Pitch Perfect


“Japanese Dragon” [Sean Wilson 2005, Public domain]

On May 3rd and 4th, twelve student teams presented their project proposals to the IT Innovation Challenges Panel which had the difficult task to decide which of the projects were to be funded as part of this year’s student round.

The quality of the proposals and the presentations was very high this year, and the Panel was impressed and inspired by the presenters. At the end of two intense days, the Panel was happy to offer eight projects funding. Some of the offers came with some kind of condition, or request for modification, for example a suggestion that a stronger focus was put on a particular aspect of a project or that the budget or time plan was revised. We will be publishing a list of the successful projects once they have accepted the offer of funding.

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Pitch Practice

For this year’s IT Innovation Challenges, 12 student projects submitted project proposals based on ideas that were shortlisted in the Student 2017 round. Before the decision about funding allocation is made, the projects also have to ‘pitch’ their proposals to the Panel. In preparation for this, we held a ‘pitch practice’ event where the projects were invited to present their pitch to the other student projects. The practice event was in the same room and followed the same format as that used for the actual pitch event. Each project had 5 minutes to talk about their project, using no more than three slides, addressing three main points:

  • What is the idea
  • What are the benefits
  • What could be done for a reduced budget

The Panel (or in this case, the other student projects) then asked follow-up questions and provided feedback. After the pitches, participants had a chance to chat over tea and cake and talk to each other and the IT Innovation facilitators.

We have not run these pitch practice events for previous rounds, but based on the feedback from this one we will definitely want to do it again.

“This was really useful. I feel a lot more confident doing this in front of the Panel now”

“I learned a lot from seeing the other presentations”

“Having been in the room and done the presentation once means I now feel better prepared to meet the Panel next week”

“If we are successful in getting funding, will there be more opportunities like this to meet the other projects and compare ideas and experiences?”

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OxReach – crowdfunding for University projects

By the OxReach team: Philippa Nuttall, Sarah Deakin, Zoe Reich (Oxford University Innovation) https://oxreach.hubbub.net/


What is OxReach and why is it important?

OxReach is the official crowdfunding platform dedicated to philanthropic projects from the University of Oxford. OxReach allows members of the University to raise philanthropic funds for specific University related projects with tangible social impact. It is designed as an enabling tool for this community of staff, students and academics to translate the ideas they are passionate about and turn them into reality.

Over the past year, OxReach has hosted two projects which both happen to feature Africa. The first is focussed on saving newborn lives and the second on treating clubfoot in children. Together these projects raised a total of £146,223. Crowdfunding raised awareness of the types of impactful projects within the University and facilitated  engagement outside of Oxford.  It will enable the project creators to apply their expertise to make a difference to the lives of children in Africa. OxReach is not just limited to life-changing interventions but rather for any philanthropic project that could have a tangible social benefit. If in doubt please give the OxReach team a shout!

Continue reading

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Take 5 for Exam Panic

— By Dr Tim Knowlson —

Take 5 is a mobile exam panic website for University of Oxford students developed by psychologists from the University of Oxford Counselling Service. The interactive website provides a wide range of tailored, succinct, practical, accessible and informed information and exercises taken from evidence-based research including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, mindfulness and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

The main focus of Take 5 is to have access to reassuring key information and exercises quickly, efficiently and on demand utilising a friendly and welcoming format and tone. Take 5 helps students to Take 5 minutes and use their 5 senses to help manage exam panic and exam stress by taking a journey through the body and understanding exam panic from a normalizing biological perspective. An Ohmmm button produces two mindfulness exercises, one visual and one orally guided to help students find a mindful and grounding space. There is also a bespoke informational video that normalises and introduces exam panic in a fun and approachable way.

In its current form Take 5 remains a pilot, future improvements could include more experiential exercises, enhanced mobility and user-feedback including exercise ratings.

Take 5 is available online, free for anyone to use: www.exampanic.co.uk

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Project Proposal workshop

How do you turn a good idea into a feasible digital project, with a realistic aim and scope, manageable time line, and budget to match? That question is facing the people behind the 15 shortlisted ideas for the IT Innovation Challenges 2017 Student round.

The IT Innovation Challenges 2017 Student round attracted a record number of ideas – 47 in total. 15 of these have been shortlisted to proceed to the next stage where the people behind the ideas have to prepare a project proposal based on their idea and present this to the IT Innovation Challenges panel.

To help with the development of the ideas into projects, IT Innovation Challenges organised a workshop to introduce the teams to the process of preparing and writing their project proposals. After an introductory presentation, the projects were invited to start working on their project plans and make use of the opportunity to link up with the people who were there. ‘Collaboration’ is one of the criteria on which the project proposals will be assessed so it was encouraging to see how the teams talked to each other, shared ideas, and exchanged information. The IT Innovation facilitators and staff from IT Services were also available, ready to help anyone who wanted to talk about any aspect of their project. Continue reading

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Student ideas : Student welfare category

— By Laura Gonzalez Salmeron (IT Innovation Challenges volunteer assistant) —

This is the second, of three, presentation of the ideas submitted to the IT Innovation Challenges for the 2017 student round. 47 ideas were submitted, and Laura Gonzalez Salmeron has kindly provided these summaries of them. This list includes the ideas submitted in the ‘Student Welfar’ category. A separate post presentes the ideas in the  ‘Teaching and Learning’ category.

Category : Student Welfare

*Oxford Indoor mApp: We’ve all been there: struggling to find a seminar room in spite of having already asked the porter for directions three times. Where are the closest toilets? Where is the MCR? Oxford Indoor mApp to the rescue! This application utilizes the sensors of our smartphones to create a heat-map of the geomagnetic footprint of every building, superimposing it then on the architecture map. Speaking plainly: it will create an indoor map of the building you’re in, along with a navigation path to reach your destination. Where GoogleMaps end, Oxford Indoor mAPP begins.

*Sanctum: Oxford has a vast choice of workspaces, including the old Bodleian library, various department libraries, not to mention all the college libraries and college rooms… Still and all, many students don’t want to take the risk of leaving their rooms only to find that other places are too busy, too noisy or too distracting. Sanctum offers a visually engaging and informative way to find the place that suits best your needs. Are beautiful surroundings a must for you to trigger your inspiration? Do you need complete silence to focus on your reading? Where can you work together with your friends? Where can you enjoy a coffee while writing your essay? Sanctum will collect all this information and make it available for students to optimise their study time.

*Responsive Mood Journal/Peer Support Access: sometimes you just need to rant. Writing down your feelings can be a great way to let them go or put them into perspective, but also you may want someone to listen. However, reaching out can prove to be a mental and emotional challenge, be it to a friend or a professional counsellor. The Responsive Mood Journal offers a platform in which students can write about their day or any concerns or problems they may have. These thoughts can be kept private as a private mood journal, or shared anonymously with someone (e.g. a peer supporter) who could then comment on them and offer advice. The choice is up to you! Continue reading

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— By Vinton Cheng —

Ever found yourself with an interesting research idea, but struggling to find the right person to help you bring it to fruition? ConnectOx aims to simplify and automate the process of online expertise discovery to enable faster connections between researchers that will accelerate academic growth. With the help of our collaborators, *Research and the CRUK Oxford Cancer Centre, the ConnectOx team are developing a novel algorithm to bring researchers together using a validated profiling system combined with existing evidence from a large scientific research network. Over the past few months, we have been successful in generating valuable data that will be presented at an international conference in Beijing. This is now being used to develop a backend environment for the ConnectOx prototype test portal. We’re looking forward to the next stages of development, as we work towards the final product. Watch this space!

For more information abuot ConnectOx, please contact the project manager Vinton Cheng <vinton.cheng@oncology.ox.ac.uk> or read the project abstract .

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Student ideas : Teaching and Learning category

— By Laura Gonzalez Salmeron (IT Innovation Challenges volunteer assistant) —

A total of 47 student ideas were submitted to the latest round of IT Innovation Challenges – a record number for the scheme. As a means to celebrate the breadth and originality of the proposals, Laura Gonzalez Salmeron has written a summary of this creative brainstorming. So, without more ado, here’s the first part (out of three), collecting a list of the proposals within the Teaching and Learning category (shortlisted ideas have been marked with a *):

Category: Teaching and Learning

*Virtual Reality Oxford Lab: there is no doubt that virtual reality is going to be the next big thing, enhancing our experience in areas as varied as education, healthcare or entertainment. As an international reference of innovation, Oxford cannot lag behind! VR Oxford Lab aims to build the first VR Oxford University community by running workshops for students and researchers alike, organising events and supporting VR projects.

*Learmapp: there is no such as thing as “too many learning resources”… or is it? In a university like Oxford, in which even undergraduate studies are mostly self-directed, it isn’t rare to see students struggling to navigate the myriad resources they have at their disposal, be them  “social” (senior academics, tutors, course peers…) or of material nature (books, articles…). Learnmapp is a mobile application that seeks to solve this problem by helping students to outline, assess, share –and ultimately improve– their own learning journeys. Continue reading

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Shortlisted ideas : IT Innovation Challenges 2017 student round

The 2017 student round of the IT Innovation Challenges saw 47 ideas submitted – a record for the scheme. The IT Innovation panel have completed the first round of evaluations and selected 15 ideas to go through to the next stage. The idea creators are now invited to work up their idea into a project proposal and present this to the panel in early May. The panel will decide on what projects to fund shortly after this.

The shortlisted projects are (in no particular order):

  • Sustainable software development with Git and Gitlab – Pilot the development of a coding-culture and to deliver “coaching-kits”
  • Broaden  – Enable Oxford students to see the titles of lectures outside of their own subject
  • Studious: The Networked Knowledge Platform – Transforming the simple reading list into a collaborative environment for organizing and producing knowledge
  • Virtual Sampling Meadow – An interactive tool for anyone wanting to sample Oxford’s virtual meadow
  • Clinical Research Data Management Toolkit – An online tool facilitating the design of a data management (DM) strategy for clinical research
  • Oxford Indoor mApp – Give you turn-by-turn navigation to Seminar, Workshop, Toilets in every building
  • Oxford App ‘n’ Go – An interactive and real-time tour app for future might-be students
  • Sanctum: The Oxford Workplace Finder – A visually engaging and simple way to find the best place to work in Oxford
  • Scholarship Academy. Scholarship Planning Resource – A digital academy connecting disadvantaged students to content on the application process
  • Learmapp – An App that helps learners navigate abundant learning resources
  • Responsive Mood Journal/Peer Support Access – Interactive and responsive mood journal
  • Marginalia – Audio and video annotation tool for the lifelong learner
  • Arab Spring Digital Media Archive – Online repository of digital ‘artifacts’ from the revolutions and uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa between 2011 and today
  • Interactomy – An interactive app for anatomy teaching and learning
  • Virtual Reality Oxford Lab – Building the first VR Oxford University community

Many thanks to everyone who has taken part in the Challenge. We will keep you updated on progress in this blog.

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Go_girl: code+create project secures external funding

Go_girl project pioneers Rosie and Chloe recruiting new participants in one of the youth clubs.

By Anne Geniets

The Go_girl: code+create project, which was funded in its first year by the University’s IT Innovation Challenges award, has secured funding from Goldman Sachs Gives.

Jo Hannaford, Partner at Goldman Sachs, said: ‘Providing young women from disadvantaged backgrounds with technical skills is an important mission and one that serves to level the playing field. Through taking part in the programme, these young women will gain highly sought after technical skills which we hope will empower them and open doors to greater opportunities.’

The interdisciplinary Go_girl project which originated at the University of Oxford’s Department of Education, complements existing programmes aimed at widening access to the University of Oxford, but tackles the problem in a fundamentally new way by using technology and by working in direct partnership with the Early Intervention Hub of the Oxfordshire County Council through youth worker Melanie Jewell.

Rosie and Chloe talking to a prospective new go_girl participant

The generous donation from Goldman Sachs Gives will allow the Go_girl project to progress, enabling the scheme to extend to a second cohort of participants and work to commence on producing a model to be rolled out across the UK.

Recruitment for the new cohort is already under way. Youth worker Mel said: ‘I am so excited about rolling out the Go_girl programme for another year. The Go Girls from the pilot have progressed so much over the last 12 months, and it has been an absolute pleasure working with them all. Watch this space!’

Some of the young women who completed the programme last year (the Go_girl: code+create ‘pioneers’) will act as mentors for the new participants and will share their experiences and their newly gained coding skills through peer-to-peer learning. The weekly sessions of the programme will start in May.


For more infomration about the project and updates on activities and progress, please visit the Go_girl: code+create website http://www.gogirloxford.org

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