On Saturday 2nd April, 31 year 11 to 13 students, along with 3 members of staff, flew out to San Francisco as part of the Computer Science faculty’s Silicon Valley Trip. The trip involved many visits, tours and talks at a number of technology and computer science based attractions and companies. The week started with a visit to the Exploratorium Museum in San Francisco. The museum was a hands-on exploration of science, art and human perception. Each exhibit allowed students to engage in a kinaesthetic manner with concepts taught in many of the STEM subjects in school. Another memorable visit was to the Computer History Museum. The museum contained over 1000 artefacts which allowed students to journey through over 2000 years of computation history. From early computer systems which shaped the way we engage with technology today, to the first driverless car, students saw it all.

We spent two days touring Silicon Valley with our local guide. Our guide grew up in and around Palo Alto, a key area of Silicon Valley where Steve Jobs lived throughout his childhood, the location of the first office of Facebook, and home of the HP Garage. The insights of our guide were both fascinating and inspiring.  One resounding message she left us with was that in Silicon Valley failure is perfectly reasonable, and to some extent expected, but it is how you recover and learn from said failure to develop the next idea or innovation which is key. Throughout our tour we had the opportunity to visit Stanford University, Facebook HQ, Apple HQ (and official store), eBay HQ and much more.

For most, the highlight of the week was our visits to Google and Intel, two major companies within the world of technology and computer science. Our time at Google started with of course countless picture opportunities and “selfies”. With the initial excitement over, we had a chance to step inside Googles visitors centre to see some historic, current and new innovations of the company. Following this was a talk about careers in the industry and the skills what employers are looking for. We were then fortunate enough to experience a mock Google interview where students were exposed to the type and style of interview questions and expectations they may face at a company such as Google. Our time at Google concluded with a substantial three course lunch and some time to sit and talk with employees of the company.

Our visit to Intel proved just as exciting. We were first guided through an exhibition at Intel HQ looking at microprocessor design and development through the ages. Concepts and theories delivered in the classroom, were brought to light through the exhibits before us. Later, students engaged in a classroom based workshop where they used Lego to consider the principles of instruction set design. The aim of the activity was to write a set of instructions for another team to then reconstruct a creation made of between 15 and 20 Lego pieces. It all sounded very easy, but when what was originally created as a dog was reconstructed as what looked like a house, the emphasis about the complexity of instruction set design was very much apparent.

Towards the latter stages of the trip we took an excursion over to Alcatraz, walked across Golden Gate Bridge, spent time in the quaint town of Sausalito and visited Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39.

The trip has proven to be very popular and is an experience I hope we can offer to students again in the years to come. The school has also now further established relationships with some major companies whom we are remaining in contact with, and will undoubtedly bring about further opportunities for both our students and staff in the near future.

 

Mark Allday
DOL: Computer Science