focus more on refining and rigorously checking over everything we’ve written so far. It’s also looking like all the code and questions we’ve written will be polished and working perfectly by the end of next week. Now for the important matter of writing all the publicity to do with the project!



Day 27 & 28 – An unexpected visit!

Hello, everyone!

Time flies when you are having fun and those past two days were no exception!

The team has finished testing all the questions written for the School of Mechanical Engineering! Now that MechEng is out of the way, it is time to combine efforts to prepare a proof of concept demo for Computer Science.

In order to plan the weeks ahead and manage the workload, a general meeting has also taken place with Nicola. There will be more meetings happening in the next week with the various departments across college as everyone seems to be quite enthusiastic about investigating the possibility of deploying Maple TA in diverse subjects!

The most exciting event of the week, by far, was  the visit from Lora Morris, the College Head of HR! The team gave her an impromptu overview of the project.

Lora said :

I was really impressed with the hive of activity and level of enthusiasm for the project; the interns were clear that the project had the potential to make a real difference to staff and students in the future as the technology is rolled out across the College.  They are in the vanguard of best practice in this area.

This has clearly left the team even more motivated and we are looking forward to the upcoming days!


Days 24, 25 and 26 – The Question Bank Expands…

Friday morning marked the start of a day of many meetings (with Computer Science, Mechanical Engineering and Chemistry) as well as other activities including stress testing of the Maple TA systems and continuing to write and test questions for a variety of disciplines across the College of EPS.

Jordan and Rob preparing for stress testing of Maple TA.

The meeting with Computer Science focused mainly on converting questions from their Mathematical Techniques for Computer Science module into Maple TA, as well as discussions about the capabilities of Maple TA and the Maple engine. Other topics brought up included the use of the repository developed by Rob and Jordan as well as introducing Maple TA questions for other modules within the School of Computer Science – with an emphasis on a course on Logic.

Meanwhile, Rob and Mike C were attending a meeting with Mechanical Engineering to fix some of the issues that they had encountered with the tutorial sheet questions we had written so far – most of the problems/bugs were able to be reproduced and fixed, however a few were not and so any potential fixes had to be delayed until a later date.

Another meeting happened on Friday with Chemistry, in this talk Edna and Dan presented the Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution Maple MathApp they had been working on to Sarah, the School of Chemistry representative. This app was well received along with the adaptive question features showcased at the meeting.

After the successful meetings, the rest of the day was spent on continuing (or, some cases, starting) to write the Maple TA questions required by Mechanical Engineering, Chemistry, Mathematics, Computer Science, Metallurgy and Materials as well as some questions for our own School, Physics and Astronomy. This marked the end of a busy week in which everyone was ready for a well-deserved bank-holiday weekend!

The to-do list board grows…

At the start of this week, work continued on finishing off the Mechanical Engineering tutorial questions and I began allocating Computer Science questions to translate to Maple TA. The rest of the week will be dedicated to completing current questions being worked on and starting new batches of questions such as recently received requests for Nuclear Engineering and Electrical Engineering.

To allow for a break from writing questions, we attended a “Journal Talk” within the Theory department by one of the PhD students whilst eating cake!

A break with cake!