Digital Skills

David Copley - Sensor City and the Fourth Industrial Revolution


The April 2018 Codemill Digital skills meetup had David Copley introduce us to Sensor City and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.David Copley is the Industrial Systems Specialist at Sensor City supporting the LCR4.0 programme. He has a background in automotive electronics development for both Tier 1 suppliers and OEMs and is now working with SMEs in Liverpool City Region to adopt Industry 4 (4IR) technologies.

Sensor City is a Liverpool-based technical innovation centre and University Enterprise Zone. It's a joint venture between Liverpool University and Liverpool John Moores University. The idea behind the Sensor City is to create a community of collaboration and upskill the local community, it's a global hub for sensor technologies - the place for companies to come together and work on sensor related technologies and IoT.Some key points from the talk:

  • LCR4.0 - Liverpool City Region Industry 4.0 - fully funded by EU initiative to support SMEs within Liverpool City Region in adopting Industry 4.0 technologies for products and processes.

    • Vision: transform manufacturing in Liverpool City Region, give businesses access to the support, facilities and technology needed to make things happen, bring together world class practical support

    • Targets: deliver support to 300 SMEs in Liverpool City Region, support 70 new product development cases, create 60 new jobs in supported businesses

    • Initially they thought they will consult with already existing production lines, but due to the equipment they've got, they do a lot of product development from scratch - from concept to pre-production in one building.

  • Range of technical expertise:

    • Sensor systems

    • Electronic integration

    • Product design

    • 3D prototyping

    • Digital marketing

    • Project management

Some case studies mentioned:

  • CNC Robotics - provided them with monitoring technology

  • Gallagher Medical Devices (GDM) - supports the rapid prototyping of the housing, electronics and embedded software.

  • Feedwater - Sensor City built a peak detector circuit to analyse the signal from the sensor and will be designing a conductivity module

  • Real Space - benefited from design skills, academic/industrial collaboration and the latest technology - provided a number of CADs

  • Aqua Running - helped reduce valuable liaison and discussion time with suppliers

Heather Norton - Tackling Climate Change with Code


The March 2018 Codemill Digital skills meetup was all about dealing with climate change by using code and had Heather Norton, software developer at JBA Consulting, talk about her experience working at ForeCoast® Marine.Heather introduced the audience to the field of marine energy and explained how you can use simulations to analyse biggest issues and find better solutions, thus save money and produce cheaper and cleaner energy.

Some key points from the talk:

  • UK is research and development leader in the field of offshore wind energy, however the field is quite new and still considered to be experimental.

    1. While producing the ForeCoast Marine software, the team spent a lot of time speaking to people and working out how they make decisions in real life in order to create optimal decisions using computer.

    2. The idea is to change the variables and simulate as many times as possible until you get the most optimal solution.

    3. Since building and running time of a windfarm is around 40 years, using historic weather for the simulations is not good enough anymore, the simulations have to be adapted to the climate change.

    4. Due to the massive amount of data needed for the simulations, the idea is to collaborate with others and share the climate change models with the world.

    5. There is an actual ecosystem of climate change models available online.

You can see the slides here:

Amy Hearn - Microbits in Libraries - lending computers!


The February Codemill Digital skills meetup had Amy Hearn talk about how public libraries around the UK are now lending out BBC micro:bit computers and how and why the initiative was started.Amy Hearn is a development librarian, runs Hudderfield Girl Geeks meetup and is one of the people who started  #microbitsinlibraries, thus she was the perfect person to introduce us to the idea.

Some takeaways from the talk:

  • 90% of children said the micro:bit showed them anyone can code

    1. After trying micro:bit, 39% of girls said they would choose computing, compared to 23% before trying micro:bit

    2. Micro:bits are being lent in 1200 libraries in the UK and over the world.

    3. Micro:bit lending attracted new people to join the libraries - reached new audiences

    4. Coding for under 5's exists - you can teach functional skills that would make a better coder later. A few toy examples:


Matt Moore - Learn to code with Raspberry Pi, Microbit, MakeyMakey


The first Codemill Digital skills meetup of 2018 had Matt Moore, a Primary Computing Specialist, talk about the techniques to teach young people to write code using Raspberry Pi, Microbit, and MakeyMakey, and how these tools let people learn to code in a simple, fun and accessible way.

Some projects and ideas mentioned:

  • Raspberry Pi:

    • #cheerlights - there is a project run through twitter, if you tweet cheerlights + colour, any device in the world connected to the network changes to that color

    • They have tried introducing what a Raspberry Pi is by putting a retro gaming console on the display wall and clearly showing all the individual pieces needed to make the games work.

