All posts by Elizabeth Allen

SoCS student papers presented at two key European conferences

School of Computer Science students Carl Gowan, Jack Laurel and Scott Ringham now have two publications to add to their CVs following their participation in last year’s SoCS undergraduate research opportunities scheme.

The students worked alongside SoCS staff Bruce Hargrave, Dr Kevin Jacques and Dr David Cobham to carry out research into the benefits of setting up on-campus student enterprises. The research focused on a previous project where a group of students from across the University participated in a structured hackathon event called “Appfest”. After the hackathon event had taken place a number of those who had taken part were invited to form a student enterprise to develop apps for clients both inside the University and from further afield.

Scott, Jack and Carl’s research was into the effectiveness of using hackathons to set up high tech student businesses. Their first paper was accepted at the 11th annual International Technology, Education and Development Conference and the three travelled to Valencia (pictured here with Dean for Transnational Education Dr David Cobham) to present their findings. A second paper was then written focussing on the successfulness of the student enterprise created, one year on from the original hackathon. This has been accepted and will be presented at the 9th annual International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies in Barcelona next week.


What is the SoCS undergraduate research opportunities scheme?

Each year a number of students successfully apply to take up paid employment through the month of July working on a range of research projects in the School. As well as contributing to the Schools research outputs the scheme is an excellent opportunity to bring staff and students together to work on research projects and for students to hone their technical and research skills. All students are encouraged to write up their findings and, with the help of the academic members of staff involved, to submit the paper to a conference or a journal. Where these are accepted the School undertakes to cover the cost of travel and attendance at the conference. Previous students have presented at conferences not only in the UK and Europe but also as far afield as Canada, the United States, China and Taiwan.

Prestigious summer school explores the future of computer vision

Some of the brightest young minds in computer vision will meet at a prestigious summer school this July to hear from international researchers in the field.

Hosted at the University of Lincoln, UK, the BMVA Computer Vision Summer School 2017 will welcome PhD students and early career researchers from across the UK and abroad. The summer school is an annual event led by the British Machine Vision Association (BMVA), which provides a national forum for individuals and organisations involved in advanced machine vision, image processing, and pattern recognition.

The event is being held in Lincoln this year for the first time, in the new £28million Isaac Newton Building which is a hub of teaching and learning, pioneering research, and industry collaboration. It is home to the University’s Schools of Computer Science, Engineering, and Mathematics and Physics, and incorporates specialist robotics facilities alongside scientific laboratories and workshops.


The 22nd BMVA Computer Vision Summer School is being led by Dr Nicola Bellotto, who specialises in advanced artificial intelligence, robotics and computer vision, Dr Thryphon Lambrou, an expert in medical imaging, and Dr Michael Mangan, whose primary research focuses on computational modelling of the navigational behaviour of insects, all from the University of Lincoln’s School of Computer Science. They are working together with colleagues from the University of East Anglia (UEA) to host the summer school, and the organisational team will collaborate again next year when the annual event will be held at UEA in Norwich.

Dr Nicola Bellotto will present at the summer school and will be joined by other leading lights of computer vision who will deliver a host of seminars, lectures and workshops for the delegates.

Other speakers include Robotics System Architect at Dyson, Robert Deaves, who will speak on Machine vision in practice, Research Engineer for the Microsoft Hololens, Federica Bogo, who will present on Human body modelling, and Davide Scaramuzza from the University of Zurich, who will discuss Robot vision and event cameras. Speakers will also travel from Durham University, Imperial College London, the University of Manchester, and a host of other institutions across the UK.

“We are delighted to host the BMVA Computer Vision Summer School 2017 along with our colleagues from UEA,” Dr Nicola Bellotto said. “It represents a fantastic opportunity for PhD researchers to learn from the best in the field and to network with their peers, all of whom represent the future of computer vision. With so many new research projects and advancements in AI and computer vision, it is a very exciting time for the sector and we very much look forward to seeing what the future holds.”

The summer school, which will consist of an intensive week of lectures and lab sessions covering a wide range of topics in computer vision, runs from Monday 3rd – Friday 7th July 2017. More information is available online:

Sun and memories help ants navigate backwards

Desert ants rank among the best insect navigators in the world, and now a scientific study shows their navigational skills are even more sophisticated than previously thought.

Scientists have revealed how the insects – which walk backwards when carrying heavy loads of food – use the sun’s position and visual memories of their surroundings to guide them home.

Ants were known to use both processes but, until now, these were assumed to be two separate reflexes that required ants to be facing in their direction of travel. Instead, researchers have shown that ants walking backwards will occasionally look behind them to check their surroundings, and use this information to set a course relative to the sun’s position. In this way, the insects can maintain their course towards the nest regardless of which way they are facing, the team found.


The findings suggest ants can understand spatial relations in the external world, not just relative to themselves.

The surprisingly flexible and robust navigational behaviour displayed by ants could inspire the development of novel computer algorithms – step-by-step sets of operations – to guide robots.

An international team of scientists, including researchers at the University of Lincoln and the University of Edinburgh, studied a colony of desert ants in Seville to see how the insects navigate when transporting different-sized pieces of food. Although they usually walk forward when carrying small pieces of food, ants often walk backwards to drag larger items to their nest.

The team sunk barriers into the ground to create a one-way route to the nest. They then gave ants either a small or large piece of cookie, and observed how they made their way home.


Dr Michael Mangan, based in the School of Computer Science at the University of Lincoln, specialises in modelling the navigational behaviour of insects and explores how this can translate into cutting-edge robotics. Dr Mangan said: “These amazing animals navigate through complex habitats despite their tiny brains and poor quality eyes.  Here we show how a simple “peeking” behaviour allows homing ants to combine directional information from multiple. Revealing their navigational strategies could lead to development of new sensors and control systems for robots.”

Previous research has shown that ants walking forwards find their way by comparing what they see in front of them with visual memories of the route. The team found that ants traveling backwards instead use the sun’s position in the sky to guide them.

To ensure they stay on course, backward-walking ants also routinely drop what they are carrying and turn around. They do this to compare what they see with their visual memories of the route, and correct their direction of travel if they have wandered off course.

Future studies could help to determine the interplay between different regions in the ant brain that enables the insects to use and combine different forms of navigation, the team says.

The study, published in the journal Current Biology, was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. The research was carried out in collaboration with other scientists at the Australian National University and the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS).

The study has been covered by media outlets around the world, including BBC News Online.

Virtual blacksmith simulator features on BBC Look North

A pioneering project by computer scientists at the University of Lincoln to create a virtual blacksmith simulator was featured this weekend on BBC Look North.

Led by Dr John Murray from the School of Computer Science, the project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and is designed to revive the process of crafting techniques and craftsmanship for a new generation.

Together with his students, Dr Murray has created a virtual reality blacksmith’s forge so that people can experience the environment of a forge and try out the techniques for themselves using bespoke software that integrates human motion capture tracking sensors. Users can also produce their own artefact, created in the virtual reality forge, by 3D printing it as a keepsake.

Providing a 21st century take on blacksmithing, the Heritage Craft Simulation project has been developed in partnership with Chain Bridge Forge in Spalding.

BBC Look North featured the project on Sunday 18th December 2016, and the programme is now available to view on BBC iPlayer (from 03:00):

Visit the University website for more details about the project: