I regularly give talks to a range of audiences, including local science groups, schools and programming conferences. Below is a list of my currently available talks - and I may be willing to write a new talk for your group. Please email me for more details, or to invite me to speak.
Feedback from audiences has been very good. I’ve won the 'best talk' prize at a number of events including the Computational Modelling Group at the University of Southampton, the Student Conference on Complexity Science, and EuroSciPy. A local science group recently wrote:
"The talk that Robin gave to our group was excellent. The clever animated video clips, accompanied by a clear vocal description gave an easily-understood picture of the underlying principles involved. The wide range of topics taken from situations familiar to everyone made the examples pertinent to all present and maintained their interest throughout. A thoroughly enjoyable and thought provoking talk."
"Every talk I have heard him give has been well-structured, informative and tailored to his audience."
Monitoring the environment from space
Hundreds of satellites orbit the Earth every day, collecting data that is used for monitoring almost all aspects of the environment. This talk will introduce to you the world of satellite imaging, take you beyond the 'pretty pictures' to the scientific data behind them, and show you how the data can be applied to monitor plant growth, air pollution and more.
From segregation to sand dunes: complex systems in the world around us
'Complex' systems are all around us, and are often difficult to understand and control. In this talk you will be introduced to a range of complex systems including segregation in cities, sand dune development, traffic jams, weather forecasting, the cold war and more – and will show how looking at these systems in a decentralised way can be useful in understanding and controlling them.
Learning from accidents: an introduction to railway signalling in the UK
Trains are one of the safest ways to travel, but it hasn't always been like that. In this talk I will introduce the basics of railway signalling, and look at how it has evolved over time - often in response to accidents and near-misses. You will find out how a single stray wire caused an accident that killed 35 people, why leaves on the line cause such a problem for the railways, and how signalling systems are designed to deal with the inevitable human error.
Writing Python to process millions of rows of mobile data – in a weekend
In April 2015 there was a devastating earthquake in Nepal. I was given the unenviable task of processing millions of rows of mobile phone call records to extract preliminary information on population movement - all in a weekend! This talk is the story of how I wrote Python to do this, and what can be learnt from my experience.
xarray: the power of pandas for multidimensional arrays
In this talk I will introduce the xarray library by showing how just a few lines of code can answer questions about my multi-dimensional satellite data that would take a lot of complex code to answer with pure numpy – questions like 'What is the average air quality in March?', 'What is the time series of air quality in Southampton?' and 'What is the seasonal average air quality for each census output area?'. I will introduce the fundamental xarray data types, and show how indexes can be added to raw arrays to fully utilise the power of xarray. I will discuss how to get data in and out of xarray, and how xarray can use dask for high-performance data processing on multiple cores, or distributed across multiple machines.
recipy: effortless provenance in Python
Imagine the situation: You’ve written some wonderful Python code which produces a beautiful graph. You save that output, naturally enough, as awesome_output.png. You run the code a couple of times, each time making minor modifications. You come back to it the next week/month/year. Do you know how you created that output? What input data? What version of your code? If you’re anything like me then the answer will often, frustratingly, be 'no'. This talk will introduce recipy, a Python module that will save you from this situation! With the addition of a single line of code to the top of your Python files, recipy will log each run of your code to a database, keeping track of all of your input files, output files and the code that was used – as well as a lot of other useful information. You can then query this easily and find out exactly how that output was created.
Decentralised systems, complexity theory, self-organisation and more
This talk/lesson is very similar to my complex systems talk described above, but is altered to make it more suitable for use in schools. So far I have run this as a lesson as part of the International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course, but it would also be suitable for A-Level students studying a wide range of subjects.
GIS/Remote sensing for geographers
I’ve run a number of lessons for sixth form geographers introducing them to the basics of GIS and remote sensing. These topics are often included in the curriculum for A-Level or equivalent qualifications, but it’s often difficult to teach them without help from outside experts. In this lesson I provide an easily-understood introduction to GIS and remote sensing, taking the students from no knowledge at all to a basic understanding of the methods involved, and then run a discussion session looking at potential uses of GIS/RS in topics they have recently covered. This discussion session really helps the content stick in their minds and relates it to the rest of their course.
As an experienced programmer, and someone with formal computer science education, I have provided input to a range of computing lessons at sixth-form level. This has included short talks and part-lessons covering various programming topics, including examples of ‘programming in the real world’ and discussions on structuring code for larger projects. Recently I have provided one-on-one support to A-Level students on their coursework projects, including guidance on code structure, object-oriented design, documentation and GUI/backend interfaces.