The Tech Talk

On Monday the 17th of March, I gave KCL Tech’s new (and from now on, annual) short seminar, which serves as an introduction to the world of startups, programming and hackathons. We called it: The Tech Talk.The Tech Talk is aimed everyone out there: whether you’re students reading computer science, law, medicine, business, maths, physics, philosophy, history, ANYTHING! The point of the talk was simple: you need not be in Computer Science to be involved in the tech industry and in the booming startup scene. It aims to establish the fact that in order to get involved in the tech world, to attend tech-related events, to build your own website, to make your own iPhone app, or even to start your own tech-related business: you do not have to have a tech-related background.

We had guest speakers too! The founder of niume, Daniel Gennaoui, came and also gave a short talk about his experience in being a tech startup founder. Dani is currently a Maths student here at King’s.

Daniel Gennaoui, demoing Niume at the Tech Talk

Daniel Gennaoui, demoing niume at the Tech Talk

We also had another guest speaker, Peter Lewis, who is finishing his PhD in Theoretical Physics at Imperial College London. He co-founded voXup at StartupWeekend London in April 2013, an event that I attended myself.

Around forty students attended, and the feedback was amazing. I’m really looking forward to giving this talk next year! If you’re going to be in King’s next year, I hope you’ll be there to hear it!

The First Year hackChallenge

Being part of the KCL Tech Society means there’s always something useful happening. Our committee members make sure that our society is one of the the most active across the university. And I’m proud to say that I’m one of them.

After the success of HackKing’s, I wished more first year students had come. However, because they were only first year students (as I was), it was understandable that many of them lacked the confidence to dive into such a massive event. And so I decided to set up an event for the first year students that would be a taster hackathon, and that would introduce them to the concept of hackathons.

And thus, the hackChallenge was born!

The hackChallenge BannerWith the help of one of our lecturers Dr. Steffen Zschaler and third year Computer Science student Piotr Adam Galar, the first year representatives of the KCL Tech Society (Mark Ormesher, Mustafa Al-Bassam and I) organised the event in exactly one week. We didn’t expect so many students to come, but–oh boy–we were wrong.

The Students at the hackChallenge

We convinced over forty first year students to come in on a Saturday. That alone was an accomplishment. There were teams of three, and they had to program smart algorithms for an automated trading system that sold and bought shares for Kickstarter projects. The prizes were as follows:

  • First Place: £30 Amazon gift card for each team member
  • Second Place: £15 iTunes gift card for each team member
  • Third Place: £10 Pizza Hut gift card for each team member

And next year, we have bigger plans! So if you’re going to be an informatics student next year, we’ve got some surprises already being prepared for you!

Special thanks to the volunteers for all their help, and to Dr. Andrew Coles for his support! Also a thanks to the King’s Experience Fund for funding our event!

Follow me on Twitter for the latest updates: @FaresKAlaboud, or check out my website here.
Stay tuned onto KCL Tech’s events on their Facebook page or on their Twitter feed!

HackKing’s – We Got It Right The First Time

Last weekend, the KCL Tech Society, which I am very proudly part of, organised King’s largest tech event in history: HackKing’s, the most successful first-time student-run hackathon in the UK.

We had the largest companies sponsoring us:

  • Facebook (Yes! THE Facebook!) was giving out a prize to attendees every hour!
  • Codecademy gave the grand prize winners Skype interviews for summer internships in their US headquarters!
  • Index Ventures offered a £15,000 investment to the most impressive idea!
  • Onfider offered an office space in Central London!
  • JUST-EAT bought everyone dinner (80 PIZZA BOXES!) and also gave out a £100 voucher to the best use of their software API!
  • SendGrid gave wireless speakers!
  • TreeHouse and LiveCode gave out half a dozen subscriptions!

Being one of the organisers, I have to say that HackKing’s went fantastically well. We accomplished so much more than we thought, and we’ve attracted a hundred talented developers and designers who are creating some of the most incredible applications, devices and software that I have ever heard of or seen.

Our attendees came in from all around the country: students from Manchester, Southampton, Nottingham, St. Andrews (in Scotland!), and Oxford were all part of the hackathon! From London, we had students come in from SOAS, Imperial, Goldsmiths, City University, UCL and Brunel!

We met so many people from different companies, and learned and mastered so many skills in a small amount of time. Some of us were even offered job and internship opportunities on the spot!

Check out the full photo album here.

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Keep it up, KCL Tech Society! Let’s keep doing this!

