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Department of Computer Science and Technology

Image shows participants at a Sutton Trust Computer Science Summer School

We are sorry the students can't be here in person - as they would normally be. But we're still very happy to be running the Sutton Trust / University of Cambridge Computer Science Summer School this week.

The annual Sutton Trust Summer School aims to give both an overview of Computer Science and insights into university life to high-achieving students from disadvantaged backgrounds. It's an opportunity for them to experience world-class teaching and enjoy exciting activities.

Normally this would be a residential week and participants would be coming into the Computer Lab to take part in the activities. But this year, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Summer School is being run online.

"I'm really enjoying the summer school so far and it's been good to get a deeper insight into what Computer Science is like at university! I feel like I've already learnt a lot "

Summer School student Troy

However, as usual, the participants can hear lectures and tackle practical problem-solving tasks in areas from programming and algorithms to image processing and computer architecture. Our University Teaching Officers are offering lectures and online sessions where the students can ask them questions about the tasks they are working on.

Additionally, the students take part in activities to support them in applying to Cambridge, if they wish to do so. These include presentations on the applications process, a student Q&A about student life here, insights into student finances, and a session on the application interviews. 

Dr Tim Jones, who organises the annual Summer School here, says that despite not being able to run it in person, "we're still able to get to know the students and interact with them via our daily Zoom meetings and online discussion forum."

He adds: "After yesterday's introduction to Computer Science, today the students have been learning about different algorithms - and it was great to see the enthusiasm come through when discussing some of the challenges we set them this afternoon.  I'm really looking forward to the graphics labs later in the week, when they'll be learning how to manipulate images, so I can see what they produce, and the fun final challenges we have planned for Friday."

Troy, a student from Eastleigh, Southampton, is one of the participants in this week's event. He says "I'm really enjoying the summer school so far and it's been good to get a deeper insight into what Computer Science is like at university! I feel like I've already learnt a lot and am looking forward to the rest of the summer school."

"A realistic experience of what university is like"
Maurice Yap is an alumnus of the 2014 Computer Science Summer School here and is now working as a software engineer. His parents emigrated from Malaysia to the UK before he was born, and worked here in a series of Chinese takeaways. He says "I want to encourage more people from working-class backgrounds to seriously consider a career in software engineering."

Maurice says he found Cambridge "really daunting" when he arrived for the Summer School as "the university is so big, with so many colleges. It was intimidating." But then, he adds, "I noticed the real passion the staff had for the subject – they really cared about teaching and were really passionate about the subject."

During his week, he "learned how to program, learning Python from scratch and was put in a group with other people who had never programmed before and by the end of the week we had a made a Connect Four game, which was really, really satisfying."

He adds: "Overall, the Summer School was really good at giving me a taste of what studying at university actually is. Open days are great, but... they don’t give you a realistic experience of what university is like. The Summer School did."

Published by Rachel Gardner on Tuesday 18th August 2020