Collaborate, Communicate and Conserve

Todd Burlington is a current Physics student at the University of Exeter. He talked to us about his internship at the Met Office, collaborative projects and #TechnoRhino

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Todd and #TechnoRhino in the Career Zone

With the help of the Career Zone I spent this summer on an internship at the Met Office’s Informatics Lab. I took advantage of the Access 2 Internships (A2I) scheme offered by the Career Zone. This scheme helped me with travel costs, which allowed me to easily get to work, and in addition to this the application reviews, interview practice and career planning no doubt helped a lot in securing my internship.

‘The Informatics Lab employs scientists, designers and technologists, all of which leads to a very interesting working environment where collaboration is at the very heart, blurring the lines between technology, design, and science.’

The Informatics Lab is a new and very different team. The lab has eight full-time staff and operates as a rapid prototyping R&D centre. The idea behind the lab is to quickly trial new technologies for the Met Office, and produce prototypes of how they could be used. To achieve this, the lab has everything it needs in-house. It employs scientists, designers and technologists, all of which leads to a very interesting working environment where collaboration is at the very heart. These are the people blurring the lines between technology, design, and science.

You’ve probably seen some rhino sculptures around Exeter; they’re part of Paignton Zoo’s Great Big Rhinos Project. This involves placing rhinos around the South West in a mass public art event. IMG_1210

#TechnoRhino was developed as a collaboration between the Met Office Informatics Lab and Paignton Zoo. The collaboration was born out of the idea that the lines between technology and design are becoming increasingly blurred. With this in mind, what could the Met Office achieve if presented with a rhino? The Met Office is one of the biggest technology companies in the South West, and what goes on here far outstrips just predicting the weather for the TV. This surprised me when I arrived: the scope of their work is much larger than I ever thought.

It makes sense that the Informatics Lab would be the right people to push the edge of what is possible in a public art event. The way they thought they would do this is by using LEDs. My involvement in this project extended from the very start to finish, developing the software to power the LEDs as well as constructing the hardware required to operate them, all in addition to organising visit days with external organisations for #TechnoRhino’s tour. I then oversaw these days, interacting with the public in places such as the RAMM and Exeter Library.

Visiting these different locations allows #TechnoRhino to showcase the Great Big Rhino Project. Hopefully, due to how different the Met Office’s rhino is to what has been produced before, a lot of interest would be generated for the Great Big Rhinos Project. The project aims to raise awareness of the endangered species of the Javan and Sumatran rhinos, of which there are only 60 left in the wild. With this in mind, any way to generate interest is very welcome.

‘The Access to Internship (A2I) scheme is a wonderful opportunity which you should wholeheartedly take advantage of.’

Not only was this a cool project to work on, but it was for a very important cause. Hopefully, whilst #TechnoRhino has been on tour, a more people have gotten interested and donated to an excellent cause.

Working here has fundamentally changed my outlook on my future career plans. It has made me more eager than ever to dive into the world of work, but it has also changed my outlook on where I see myself ending up. I now expect more from my future career than I did before. I cannot see myself working somewhere with a ‘traditional’ working culture – I just loved the freedom and learning that came from a place like the Informatics Lab.

Luckily, our University has enabled me to really benefit from the experiences that come from working at such a world leading organisation. The Access to Internship (A2I) scheme is a wonderful opportunity which you should wholeheartedly take advantage of.

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