StudentHack

Last Saturday, Mustafa Al-Bassam and I attended StudentHack, Europe’s most popular and largest UK hackathon. People were coming in from all over Europe, like France and Romania! We came up with a creative and unusual idea, thinking: We see these big companies like Google and Pebble inventing products that try to bring a physical existence of technology in our lives. If we can see and feel the internet, why can’t we try and hear it? And so, Mustafa, Callum Spawforth (a first-year Computer Science student from Southampton) and I teamed up to create an app that converts live internet traffic into music!

The MusicalPackets Team @ StudentHack From left to right: Callum Spawforth, Mustafa Al-Bassam, Fares Alaboud

The MusicalPackets Team @ StudentHack
From left to right: Callum Spawforth, Mustafa Al-Bassam, Fares Alaboud

Here’s our presentation during the finalist phase:

MusicalPackets Finalist Presentation @ StudentHack

Here’s the awesome part! There were around 30 teams, and there were 10 finalists, and at the end there were six different prizes. The judges were so intrigued by our work, and our originality and creativity, that our idea, titled MusicalPackets, won TWO of the six prizes (that’s right, one third of the prizes were awarded to us)! The prizes we won were Best Use of MongoHQ and Best Fresher Hack. Additionally, a first-year computer science student at King’s who also attended StudentHack, Rich Flavell, came up with a brilliant idea  and was one of the 10 finalists!

Here are the statistics you should keep in mind!

  • 20% of finalist teams were KCL teams!
  • 33% of prizes were awarded to KCL students! That’s the largest slice of the pie! (This includes every student attending from every university that participated!)

In summary, King’s rocked StudentHack! We won £120 pounds of Amazon vouchers each and a MongoHQ t-shirt, let alone all the awesome StudentHack merchandise they gave out!

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Winter Magic

London is a beautiful place in the winter.

My all-time-favourite place to visit in London is it’s 625-acre Hyde Park. In the summer, nothing beats a book under one of its trees by the Serpentine. But in the winter? Nothing beats (or will ever beat) Winter Wonderland.

The entrance to Winter Wonderland, via Hyde Park Corner station.

The entrance to Winter Wonderland, via Hyde Park Corner station.

 

When you first walk in, you see an endless road of wooden cabins on the left and right, which all sell varieties of different goodies: chocolates, gifts, house decorations, roasted chestnuts, scarves and gloves–but the secret is that almost all of them are home-made by talented families or individuals.

The wooden cabins on both sides, with the Winter Wonderland Christmas Tree in the background.

The wooden cabins on both sides, with the Winter Wonderland Christmas Tree in the background.

 

You can see massive roller-coaster tracks from across the park (I’m not one who loves roller coasters, or any of those big rides. I’m even afraid of horror houses!), and you’ll find dozens of classic arcade games you’d find at any fair: shoot the duck, throw rings into the bottleneck, pop the balloons with darts, pick a random bag and you’ll always win, and even pop the balloons with a bow and arrow! That last one, I must admit, is my favourite game. I’ve won a prize in it two years in a row!

Me, winning the archery game at Winter Wonderland.

Me, winning the archery game at Winter Wonderland.

 

If you plan on visiting it, make sure you do during a weekday morning! It’s much more crowded starting midday, and at night it’s almost like a traffic jam!

I miss Winter Wonderland, and I can’t wait till November to go again.

A New Start

My name is Fares.

I’m a passionate, talkative and active computer science student, and I am the first year representative for both the KCL Computing Society and the KCL Tech Society.

I am obsessed with technology, and I actively try to keep up with its latest advancements

I am not the most exciting writer (I admit, I’ve tried) but, throughout the following year or more, I will be writing about the experiences I have living in Foggy London Town. I’ll be writing about the places I visit in and around London, the people I meet in and out of the university, and the opportunities I find and try to grasp that are given to me being a student at such an incredible place to be as King’s College London.

So far, my first semester was a blast, and I believe I’m not the only one on my course who thinks so! The lectures are interactive and friendly. The teaching assistants are the kindest and most supportive I’ve ever met. The people around me share the same passion as me, so much that I have developed a sense of belonging to the atmosphere.

Over the past few months, I’ve discovered that places like King’s keep us busy, but in a good way. There’s always something to do, always somewhere to go, always someone to meet! I’m part of the baking society too (there’s a society for everything), and there’s events throughout the year. The computing society hosted a wonderful Christmas dinner too, which took place at Smollensky’s on the Strand, not more than five minutes walk away from my campus!

KCL Computing Society Christmas Dinner, Smollensky's

KCL Computing Society Christmas Dinner, Smollensky’s. From left to right: Alex Enache, Mustafa Al-Bassam, Maher Atashfaraz, Fares Alaboud (me), Levente Feher, Zian Yusuf

And that, was just the beginning.