• Computer Science student awarded Science, Engineering and Technology Student of the Year

    Published: Friday, 04 October 2013

    It was triple delight for School of Computer Science at the 2013 SET (Science, Engineering and Technology) Student of the Year Awards announced in London last week.

    Laura Howarth-Kirke, a graduate of the School of Computer Science at the University of Manchester, won awards for the Best Computer Science Student and the overall BP Science, Engineering and Technology Student of the Year  honour for her project entitled, ‘Learning and Recognising Human Gestures using the Microsoft Kinect’.

    Making use of the Microsoft Kinect device, Laura built a software interface capable of recognising human gestures for the purposes of controlling media devices like TVs – this is cutting edge technology, only just appearing in modern Samsung TVs this year.

    However, the project went beyond what is available on the high street, using ‘machine learning’ techniques to automatically learn new personalised gestures from the user. No existing retail device has this capability, yet Laura managed to build it during a five-month final year project.

    During the project, Laura learnt new programming languages and large software toolkits, as well as advanced techniques (MSc level) in Statistical Machine Learning called ‘Hidden Markov Models’, as well as advanced mathematical formalisms like quaternions, something that belongs on an MSc module in computer graphics.

    The Lecturer of the Year went to Dr Gavin Brown, Senior Lecturer in the School of Computer Science at the University of Manchester, who supervised Laura's final year project. Dr Brown had this to say about Laura's success:

    Laura has been a truly outstanding student since the day she arrived at the University. I'd say talents and dedication like Laura's come along once in five years. Her general approach to study, interaction with staff, students and potential new students, have been first class all the way, recognised in a relatively small way by the degree and prizes she has just been awarded.”

    With regards to her project, he said the following:

    "It was a privilege to work with Laura, and I enjoyed every minute of the project we worked on, seeing her bring the various technologies together...  When her name was called out as the overall SET Student of the Year, I was ecstatic. 

    She's now creating the future of your TV technology, working at the BBC. Here at Manchester, we're all very proud of Laura."

    Another Manchester graduate, Joseph Northwood - a Masters student last year in the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering - won the award for the Best Electronic Engineering Student for the ARTEMIS (Autonomous Robotic Technology Enabling Minimally Invasive Surgery) Project.

    Professor Colin Bailey, Dean and Vice President of the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, said:

    This is excellent news and very well deserved. I want to congratulate all the Manchester winners and finalists – their success is testimony to the talent of our students and quality of our teaching and learning.


    Find out more information about Laura, Gavin and Joseph's success through the University's press release.

    gravatar Cassandra Barlow
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