Ieuan Higgs, a current BSc Computer Science with Industrial Year student, is the winner of 2018's national SatelLife Challenge – a competition for ideas on how satellites could improve life on Earth.
The SatelLife Challenge supports the development of science, data handling and technological skills, complementing the Government's Year of Engineering campaign which is championing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics to the next generation.
Computer Science, as a topic, appeals to Ieuan in particular because it provides a very real sense of possibility to achieve things that can impact a wide range of people. The technical ability required, and the creativity needed to make use of it have proved to be a winning combination for him and his interests.
"I chose to study at Reading for a number of reasons," says Ieuan. "One reason was the flexibility provided by the department to switch from doing a regular 3 year degree, to a degree with a year in industry – this opened up the opportunity to go on the placement I am currently on, which has helped me to learn and has also helped alleviate some student financial stress."
Another reason why Ieuan chose Reading was due to the practicality of its location. It was useful being so close to London, whilst still being able to enjoy a large, green campus.
"I think it's important to match yourself with an environment that suits you, and I find that Reading is a good match for me at this stage in my life."
FOSTERING A FRESH PERSPECTIVE
For Ieuan, the Human Computer Interaction module he took in second year really stood out, as it provided him with a new perspective on technology and its application.
"I don't think it was the fact that I wasn't aware of these things before, but doing the module made me realise that I am now starting to have both the insight and ability required to create some of these new technologies myself. It especially made me realise that I could start making things to really impact people's lives."
RISING TO THE CHALLENGE
Ieuan's winning idea in the SatelLife Challenge was for a tool that would map change in urban areas using satellites and algorithms, identifying where building is taking place and potential sites for development.
"I came up with my idea after combining my knowledge of current space technology with my areas of interest in Computer Science – using both to form a realistic business solution I thought would be both useful and achievable," Ieuan explains. "I've had an interest in space technologies since I was young and I think there's something special about space that is really good at sparking people's imagination."
With the ever growing demand for evolving and improving in science, Ieuan believes it's natural that he has fallen into tech. It's also why he's willing to jump at any related opportunities he has seen.
"As a student you should maintain a constant interest in things going on around you, since it gives you a set of tools/information that you can use to let you solve problems more effectively."
When Ieuan learnt about this competition, he was able to apply his interests and passions in a useful way. He's planning on developing his entry to the competition as his final year project. It came as a massive shock to see that he was one of the winners. However, it was a welcome surprise! "This unexpected result has given me the confidence to continue researching and working on my ideas in my spare time."
APPLYING THE THEORY
Ieuan is currently working as a Broadcast Engineer at Evertz Microsystems. "Fortunately, it is close enough to Reading that I am able to continue living with my friends from the university during this year. I have found that my degree set me up nicely with a strong background of knowledge and skills to begin my placement – especially the Programming, Databases and Design related content."
This placement is allowing Ieuan to learn a whole set of new skills from his placement that he is looking forward to re-applying during his final year. He believes that the year in industry has been valuable and would recommend it to any students currently considering it.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
There is a number of things Ieuan would like to do after he graduates. He works on some projects in his spare time which may or may not grow into something bigger.
"I have also enjoyed my time studying at university and may wish to continue into postgraduate study. However, I would also like to start my own software company – I suppose I'll have to wait and re-assess my situation and see which opportunities are available to me when the time comes towards the end of next year."