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Masters in a Semester

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Introduction

This blog plans to capture the experience of doing a Master's project in a semester during the summer. I'll make my apologies before this starts as it'll likely be a stressful experience, but of course that's in the spirit of it all! I hope this makes for good reading as it should be a genuine account. Obviously I'll omit any particular details that point people out.

First Lecture

First impressions:

So, at the end of the session I felt myself feeling that I should be able to have the best project in the room if I put my mind to it and I should really start to make some progress on the project. Time to get some work done and arrange a meeting with my tutor!

Hopefully some more updates to come...

First Mid-Week

Finding the motivation to do the enormous task ahead is difficult with all of the added stress of accommodation, potential PhD funding and family/friend commitments. There sure will be a lot to do over the summer period! I can see how people end up delaying their project workload towards the end and risk failure.

Currently it's a case of trying to offload workload elsewhere and trying to fully commit to the project at hand, ideally I should be getting four full days in a week whereas currently I think I'm lucky to average two days a week. This is half the expected requirement for doing the project!

Hope to update again soon...

Second Lecture

It's a bit more clear that there really isn't much time to master a subject, literally measured in a small number of weeks. I have effectively lost a week due to a series of happenings, it looks as though I really can't afford to lose more time. Time management is certainly one of the key topics here.

Hopefully more updates...

Third Lecture

I decided not to go to this lecture for two reasons:

A. I'm not sure I could deal with being told how to do things I already know and spend an hour listening to very obvious questions about the project. B. I am completely out of sync with the rest of the world.

Given these reasons, I decided to simply look the lecture slides up online later - worst case I am still able to ask online or in person for help in the unlikely case it is required. It's a bit of a test and we'll see how well that will work. Reading the online material revealed exactly the material expected, I think it may have even been from a previous lecture in a previous year's module. The same talk is probably given to third year BSc students too.

In other news, not as much work on the project has been done as I would like. This effectively means I have lost two weeks so far of a 12 week project. Time to pull the old finger out and get this project fully up to speed. I believe my (and most other people's) natural tendency is to leave everything to last minute when the stress is really high. I don't think this project will be very successful unless I manage my time correctly. The holiday is over and the serious work should now begin.

If I also counter for the ~1 week I will lose through the RoboCup World Cup it's even less. Effectively I have 9 weeks left to complete this project. I think it's time to get the gant chart out and start planning this out properly!

There is also another commitment I must factor in which is the work I am doing on a University project, so that also will take a fair amount of my time also. That seems as if it will be partially paid, perhaps in the gift of a new laptop (something I fear that I now desperately need!)...

I've also arranged to meet my tutor again which is good, although I've been warned that they may not be around over the summer so the direction should be settled relatively soon. I'm currently writing a test program as we speak to see what direction it is worth taking the project in next. Again this stresses how very little time I really have in order to complete this project.

Another update soon...

Fourth Lecture

A lecture on Ethics Approval - not something that applies to me so another session wasted. There was as per normal a long list of questions that really didn't need to be asked, this seems to be a reoccurring theme. Usually this will be a discussion across the room between lecturer and student where the whole class is forced to listen - a complete waste of time for everybody involved. On the plus side I was able to use this time to complete my download.

I haven't been as good to the project as I should have been, unfortunately trying to setup paid work for yourself is a process that also takes time, as well as a proposal for a PhD. Definitely time now to bring it up a notch, I have a project proposal to hand in the next few days.

More to come in the next few days...

Increasing Productivity

I thought as I do this, it's worth documenting the exact process for increasing productivity. The following is my process for doing this.

  1. List the work to be done.
  2. List the reasons as to why work is currently not being done.
  3. Attempt to remove reasons why work is not being done.
  4. Re-prioritise work in the newly formed available time.

Simple, eh?

For me, the first is:

For the second, the list is:

  1. Procrastination (always number one on the list)
  2. Talking to flat mates
  3. Playing games
  4. Arranging meetings
  5. Worrying about things to be done

To remove these, I can do the following:

  1. Stop procrastinating by looking at the things to be done and gaining a sudden sense of urgency.
  2. Move to a place where my flat mates aren't.
  3. Again, read the sense of urgency.
  4. Try to arrange meetings to be short.
  5. Organise things to be done so that there is a clear plan instead of a mangle of panic.

Finally, a re-prioritisation:

  1. Weighted coin problem
  2. Communicate results to tutor
  3. Write project proposal
  4. Pay accommodation
  5. Continue work on SQLite project
  6. Start work on forum

Now all that is left is to execute the tasks in order until complete - pretty simple.

Project Proposal Time

Okay, so after getting most of that list completed, it's now time to smash on with the project proposal. Although I planned to do this within the first week, it's now one day before it needs to be handed in - so that's not great.

I propose the following titles:

EDIT: Finished it in time. I ended up dropping the "Procedure" section.

Next Steps

Things are looking good currently although I will need to take a break in the development over the time period where I'll be competing in RoboCup.

The next steps in the project are:

My next time consuming worries are:

These things are all happening over the next two weeks, along with my project. Time will, let's say - become very difficult.

I also need to do the following:

Lot's of things happening over the next two weeks, someone might look at this list and see it as ridiculous. At some point I may share how on earth I manage to organise all of these things.

Mid-Term Report

Now some drama is out of the way, it's time to start thinking about the mid-term report. This marks the point where I should be half way through the project - which is not even close to being true, so work must be done. The hand-in is a good solid week of work away on the 12th July, so there is much fun to be had as yet before I submit once again.

By the time of hand-in, I plan to have written the coin weighting program and to have gotten results from the program. I can then look at analysing the results and looking at a next direction. If I am able to complete this, I would be extremely happy if I am able to complete this in time.

Conclusion

So, this has finally been completed. I must first start with an apology, as I stopped updating approximately half way through, which probably describes my work towards the project...

Overview Of Final Times

During the last half of the project, several things occurred that led me to not work as hard as I should have on the project:

  • Lack of motivation for the project. I found myself disinterested in the project, as it was quite far off from my original idea. Starting with extremely big dreams, to being knocked down over and over really demotivated me. This is something I will have to learn to deal with in the future and is not something I think that I can solve very easily.
  • Illness. Due to several factors with my personal health, I found myself getting ill a lot. This in turn meant I spent a lot of time being ill and less time working on the project. I have now taken steps to reducing this effect in future projects.
  • Side project. I got myself a paid side project which was mostly engineering and frankly, more interesting that the project I was working on at the time. I should have read this as a warning sign for project stalling, hindsight is 20-20.

Results

Here is the project, achieving 74%, which is likely more than it deserved. At less than 7k words, with the word count suggested at 15k for a Masters project - I think I got lucky. Fortunately for me, I got some nice results and had a good presentation for my project, which was mostly theoretical.

Future

Now for the surprising conclusion: Despite what I said previously about being disinterested in the project, I've actually decided to pursue the idea further in a PhD. The reason for this is because towards the end I actually started to appreciate the importance of the project and possibilities it produces, given the results I was getting.