Looking back over this year’s internship programme
And a glimpse of what next year may hold!
The annual intern fair is a firm favourite in the Ocado Technology calendar, and with the broad selection of projects ranging from MMO game design, to robotic simulation, to interactive product roadmaps, who can blame us?
Our longstanding internship programme has been a fantastic success over the years, and as the summer draws to a close, it’s time to reflect over the last year’s successes and highlight the great work done by our brilliant interns.
The event was jam packed with technologists and interns alike, all gathered around the various presentations and munching on a table full of breakfast treats. One of the highlights of the morning was the prize giving, headed by Paul Clarke, CTO of Ocado Technology. Paul had a few poignant words to say about the importance of the internship programme, both to the next generation of technologists and to Ocado Technology itself:
“I view our internship programme as a form of organisational gene therapy, which helps remind us what true agility looks like. It’s so inspiring and exciting to give an intern a real challenge, provide some support in the form of resources and mentoring, but then get the hell out of their way and see what they come up with. For us the priority is not the final destination, but rather what they learn along the journey. So our intern projects have to meet strict criteria in terms of being interesting, self-contained and challenging, but at the same time achievable within the time available. A highlight of our year is the intern fair where we get to see the fruits of their labours.”
To give you a taste of this year’s talent, we thought we would provide a sample of the many projects on display.
Florian Aucomte – Code for Life front end developer
One year placement intern from King’s College, London
Florian worked closely with our UX designer, James Holland, to completely redesign the Code for Life website (GitHub page here). From the users’ requirements, to the wireframes, to the fully redesigned HTML templates; the website was given a fresh new look, page by page.
Florian and James then presented their work at the FullStack 2017 conference organized by SkillsMatter. Additionally, he contributed to the development of the Code for Life Rapid Router game, by improving its testing and security.
“After two years studying at university, working at Ocado Technology feels like a perfect atmosphere in which to get acquainted with the professional life. My internship has flown by so quickly, as I am constantly surrounded by friendly, helpful colleagues, thanks to whom it is impossible to get tired of the culture.
“It definitely feels like my work here is valued, and I am learning a lot (much more than I have at university, might I even say!). My experience working at Ocado Technology has been truly amazing!” – Florian
Chen Zhan Chen (Finn) – IoT Monitor
Summer intern from the University of Edinburgh
Chen’s project involved designing and creating a prototype for a long-range, offline IoT monitor using LoRa, with the initial objective of establishing the status of the backup generator located at the Hatfield head office. The monitor used various sensors to establish whether the generator was working as expected, and Chen set up a system for automated alerts via email, so that any anomalies could be reported to Service Desk. The project was a great success considering that the monitor was able to reach a theoretical maximum range of 22 km, was inexpensive to produce (costing less that £70) and fast to deploy.
“A very interesting and multidisciplinary project that helped me understand how physics, electronics and computer science work together as the building blocks for the Internet of Things.” – Chen
Chris Leach – SecondHands simulation
Summer intern from the University of Bristol
Chris is one of our returning interns, which really does credit to his performance last year and the success of the programme itself, leading us to believe that our interns truly enjoy and benefit from their time here.
While Chris spent last summer working on the Code for Life initiative, this year he joined the SecondHands team, whose objective is to design an autonomous humanoid robot capable of assisting maintenance technicians with day to day tasks. The project is part of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme – to read more about the project itself visit the SecondHands site or read our blog post.
Chris’ role this summer was to design a simulation package for the robot itself. Using the specifications and 3D meshes provided by the SecondHands team, Chris coded a model for use within a simulator, wrote some low-level control software and packaged everything in a Docker container for easy re-use. The controllers for the simulation conform to the same API that will be used for the real controllers, hopefully enabling the high-level control algorithms to be developed and tested on the simulator, before being painlessly swapped in for the real thing.
“The internship has been a fantastic opportunity to apply my skills to a problem domain, which was totally new to me. As well as learning about robotics I’ve been mentored in programming by some great developers, which I’ve found really valuable.” – Chris
Adam Lancaster and Bogdan Manghiuc – Ocado Smart Platform product map
One year placement and summer intern, respectively
Adam and Bogdan worked together to create a product map of the Ocado Smart Platform that closely resembles the London Underground map. The OSP tube map provides an overview of the Ocado Smart Platform and how the different elements of the platform connect and interact.
Ramon Fernandez and Alexandru Dan – Code for Life AIMMO game developers
Summer interns from Imperial College London
Ramon and Alexandru joined the Code for Life team over summer, focussing mainly on the upcoming game for teenagers codenamed AI:MMO. Created as a follow up to the Rapid Router game, which teaches coding concepts to primary school students, AI:MMO is a story based, time travel extravaganza that introduces AI concepts to the mix.
During their time at Ocado Technology, Ramon and Alexandru have changed the game’s front-end engine to Unity3D, which allowed them to develop a two-dimensional world with an isometric perspective, compatible with three-dimensional characters. This replaced the flat grid the team had previously been working with. They then developed an editor tool for the program, so that designers could easily create scenes for the game.
Alongside this, they also redesigned the server calls so that the amount of data transferred between the server and the clients could be as small as possible – a very important feature for massively multiplayer online games – and worked on level generation from the back-end, so that sandbox levels for a first beta could be added.
On the grander scale, they extended the test suite; adding end-to-end tests to make sure that the core functionalities of the project could be maintained in future, and fixed connectivity bugs, which were prohibiting two players connecting to the same laptop.
During their time with the Code for Life team, they have brought the AI:MMO game a long way.
“I’ve been given the chance to work on every aspect of the project, which meant learning about game development, distributed systems and web servers, amongst other things. This has given me a very broad view of the software development industry, so all in all I am very happy with the experience.” – Ramon
“Code For Life was a very interesting project to work on. It felt like I was a full stack developer – I could actually drive the project in the right direction. I worked in an agile team for the first time and I thought my teammates were really supportive.” – Alexandru
Maria Fernando – Code for Life designer
Six month placement – graduate from Bournemouth University
We are lucky enough to have Maria as a member of the Code for Life team until February next year. She will be working closely with the team, concentrating on the AI:MMO project (previously mentioned). The MMO game involves players programming their own avatar to complete tasks and levels. Maria’s current role is the character design for the avatars; their 3D modelling, texturing, rigging and animating. So far, she has gone through the entire pipeline process with two initial sets of designs for a male and a female character: one inspired by the Victorian era and one with a futuristic style. Her next immediate steps will include different model resolutions and integration with the project in Unity.
“I’ve only been working with the team in person for a couple of weeks now, but I can say it’s already being a very rewarding, pleasant experience! Ocado in general surprised me in a very positive way, presenting itself as a forward-thinking, innovative and welcoming company.” – Maria
We are continually impressed with the standard of work we see from our interns, and wish them all the best in the coming years. We would also like to recognise all the interns over the past year who have already returned to their studies: Hakan Mehmed, Georgi Belokapov, Max Houghton, Fergus Mitchell-Dwelly, Vincent Leung and Adam Quick, Adam Lancaster, Bogdan Manghiuc, Samuel Zatland, and Andrew Pearcy. They all showed initiative and impressive problem-solving abilities while working on a broad range of projects, including magnetic levitation, environmental sensors, OSP interactive planning tools, robotic optimisation and many more.
We’re looking forward to the next year of internships and what they may bring, so watch this space – introducing the placement year interns of 2017/2018, Olaf and Anton!
Holly Godwin, Technology Communications Assistant