    • Sense HAT

    • SonicPi

    • Microbit:

      • Making robo heads and using the screen to make sad or happy faces

      • MakeyMakey:

        • Finding things that are conductive

        • Combined Microbit with Raspberry Pi:

          • Making in instrument out of a wall

          • Making sound boards

          • Making a paper button into a real button

You can see the slides here:

How to succeed with Tech Talks - free guide



Giving a talk at a meetup or conference is a great way to boost your confidence and showcase the technical skills within your organisation. But public speaking can be daunting at first, which is why at CodeMill we run training for Tech Talks. We have distilled some of the material from our training courses into this free 2-page PDF guide: How to succeed with Tech Talks

The guide covers how to:

  • Discover your story

  • Prepare your narrative

  • Write your proposal

  • Practise your talk

Download the guide now

Alexandra Carter - Containerisation Hack of a Legacy Software Solution


The last Codemill Digital skills meetup of 2017 had Alex Carter from CallCredit talk about how they took a legacy solution and pushed it into containers on Windows in just three (!!!) days.The talk was based on the case study here:

Some key points from the talk:

  • Firstly, they had drawn the structure architecture of the product

  • Step 2 - value stream mapping. The members of the team mapped out process followed for the release of the feature. Then using red pen marked waste and using green pen marked how it could be improved.

  • CallCredit's requirements before the hackfest:

    • Portable (deployable onto platform of choice)

    • Push an update once to all live instances

    • Quickly replicate any bespoke customer solution

    • Methodology suitable for other software products

    • Scalability

    • Resilience

    • Hackaton aims:

      • Build their three components within VSTS: database, core services and identity component

      • Release Process: Docker containers, test and live environments, azure

      • Monitoring

      • After the hackaton - they have started using containers, but it was only the first step towards the initial requirements.

You can see the slides here: 


Jon Topper: A Brief History of Cloud Infrastructure


The November 2017 Codemill Digital skills meetup had Jon Topper (Scale Factory) give us a brief introduction to History of Cloud Infrastructure.Jon Topper has been doing DevOps since before we called it that and has been in the IT industry since 1997 and shared his experience how cloud infrastructure changed through the years.

Some points from the talk:

  • 1999 - server room in the basement, single 2MB connection to the internet, used desktop PCs. Installing a new server was a very time consuming activity - 2-3 weeks.

  • 2000 - "Growing up", network installation

  • 2001- Hypervosor, split responsibility

  • 2004 - Infrastructure as code

  • 2006 - AWS EC2

  • 2013 - Containers

  • 2015 - Orchestration, kubernetes

  • 2017 - Serverless


  • On-premise VMWare basically dead

  • Traditional config management losing favour

  • Packer / Terraform in heavy use

  • The cool kids are using Kubernetes (But, really, don't run it yourself)

  • Consider Lambda for async workloads

  • Serverless likely to increase in popularity

You can see the slides here: 

Lorraine Underwood - Using the BBC micro:bit in real life applications


The BBC micro:bit is a tiny computer designed for all kinds of cool creations from robots to musical instruments – the possibilities are endless! It can be coded from any web browser in Blocks, Javascript, Python, Scratch and more - no tricky coding required. The second CodeMill meetup had digital maker and Computing At School teacher Lorraine Underwood explaining what micro:bit actually is and how to use it in real life applications. She talked about her recent work and even brought some projects to demonstrate live.

We explored the possibilities and learned how easy it is to use by a person with no previous coding or engineering experience and how to make it fun to get children involved as well!Some projects mentioned by Lorraine were: cycling indicator jacket, micro:bit cross stitch, a Power Rangers sword, storm cloud, and temperature controlled stair lights.  You can find details of all these projects on Lorraine's blog here: highlight for me was a cycling safety direction indicator using LED strips controlled by a micro:bit - fun and useful!You can listen to the talk and see the slides here:

Using micro:bit with MS MakeCode


Here is the link to the very cool JavaScript Blocks Editor that Lorraine mentioned in her talk: The block-based editor makes it very simple to get started with coding the micro:bit.There is very little learning curve involved. I tried out the examples from Lorraine and made first micro:bit application in just 5 minutes! Here is my first try with the micro:bit - some scrolling text: this for yourself here:



Katie Hassell - Software and Spacecraft: Not Just for Computer Scientists


The first Codemill Digital skills meetup was launched by Katie Haskell, a Spacecraft Thermal Engineer, who over the last six years has worked on a whole range of missions, including: EarthCARE, Solar Orbiter, LISA Pathfinder, Biomass and PLATO.With the talk "Software and Spacecraft: Not Just for Computer Scientists", Katie introduced us to general principles behind spacecraft engineering, including an overview of different roles and uses of software in addition to challenges.

Key Points:

  • Spacecraft engineers also need to be computer scientists

  • Every smallest detail matters, for example, Gaia spacecraft has stability requirements of 14 micro arc seconds.

  • Thermo-elastic distortion

  • EarthCARE

  • Various planets in the universe have been discovered due to funny wobble on another planet

  • After building a spacecraft, testing happens in a vacuum chamber to make sure the thermal model behaves the same and afterwards, simulations can be done by analysis.

You can see the slides here: