JUNE 2014 • ISSUE 9
I D E A S
M A LTA
R E S E A RC H
P E O P L E
U N I V E R S I TY
With you wherever www.um.edu.mt/think
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In Games we Trust
J U N E
The Gaming Issue SIREN, education, and a board game history in this special focus
ames will soon become a $100 billion industry. Together with this boom, game research has grown and pushed game development forward. This issue focuses on some research happening at the University of Malta celebrating the launch of the Institute of Digital Games, and how games are being used to engage students (pg. 10) and resolve conflicts like bullying (pg. 19). Another story (pg. 30) talks about how ecologist Prof. Patrick J. Schembri made it in Malta back in the 80s when University had less than nothing. By adapting his research from deep sea to Malta’s coast in order to reduce costs he managed to uncover some amazing species. He has now gone back to the deep sea working with a host of people to uncover coral reefs and missing snails. Maestro Carmelo Pace was one of Malta’s most prolific composers. With over 500 works under his belt, Lydia Buttigieg found plenty to write about: from a narrow escape from death in WWII to his greatest operas (pg. 38). Apart from music Dr Rebecca Dalli Gonzi writes about how project management can apply to every facet of our life (pg. 24). An ever growing THINK has expanded its fun section (pg. 48–53) to include board game reviews. It is covering books, technology, film, a comic strip by Dr Ġorġ Mallia, a 100 word idea to change Malta, and a Fact or Fiction section. Don’t forget to send in your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org THINK has also gone online on www.um.edu.mt/think After a year of development we are very proud to launch these stories for everyone to read wherever you go and on any device. We hope you enjoy it and please do let us know what you think.
A life studying life From catsharks to coral, over 30 years studying Malta's coasts and sea
The Unheard Maestro
The life of one of Malta's greatest composers, Maestro Carmelo Pace
Alumni Talk Career advice from Malta's high achievers
CONTRIBUTORS Dr Ing. Alexia Pace Kiomall
Prof. Sally McClean
Prof. Liberato Camilleri
Prof. Matthew Montebello
Prof. Alexiei Dingli
Prof. Rilla Khaled
Prof. Georgios N. Yannakakis
Prof. Carmel Cassar
Dr George Cassar
Dr Rebecca Dalli Gonzi
Dr Joseph Spiteri
Prof. Patrick J. Schembri
Krista Bonello Rutter Giappone
Prof. Gordon Calleja
Dr Ġorġ Mallia
Dr Kenneth Scerri
Bridging the Gap Dr Ing. Alexia Pace Kiomall about University's open doors to industry
J U N E
The School of Games
Can games teach or are they just a waste of time?
Why so serious?
The SIREN project tackles conflict in schoolchildren
FEATURED ARTIST 24
Plan to Live
How to project manage your life
Christine Rösch I am a German illustrator based in Berlin. I studied in Germany and at the Bezalel University in Jerusalem. I have been working on children’s books as well as for magazines and newspapers such as the Süddeutsche Zeitung and The International New York Times. So I hope you enjoy the cover! www.christineroesch.de
Are you a student, staff, or researcher at the University of Malta? Would you like to contribute to THINK magazine? If interested, please get in touch to discuss your article on email@example.com or call +356 2340 3451 56
The cover is the work of German illustrator Christine Rösch who contacted the Design Team after reading the previous magazine online. THINK gladly commissioned her to design artwork for this Gaming issue. Her design is inspired by the phenomenon of using games for education.
About robots, bacterial conservation, 3DTV, and durable aluminium
Well-being for all through E-health Prof. Sally McClean on how technology can help us all have better healthcare
THINK I D E A S
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U N I V E R S I TY
JUNE 2014 - ISSUE 9
Rise of the Ancients
Edward Duca EDITOR DESIGN
Jean Claude Vancell
A short history of board games
THINK is a quarterly research magazine published by the Communications & Alumni Relations Office at the University of Malta
Daphne Pia Deguara PRINTING
Print It Printing Services, Malta ISSN 2306-0735 Copyright © University of Malta, 2014
The right of the University of Malta to be identified as Publisher of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright Act, 2001. University of Malta, Msida, Malta Tel: (356) 2340 2340 Fax: (356) 2340 2342 www.um.edu.mt
The melting pot of the Mediterranean
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From tech reviews to books, we cover it all
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Students for Research A great new idea to help students contribute towards research
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From 3DTV to using bacteria for buildings preservation, students are researching it all
Robot Maps, Robot Moves, Robot Avoids ROBOTICS is a cornerstone for this century’s innovations. From robot nurses to your own personal assistant, most robots need to know: ‘where is it?’ ‘Where should it go?’ And ‘how to get there?’ Without answers to these questions a robot cannot do much. Claire Farrugia (supervised by Dr Marvin Bugeja) developed an algorithm that allows the robot to move on its own and build a map of its environment while continuously estimating its location within this map. A system known as Active-SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping), allows the robot to explore an area on its own by mapping its surroundings and figuring out where it is. This system is more efficient than previous systems (regular SLAM) where the robot is moved manually with a joystick. Farrugia focused on answering how a robot gets from point A to B, which is more complicated than it sounds. The robot needs to map its area, avoid obstacles, and steer away from obstacles placed in its path — like a human on a stroll.Farrugia used a two-wheeled ro-
bot which could sense its surroundings with an on-board laser (LIDAR) and sonar. She combined the ultrasound and laser data to make a more accurate map and for the robot to pinpoint its own position on it. The robot then needs to decide where it wants to go. Once it has decided, it needs to plan its path around any obstacles to get there. To make the robot move safely around the lab on its own, Farrugia built the D*Lite algorithm, which helps a robot move towards its destination in the shortest distance, while dodging obstacles quickly to return to its original path. Farrugia could follow the robot’s movement using a custom-built software package that let her command the robot to whichever destination she desired. Algorithms like Farrugia’s, that allow robots to explore areas on their own steam, are necessary for robots that need to go to areas that are risky or expensive for people to go. Robots that can plan flights or map abandoned underground mines and deep seas have already been developed.
A working graphical user interface on MATLAB. User chooses start point and end point and the shortest path is computed. Commands are then sent to the robot so that it follows this path. Main picture: The Mobile Robot used by Farrugia, the PowerBot™
This research was performed as part of the course in Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) within the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Malta. It was presented at the IET Present Around the World (PATW) Competition 2014 organised annually by the Malta Group of Professional Engineering Institutions (MGPEI).
Local limestone covered by a calcite layer left naturally by bacteria. Arrows show hollow calcite cylinders previously occupied by bacteria.
Healing Stone... by infection RODERICK MICALLEF has a long family history within the construction industry. He coupled this passion with a fascination with science when reading for an undergraduate degree in Biology and Chemistry (University of Malta). To satisfy both loves, he studied the chemical makeup and physical characteristics of Malta’s Globigerina Limestone. Micallef (supervised by Dr Daniel Vella and Prof. Alfred Vella) evaluated how fire or heat chemically change limestone. Stone heated between 150˚C and 450˚C developed a red colour. Yellow coloured iron (III) minerals such as goethite (FeOOH) had been dehydrated to red coloured hematite (Fe2O3). If the stone was heated above 450˚C it calcified leading to a white colour. This colour change can help a forensic fire investigator quickly figure
out the temperature a stone was exposed to in a fire — an essential clue on the fire’s nature. While conducting this research, Micallef came across an Italian study that had concluded that different strains of heterotrophic bacteria can consolidate concrete and stone. Locally, Dr Gabrielle Zammit had shown that this process was happening on ancient limestone surfaces (Zammit et al., 2011). These bacteria have the potential to act as bio-consolidants and Micallef wanted to study if they could be used to reinforce the natural properties of local limestone and protect against weathering. Such a study is crucial in a day and age where the impact of man on our natural environment is becoming central to scientific research. The routine application of conventional chemical consolidants to stone poses an envi-
Roderick Micallef ronmental threat through the release of both soluble salt by-products and peeled shallow hard crusts caused by incomplete binding of stone particles. Natural bio-consolidation could prove to be an efficient solution for local application and is especially important since Globigerina Limestone is our only natural resource.
This research is part of an Master of Science in Cross-Disciplinary Science at the Faculty of Science of the University of Malta, supervised by microbiologist Dr Gabrielle Zammit, and chemists Dr Daniel Vella and Prof. Emmanuel Sinagra. The research project is funded by the Master it! Scholarship scheme, which is part-funded by the EU’s European Social Fund under Operational Programme II — Cohesion Policy 2007–2013.
THINK in collaboration with The Zone | Check out guest writer video interviews on The Zone at timesofmalta.com
N original camera views
Making 3D multi-view TV a reality RESEARCH IN 3DTV has been active for the past decades. Its popularity is growing rapidly driven by market forces and new technologies that are bringing down costs enabling a more widespread distribution. Normal 3D video uses only one camera to generate two video streams for each eye. Multi-view video allows the viewer to choose which angle they want to watch (pictured). Multi-view video needs to process huge amounts of data since it needs to transmit many different camera angles of the same scene. If the 3D videos are being streamed in real time, the processing power needs grow even further. To reduce computer processing the multi-view plus depth concept was in-
troduced. Using this idea not all the alternative videos are used. Instead a few are selected and the angles in between are filled using sophisticated computer algorithms. The challenge with this approach is to generate high quality videos at different angles whilst keeping the amount of data transmitted as low as possible. To attempt to overcome these problems, Maverick Hili (supervised by Dr Ing. Reuben Farrugia) analysed the current state-of-the-art video coding standard called H.264. The idea is to compress the amount of data which is transmitted without losing video quality. To achieve a better compression, the depth information in a video was represented with a few parameters. The
receiver then has to use these parameters to reconstruct the original depth information. Hili managed to improve compression using this technique, an important step to be able to stream live 3D video into our homes.
This research was performed as part of Masters in Telecommunications within the Faculty of ICT at the University of Malta. It was partially funded by the Strategic Educational Pathways Scholarship (Malta). This Scholarship is part-financed by the European Union — European Social Fund (ESF) under Operational Programme II — Cohesion Policy 2007–2013, “Empowering People for More Jobs and a Better Quality Of Life”.
Wear Resistant Aluminium
Dr Clayton D’Amato
The aluminium alloy viewed at high magnification under a Scanning Electron Microscopy. Images of a surface laser alloyed using Ni-Ti-C: (Left) Optical micrograph of an alloyed layer's cross-section (right)
ALUMINIUM ALLOYS have a low density and are easy to make. These qualities make them popular in the transport industry which can range from cars to planes. A low density makes them perfect to reduce weight in large metal structures. Unfortunately due to poor wear resistance, aluminium alloys can deteriorate quickly which severely limits their applications. Dr Clayton D’Amato (supervised by Dr John C. Betts and Dr Joseph Buhagiar) modified the surface of an aluminium alloy (called A356) to overcome such limitations by improving wear resistance. D’Amato used a high power industrial CO2 laser to rapidly melt specific regions of the alloy’s surface. He simultaneously introduced additional alloying elements in the melt pool, which mix with the base metal to form new compounds that reinforce the soft aluminium surface. In this way, he formed a strong composite modified surface. Additional experimentation allowed D’Amato to reduce
the loss of material due to wear by about 20 times. He optimised the conditions needed to laser process the surface of the aluminium in a uniform and repeatable manner. Adding nickel increased surface hardness 7-fold due to formation of aluminium-nickel compounds. Additional strength was achieved by adding hard ceramics to this aluminium-nickel structure. D’Amato created fine titanium carbide (TiC) particles in a matrix structure (pictured) by alloying a mixture of nickel, titanium and carbon (Ni-Ti-C). Aluminium treated in this way was much stronger. The exact hardness was related to the mix of alloying elements in the modified surfaces. Hardness improved wear resistance, with large improvements in both surfaces alloyed with nickel and Ni-Ti-C. They lost 20 times less material than normal aluminium preventing severe damage. Using a high powered laser allows improved wear resistance just where needed. This saves costs and increas-
es versatility. The above technique could be used to manufacture aircraft pump parts, fittings and control parts, and in automotive water-cooled cylinder blocks.
This research was performed as part of a Ph.D. in Engineering within the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Malta. It was partially funded by the Strategic Educational Pathways Scholarship (Malta). This Scholarship is part-financed by the European Union — European Social Fund (ESF) under Operational Programme II — Cohesion Policy 2007–2013, “Empowering People for More Jobs and a Better Quality Of Life”. The laser processing equipment used in this project was financed by the 4th Italian protocol whilst the characterisation equipment was financed by the European Regional Fund (ERDF) through the project “Developing an Interdisciplinary Material Testing and Rapid Prototyping R&D Facility (Ref. no. 012)”.
Bridging the Gap
Dr Ing. Alexia Pace Kiomall
y career has taken me from industry to research, with a 3-year stint as a business consultant, and EU and local fund evaluator for R&D projects. Now I am back at university managing the consultancy, laboratory services, and training business within the Malta University Consulting Ltd (MUC). The University of Malta (UoM) encourages its staff to engage in activities like these through the MUC. Through this article I hope to encourage UoM staff and outside entities to meet us to talk about their opportunities. The MUC is one of the subsidiary companies of the UoM that we are revamping. Our new office is located on Campus in the same building as the Knowledge Transfer Office and the Business Incubator TakeOff. Our doors are always open for both academic and technical staff, as well as industry and public entities. Having carried out research at the UoM and visited foreign research organisations, I have witnessed the UoM develop into a hub of knowledge, resources, and excellence competitive with research institutes abroad. Staff members have expertise in a wide range of areas and can offer technical, educational, business, and scientific advice. Expertise ranges from environment and energy, to sciences, education, engineer-
ing, ICT, finance, health sciences, and other areas. The quality of the work is highly professional and competes very well with international levels. The MUC’s role is to facilitate staff by taking care of the administrative, financial, legal and marketing issues related to networking with industry, allowing them to do what they are best at: deliver the expertise efficiently. Staff and entities are given support to find opportunities and set up teams of experts when projects are multidisciplinary. Projects are managed from their inception to closure — from the preparation of proposals and submission
I have witnessed the UoM develop into a hub of knowledge, resources, and excellence competitive with research institutes abroad
of quotes to chasing deliverables and deadlines. The MUC helps with contract negotiation and legal document preparation for the necessary agreements. It provides insurance coverage and manages the issuing of invoices, and securing and processing payments. Over the past nine months, with my new role at the MUC, we have been working with a number of local public entities and SMEs (Small to Medium Enterprises) on a number of projects. We have worked on small one-off services that require biological, physical, mechanical, and electrical laboratory tests and larger longer-term projects such as chemical tests with the pharmaceutical industry. Contract research and consultancy projects are generally bigger projects involving teams of experts. We have been involved in projects in the telecommunications, ICT, education, renewable energy, and electronics industries. We also organise Continuous Professional Development (CPD) courses such as digital gaming, Horizon 2020 EU funding, and e-marketing. We can do much more than we are doing. Our vision is to keep growing slowly but steadily involving other members of staff and other entities. Do contact us — our doors are always open.
Dr Ing. Alexia Pace Kiomall can be contacted on alexia.pacekiomall@muhc. com.mt or 2340 8903
Well-being for all through E-health Prof. Sally McClean
-health uses electronic processes and communications to enhance healthcare. The aim is to improve patient care, reduce costs, and empower patients to work towards maintaining their own well-being. To work e-health needs a lot of data about patients. This health data is also crucial to discovering new drugs and improving patient care. Using specialised devices and telemedicine, a wide range of conditions can be monitored at home. Smartphones can process the information and transmit it to healthcare professionals and/or patients. Using e-health, conditions can be monitored continuously providing real-time monitoring of the condition and its treatment. For the full potential of e-health to be realised electronic health records need to be linked to other information, like images and text. This combined knowledge then needs to be distributed through a cloud service, so that a patient or doctor can see it immediately. Genetic profile and socio-economic factors can also be included to provide improved diagnoses and health predictions. In addition, approaches such as data mining offer exciting research opportunities. Data mining can help identify more effective treatments, improve drug safety, reduce risk, and better public health systems. E-health can improve how diseases develop and disabilities are spread throughout different populations.
Assistive technology can be provided through an intelligent healthcare device. These devices include a dispenser that might text you to remind you to take your pills — especially useful for patients with memory problems. If the patient does not take their medication after multiple reminders, the system could automatically alert a family member or carer. This could prove a lifesaver for patients with depression or dementia. Through relatively simple technology, patients can take care of themselves at home, reducing the burden on hospitals. At the University of Ulster we have been researching e-health solutions for decades. It ranges from cloud computer systems for ‘big’ healthcare data to home-sensor based reminder systems for Alzheimer’s patients. We have also worked with designers to embed sensors into clothing designed to help older people become more active outdoors. Our focus has been to developed new algorithms (computer programmes that do a specific task) to analyse data collected by a system of devices. What we learn from these algorithms can be used to adapt the environment to take better care of the patient. Such feedback is essential to make the technology seamlessly integrate with a patient’s needs and preferences. Feedback could either be through an audio prompt or transmit an alert to a carer indicating that assistance is required. The research opportunities are endless. In Malta, the University of Malta is well placed to leverage research opportunities
for local solutions. Key components are already in place in several faculties, where the focus on Communications and Intelligent Computer Systems is particularly relevant to Malta, with a number of ongoing e-health research projects. E-health provides business opportunities for the private sector. It can take academic research and use it to develop new technologies, deploy it, or manage it. For example in Northern Ireland there has been a huge interest in developing these business opportunities by creating awareness among investors. This investment can bring improved health and well-being, while supporting economic development. Such developments could be relevant to Malta which is similar to Northern Ireland in having a geographically peripheral location within Europe, an integrated healthcare system, and a technically skilled workforce. Due to its objective of establishing a regional hub for a knowledge-based and ICT-enabled economy, SmartCity Malta could be well placed to bring together the research expertise of the University of Malta and businesses. Together they could advance Malta’s healthcare for everyone.
Prof. Sally McClean is a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Ulster (Belfast, Northern Ireland), and participated in the 2013, Workshop in Information and Communication Technology (WICT) organised by the Faculty of ICT at the University of Malta.
Illustration by Christine Rösch
n 5th May 1951 the Nim game playable on the NIMROD computer was unveiled. Nim is a mathematical strategy game inspired by games from ancient China. Since then the computer gaming industry is predicted to top over $100 billion by 2017 according to Digi-Capital’s Global Games Industry Review, mostly due to mobile gaming. This value is well over 10 times the entire Maltese economy. In Malta, worldwide online gambling companies have a strong foothold, but Malta is going far beyond iGambling. Recently, the Institute of Digital Games has been launched, great indie games produced locally are starting to surface (see Issue 7 pg. 30 of THINK for an excellent example), and the Government launched a Malta Digital Games Fund. The Islands seem to be a great cauldron for a burgeoning gaming market that can reach the whole world — as always, dependant on the right support from academia, industry, and Government. To celebrate, THINK magazine is running three features on gaming research. Freelance writer Cassi Camilleri met with the gamED team at the Faculties of ICT and Education (University of Malta). This team is using games as an educational tool. Games can go far beyond entertainment. Student David Chircop wrote a short and sweet history of board games; games are not just digital even today — think about Monopoly or Dungeons and Dragons. David’s history goes much deeper into the
subject discussing the American and European style of board games. Ashley Davis, from the Institute of Digital Games at the University of Malta, wrote about Village Voices. Village Voices is a serious game that tries to teach children how to resolve conflicts such as bullying through fun and discussions. The game is the product of the SIREN project, an EU-funded consortium from six different countries that won a Serious Game Award in 2013. The Institute of Digital Games is a great success story for the University. It managed to attract some of the best game researchers from all over the world and external funds that amount to over a million Euro. It has also brought together many different faculties and departments from the University since game research is an amazing interdisciplinary subject including the social sciences, humanities, ICT, biology, and engineering. Game research has many different approaches and can include building games that use devices that detect human emotions, the reason why we cheat, or making learning fun. Apart from pushing gaming research forward, the Institute is bringing together game companies, Government and academia. Till now its graduates have always found employment quickly, while game nights and competitions regularly bring people together. A career in games can range from academic research, to journalism, to game developer, to 2D illustration or artwork. THINK’s focus just gives a flavour of the rich gaming world that goes far beyond World of Warcraft.
THE SCHOOL OF GAMES I Cassi Camilleri 12
n The Histories, Herodotus tells the story of King Atys of Lydia in Asia Minor, whose realm was ravaged by a devastating drought 3000 years ago; one which left his people suffering under a great famine. The Lydians blindly accepted the situation and ploughed on, hoping that the terrible drought would pass but it did not. Desperate for a solution to remedy their misfortune, the Lydians came up with an unconventional plan — to engage in games. For one whole day, the people of Lydia devoted themselves whole-heartedly to games, so they forgot about being hungry. The next day they ate, and on the following, they returned to their games. In this way 18 years of famine passed and in the meantime, the people of Lydia invented dice, ball, and many other popular games.
While the truth behind this story is questionable, at its core is an essential truth about games. Games provide an escape from reality, but that escape is a purposeful one. The Lydians used games to escape the famine that gripped their land. In that same way, people now use games to achieve the engagement they long for; an engagement which the world, for whatever reason, fails to provide. As Jane McGonigal says in her book Reality is Broken, ‘we are starving and our games are feeding us’. Just a few years ago, the phrase ‘to know something’ often referred to retaining and reciting information. Knowledge was synonymous with recollection of content, be it history, science, literature, or any other subject. Today, that meaning has changed dras-
In ancient times games played an integral role in society. Whilst in today’s hyperlinked world, games have evolved into complex, sophisticated mechanisms that enthral millions. Now, however, games are dismissed as trivial, and of no real value. But is this really the case? Cassi Camilleri meets the research team gamED from the University of Malta to find out
tically to problem solving: the ability to locate information, analyse it, and apply it successfully to find solutions. This shift has brought with it obvious changes to society, especially when it comes to training and education. The focus in any course should now lie with teaching higher order skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, and innovation. According to the research group gamED — games naturally support this kind of learning. Made up of Prof. Matthew Montebello, Prof. Alexiei Dingli, and Prof. Liberato Camilleri, together with Vanessa Camilleri and Leonard Busuttil, gamED is a group from the Faculties of Education and ICT at the University of Malta who came together back in 2007 thanks to a mutual passion for video games. This shared fascination with the
medium and its capabilities inspired them to look into its vast potential. Together they now share a vision that sees games being used for much more than just entertainment. They also educate and empower people in Maltese society. Their main goal is to harness the positive aspects of games, to direct the attention games enjoy from users towards a more productive outcome. By using games in education and training, learning can be greatly facilitated and enhanced. Games can help students achieve much more than the traditional pen and paper educational system could ever provide. One of their most recent studies, due to be published in the coming months, is the first report on video game usage in Malta. Funded by the Malta Communications Authority, it investigates
the trends and patterns in digital game play on the island through a representative population sample. This report has strengthened the team’s resolve with its promising results that indicate that their ultimate goal is not pie in the sky. According to the study, 74% of Maltese people aged between 3 and 55 play digital or video games. Of these 53% play every single day and 20% will play for more than an hour. There is no doubt about it — the consumption of video games in Malta is widespread. This statement also extends to children, whose engagement with games is almost across the board with 98% of the country’s parents saying that they allow their children to play games. The conclusion easily drawn from these findings is that Malta holds the perfect conditions to effectively »
implement games as part of its training and educational systems. Serious games are the answer. Serious games are designed to teach a particular skill or behaviour, or to raise awareness about a subject, motivating users by providing challenge, curiosity, control, and fantasy. Their inherently scaffolded structure — a trait present in all games — delivers learning/teaching at the time it is needed as well as continuous feedback during play, allowing users to develop ‘mastery’ of a skill. These games create a compelling need to know, ask, examine, assimilate and master certain skills and content areas. Some experts argue that games are, first and foremost, learning systems and that this accounts for the sense of engagement and entertainment players experience. In his book Fun Inc. Chatfield agrees, stating that games without learning or skill acquisition fail as the ‘result will soon be boredom’. As Vanessa Camilleri explains, the effectiveness of serious games has already been proven. She points to the medical field as a major success story where serious games have been developed to impart specific competencies to future doctors. But these games have also been used by the UN World Food Programme to educate people about the causes, effects, and solutions to famine in developing nations. Even Renault has used them to raise awareness on eco-driving. The application of this technology is endless. Sadly, the journey towards meaningful engaged learning in Malta has not been straightforward. The challenges will be a steep mountain to climb in the years ahead.
The moment students started seeing the tasks as fun, they also stopped seeing them as part of the learning process, “It was not serious enough to be learning” gamED have run various experiments, attempting to implement games within training and educational structures. The results, for the most part were considerable, but one thing became clear — it will take time for people to subscribe to this concept. Although not under gamED umbrella, the first attempt saw Camilleri working with 100 pre-service teachers as part of her doctorate on virtual worlds and serious games. The practical application of the study involved the use of serious games in an immersive virtual world to teach about educational technologies. The students’ course took place exclusively online. Presentations were made in the virtual world, papers were submitted through the portal, meetings also took place there and, as time wore on, the world became populated by the students’ own work. Camilleri reports that there was an initial resistance to the idea. The universi-
Prof. Alexiei Dingli
Prof. matthew Montebello
Prof. Liberato Camilleri
ty students felt uncomfortable with this new method of working. They found it shocking and confusing since they had no previous experience of learning inside a virtual world. However, despite the hurdles, the study went on and at the end gave an amazing response. Participants were interacting and producing vast amount of work at a fast pace, engaging with the virtual world and the content within. But as the experiment progressed the interaction started to taper and perceptions began to change. The moment students started seeing the tasks as fun, they also stopped seeing them as equal parts of the learning process. ‘They were no longer deemed serious enough to constitute real learning’, Camilleri said. Looking back on this experience, Prof. Montebello points out that the lack of ‘chalk and talk’ made the students nervous. Being online and in the virtual world meant that ‘it was not real’. This happened again on another occasion when gamED introduced a game called Quest Atlantis from the University of Indiana at a private, independent school to children between 9 and 15. Used worldwide to teach concepts as diverse as physics, biology, and creative writing, this was a prime example of what serious games should be. Provided with their own accounts children were asked to play. Once again, the response was overwhelmingly positive with the children completing their tasks successfully and diligently. However, during the subsequent interviews, the idea of replacing books with the game was not well received. Students plainly told the »
98% 74% 53% 20%
of parents said that they allow their children to play games of Maltese people aged between 3 and 55 play digital or video games of the population play every single day
play more than an hour every day
An immersive virtual world was used to teach 100 pre-service teachers about educational technologies
group the move would not be possible. ‘This is fun but we do this at home — this is not learning.’ This experience confirmed the very perception gamED keeps trying to alter — ‘for some, a game is a game. The older generation grew up with the idea that video games were solely for leisure and that has now been taken on by the younger generation’, said Prof. Dingli. Vanessa Camilleri confirms that in Malta, our perception of learning is very linear requiring lessons, books, homework, and eventually an exam. But this could be argued to be ‘a very superficial way of looking at things’ and also highlights something of a paradox very common in Maltese society. People call for change but when concrete steps are taken to that effect there is an immediate push-back from all sides. Camilleri agrees, ‘Maltese society is not yet ready for such a massive change’. For most educators, implementing serious games is a daunting task. Change tends to put many out of their comfort zone. GamED has observed that in many institutions, the set curriculum is followed literally to the letter rather than interpreted and expanded to make it more engaging and flexible. But the situation is far from hopeless. GamED’s latest attempt to bring serious games to the public has gone a step further than previous efforts. Part of the ICT students’ coursework has been to devise serious games to raise awareness on the importance of blood donation. Working with the Mater Dei Hospital’s blood transfusion unit, gamED will provide the best games produced for the unit as part of a national campaign. Clearly, as the impact of games continues to be studied and analysed, change will inevitably follow.
Camilleri sees a bright future ahead for serious games, ‘In future, I see more efforts being made. I also see parents changing their perceptions, becoming more open to the idea of games used as a tool to educate. This happens especially as the gamers of today grow up and become parents themselves.’ Prof. Dingli points to the budding games industry in Malta and the government’s plans to launch a gaming incubator. He hopes it will attract to the industry young minds who could bring new ideas on the effective application of games in society. Prof. Montebello urges government entities such as Malta’s Employment and Training Centre (ETC) to get on board. By pushing serious games as part of employability training, they will more likely be accepted by the public as part of the educational system. To drive the movement ahead, gamED is now preparing for the conference VS-Games 2014. To kick off in September, the conference targets
This is about creating cultural shift — a global one. Industry, political policy, education and the members of society, as varied as they are... they all have to work together to make it happen
cross-disciplinary communities with emphasis on virtual worlds and games for serious applications. Getting the relevant players together to discuss the way forward at this stage is crucial. Raising awareness of the untapped potential the medium holds should bring in some much needed investment. Finance is needed for serious games (a price tag that is presently out of reach for Malta) and to build the right courses. Professionals need to learn to use them effectively in various fields. Camilleri states that ‘for serious games to become part of Maltese education and training, an all-round effort is needed. This is not about a group of game fans trying to convince a country that their views are correct. This is about creating a brighter, more engaging future for future generations. A cultural shift is in order — a global one. Industry, political policy, education, and the members of society must rally and work together to make it happen. History has proven time and time again that such a task will not be easy. But it has also proven that it can be done.’
FURTHER READING • McGonigal, J., (2011). Reality is broken: Why Games Make us Better and How They Can Change the World. London: Penguin Group. • Eljamalic, S., Fahlib, A., Mouaheba, H., & Moussetadb, M., (2012). The Serious Game: What Educational Benefits? In Procedia — Social and Behavioral Sciences, Volume 46, (pp. 5502–5508). WCES. • Chatfield, T., (2010). Fun Inc.: Why games are the 21st century’s most serious business. UK: Virgin Books.
Rise of the Ancients
David Chircop writes a really brief history of modern board gaming
ver the last two decades a relatively new sort of board gaming has emerged which you might not have heard about. ‘Hobby’ or ‘modern’ board gaming is sweeping across the world. In 1995 The Settlers of Catan by Klaus Teuber changed everything. This is the game that made many Americans realise that there is more to board games than Cluedo and Scrabble. It was family friendly, easy to get into, had a lovely trading mechanic and modular board which changed every time you played it. Isn’t 1995 late? The ‘Spiel des Jahres’ award (basically the Oscars of Board Games) was founded in 1978. In Germany this genre of board games had
been popular long before Settlers of Catan broke the monopoly of Monopoly in the US. Board games go back much further. In 2200 bc, in China, Go had already been invented. German-style games, or eurogames, are generally regarded as one half of the two over-arching mega-genres in modern board gaming. These sort of games generally feature less luck, a more direct strategy, and less direct player interaction. Winning conditions involve collecting victory points and the design favours symbols over text. The other half is the American-style, sometimes referred to as ‘Ameritrash’. These are generally the opposite style. War, fighting, killing, rolling piles and piles of dice (therefore luck), and player elimination. »
Two different cultures produce a product, which is meant to fill the same void, but because of the cultural circumstances of the time, they develop very differently 17
Common themes and styles in American-style games include dungeon crawling (Descent, Claustrophobia), the American Civil War (Battle Cry), and World War II (Memoir 44). German-style games, on the other hand, tend to have more ‘European’ cultural influences. For example, colonisation of the Americas or medieval farming are common themes (Archipelago, Puerto Rico), as are diplomacy and intrigue at the time of the Inquisition or gaining the King’s favour (Il Vecchio, Caylus). American-style games sound similar to miniature wargaming and tabletop role-playing games (RPGs), and are definitely inspired by these earlier games. However, board games are different. A board game generally comes in a box which contains everything you need to play with a number of players and most of the time is meant to be
played in one sitting. RPGs and wargaming do not follow these rules. Interestingly, American and German-style games developed in more or less the same period of time in two completely different cultures. This is comparable to the development of the Japanese RPG and the Western RPG in video games.
And today? Board games are experiencing a golden age. If you had come into the hobby a mere five years ago, the picture was simple. But the worldwide Indie revolution and crowd-funding has also hit board games. Until a few years ago a few recognisable, high profile game publishers dominated the market. Euro and American style games were easily separated. Now, board games are becoming less and less of a niche hobby. New designers are
creating games that combine many different influences from past games. The lines are being blurred. More experimental games and publishers are starting to pop up thanks to crowd-funding, and virtually anyone can publish a game. In Malta, one of the first locally developed modern boardgames will be published internationally next year — watch this magazine — and others are in development. Exciting times.
David Chircop (and Yannick Massa) topped the Board Game Geek Hotness List for a week and won Best Board Game award at Malta’s first Global Game Jam held on January 24–26, 2014 at the Institute of Digital Games, UoM. See http://maltagamejam.com for next year’s Game Jam or take a course at the Institute http://game.edu.mt to learn how to make your own game.
Illustration by Jean Claude Vancell
How do you help school children handle fights, bullying, and other conflict properly? You build a game, of course, and you let children take on different roles in a village. But how does that lead to resolving conflicts? Ashley Davis met researchers Prof. Rilla Khaled and Prof. Georgios N. Yannakakis to find out more
o you chuckle at the thought of a serious game? The phrase is an oxymoron. How can a game be serious? Games are meant to be fun, frivolous, a way to pass the time. Or else you sometimes hear that games are anything but frivolous. That video game violence in particular is a threat to social order. The idea that games can be used to advance human understanding about the world, and that they can help us to teach, train, or motivate people in some way, is something that still needs to enter our mentality. Designing games to explore research questions and to solve real world prob-
lems is actually a very important aspect of games research, an area of applied research that now has a strong presence at the University of Malta with the establishment of the Institute of Digital Games. Researchers from the Institute work on European-funded projects to create games that tackle serious problems affecting children and adults alike. Prof. Rilla Khaled and Prof. Georgios N. Yannakakis are two researchers now based at the Institute of Digital Games who work on serious game projects. Khaledâ€™s work focuses on serious game design, while Yannakakis is a specialist in artificial intelligence and computational creativity. Computational Âť
Ashley Davis 19
creativity tries to build upon the latest technological innovations in human–computer interaction that enable computers to act intelligently to some aspects of human beings. These two areas, game design and game technology, represent a large part of the teaching and research strengths of the Institute. One game that Khaled and Yannakakis recently helped develop is Village Voices which has been voted the best learning game in Europe at the 2013 Serious Game Awards. It was developed as part of the SIREN project, an FP7-funded interdisciplinary consortium made up of researchers from Malta, Greece, Denmark, Portugal, the UK and the US, along with Serious Games Interactive, a Danish Games Studio. Let’s take a look at what makes a serious game and think about what made the project a success and what didn’t work so well. The serious side of Village Voices aims to help school children learn conflict resolution skills. Players take on the role of one of four interdependent villages that are situated in a farm setting and given various quests to complete. Sitting side-by-side at separate computers, they may collaborate, share resources and help each other, or they may spread rumours and steal from
Screenshot taken from Village Voices
Village Voices has been voted the best learning game in Europe at the 2013 Serious Game Awards
each other. Much like any playground setting, children can play nicely, or they can be bullies. The purpose of the SIREN project was to apply the latest advancements in game technology to the creation of serious games. The brief focused on innovations in procedural content generation, an area of artificial intelligence that automatically builds game elements like game levels or quest structures that would otherwise need to be designed manually. Another part of this innovative technology is detecting the emotions of players. Physiological responses can be measure through various tech like Electroencephalographic (EEG) sensors that can be used to detect a person’s emotional state directly by reading their brain’s electrical signals. Virtual agents were another technology that interested the research team. These agents are believable non-player characters that interact with the player with perceived intelligence. The idea was to then create a game that would adapt to player behaviour, using emotion recognition tools to create an individual experience for each player. The decision to focus the game on teaching children about conflict resolution came later. Rather than to create a game about bullying behaviour, which is what a lot of people think of when they picture conflict between children, the research team wanted to explore the kinds of everyday conflicts that take place in school-yards. Friendship disputes, differences in opinion, and arguments over the possession of classroom items might seem trivial to adults, but they are important problems for children for whom school is their entire world. The SIREN consortium envisioned a game where players could experience and resolve conflicts in a dynamic setting.
Some people who make serious games say that the serious application of the game should take precedence over fun. They say that serious games should offer players a safe environment to try out new behaviours. Khaled disagreed with this approach to game design. ‘Serious game experiences need to feel real and not trivial. Otherwise why would we then use them to raise a mirror to reality?’ Village Voices allows actions that teachers might find surprising. Players can be destructive in that world. They can steal from each other. The game gives aggressive players a noose with which to hang themselves. Knowing that the person whose labours you just destroyed, or who stole the items you were collecting, is sitting right there next to you intensifies the game’s emotional experience. Exchanges can become heated between players. It is these kinds of heated exchanges that often makes games fun. Games are usually poor at provoking emotional responses. Village Voices does exactly that. Khaled told me about one session in a British classroom (the game was tested across Europe). A female student had such an upsetting experience that she cried. After reflecting on the incident with her teacher, the researcher, and the other players, the girl later returned to play again. Khaled thought this was a breakthrough learning moment for the student. So Village Voices is a good learning tool, and it is also fun to play. But how successful was the team in applying game technologies like procedural content generation and emotion detection to its design? Khaled said that the experience of designing a game primarily for the purpose of testing technological innovations was the hardest part of the
project. You might think that the role of a game designer is to work out the best solution to a problem given the technologies at hand. However, when the application of technology is the problem, the relationship between design and technology is more complex. Khaled said that the need to include particular game technologies in the design of Village Voices created a situation much like a rock band that needs to accommodate a peripheral member, such as a violin player. ‘While the violin player is not core to the project, the whole project needs to be compromised in some way in order to show off the violin player’s skills. It is not clear that the violinist is going to help the band make a new hit song, but it is clear he has to be there. So the band tries to find the violin player’s most positive qualities because he has got to be there.’ In Village Voices, the violin player’s best qualities are adaptive technologies that make the player experience more
personalised. Because support for emotion detection plug-ins was never actually included in the final prototype, the game instead asks players directly how they feel about events in the game and introduces variations to the player experience according to their responses. So far we have seen that Village Voices was successful according to the popular opinion of game-design peers at the European Serious Games — it won an award. We have also seen anecdotally that it is a provocative, if not fun game, based on the British student’s emotional response. But what does the SIREN team think about the game? According to Khaled, it can be difficult to implement learning games in classroom settings, and even more difficult to properly evaluate them. Project funding usually runs dry after around three years, and games take most of that time to develop. Gaining access to schools is also difficult. The game is a good fit for classes like social studies »
Photo by The SIREN Project
You cannot sit a child down in front of a computer and hope that they will magically learn something
that are often held only once or twice a week. Together with the problem of semester breaks and short evaluation periods, as well as the tendency for teachers to have access to only a few computers often equipped with obsolete hardware, researchers would rarely see students engage with Village Voices over a long period of time. All these things place limitations on the design, testing, and evaluation of games for research purposes. Rigorous evaluation is important as, ultimately, learning games are not black box tools. You cannot sit a child down in front of a computer and hope that they will magically learn something. That vital learning moment comes when players discuss their in-game experiences. As Khaled explained, ‘Playing the game is just half the experience. The other half is the subsequent discussion of the game experience.’ Given that discussion is so essential to the evaluation process, and that it is so difficult to get a sample of those discussions in a research setting, I asked Khaled if it was possible to turn the discussion into a game as well, to include
it as part of the package. Khaled mentioned the meta-game, the part of the game where a player is both playing and watching themselves play the game. It is in the meta-game that players achieve the highest level of reflection. It works well as a kind of after-game discussion, a debriefing for players as they leave behind the conflicts of the game world and return to the everyday life of the schoolyard; but Khaled added that of course it could be turned into a game. Achieving this level of reflection in the game package itself is just another challenge for the designers of serious games.
The Institute of Digital Games at the University of Malta offers word-class postgraduate education and research in game studies, design, and technology. The inter-disciplinary team includes researchers from literature and media studies, design, computer science and human-computer interaction. Visit game.edu.mt or contact Ashley Davis (ashley.davis@ um.edu.mt) for information about the Institute’s Master of Science (taught or by research) and Ph.D. programmes.
FURTHER READING • Cheong, Y-G., Khaled, R., Yannakakis, G., Campos, J., Paiva, A., Martinho, C., Ingram, G. A Computational Approach Towards Conflict Resolution for Serious Games (full paper). In Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Foundations of Digital Games, 2011. • Khaled, R. and Ingram, G. Tales from the Front Lines of a Large-Scale Serious Game Project (full paper). In the Proceedings of CHI ’12, 2012. • Vasalou, A. and Khaled, R. Designing from the Sidelines: Design in a Technology-Centered Serious Game Project. In the Proceedings of the CHI Workshop Let’s talk about Failures: Why was the Game for Children not a Success? CHI ’13, 2013.
alletta will be the European Capital of Culture in 2018 and has served as the centre of multiculturalism in Malta since its beginning. Built soon after the victory of the Hospitaller Order of St John over the Ottoman Empire in 1565, it meant to serve as their Fortress Convent. The knights came from all over Europe and helped attract people from all lifestyles. Valletta had a cosmopolitan atmosphere that impressed itself on the character of the city helping to enrich the country especially in creativity. The Order of St John managed to establish a ruling system which seeped down the social scale and gave character to the Harbour area. The cultural magnetism of the City was underlined by its political centrality.
Illustration by Valletta 2018, Ikona
Functioning as an administrative capital, Valletta determined the fashions and values of the Grand Masterâ€™s court. Similar to early modern European capitals, Valletta was a powerhouse of cultural change. British rule in the 19th century introduced new cultural elements with an Anglo-Saxon tone. The Royal Navy and the numerous other ships that anchored in Vallettaâ€™s adjacent harbours poured in many foreigners who came for short or long stays and mingled with the locals. This made Valletta a melting pot of nations, cultures, tastes, values and mentalities. Yet novelties did not manage to destroy or replace what had already been entrenched in the life and fabric of the city. All it did was enrich it further. The city put on a new dress but
Prof. Carmel Cassar Dr George Cassar did not renounce its soul, and the residents adapted to the new trends without forgetting their roots. Valletta continued to grow in its multicultural mentality, a natural process for a central Mediterranean city. It is an administrative and cultural centre. Over five centuries, people from different cultural environments have thrived and lived harmoniously together.
This article is an edited version of the paper delivered at the VIIth Interdisciplinary Conference of the University Network of the European Capitals of Culture (UNeECC) in Marseille in October 2013 by Prof. Carmel Cassar (Rector's delegate) and Dr George Cassar, members of the Valletta 2018 Foundation Research Coordinating Committee.
PLAN TO LIVE
Dr Rebecca Dalli Gonzi Dr Joseph Spiteri Can planning really sustain us? Should we plan to survive or is project planning simply there to overcome obstacles when we are faced with them? Dr Rebecca Dalli Gonzi writes about a group of project management M.Sc. students who she asked to prepare a project plan. During their project students suddenly faced an unexpected turn of events. They were asked to counteract the problem and face the challenges that they encountered. This is their story
lanning is constant action; it never stops. If you are moving to a new house or country, you probably know what this means. Planning is pervasive, but can it get out of hand? What does planning a gap year mean? Do you plan every single minor detail or do you let loose to enjoy some spontaneity? If, for example, a couple is turning a shell apartment into a home it would involve a lot of tasks, planning leave in advance, and chasing the architect. They just might give up when a book shelf cannot get through the door. If we can plan to live, how would it help us get out of a rut when things really go wrong? Managing your life is not that different to managing a project. When you manage a project you need a flexible plan that can meet the unplanned changing demands that life hurls at you. We live in a time when the efficiency of a service or project is based upon its ability to meet change or increasing demands. Would a project plan ensure that your plans run smoothly even when your life path starts changing its course?
Project managers cannot always foresee every eventuality when planning and managing a project. Once a project is underway many unexpected events can affect project target dates and resources. Planning at its simplest would mean better management and more knowledge, while at its most complex, it could mean more peace of mind. Trying to plan a complex project without a plan is like trying to cross the Pacific Ocean without a navigation system. Positioning your project within vulnerable situations during the initial planning stages means your team can generate ideas develop creative solutions, and have a solid idea about the resources they have, time schedules they need to stick to, and budgets. This is exactly what helped Rita Sant manage change during an unexpected turn of events as soon as her project was launched.
Plan for Health Sant designed a healthcare concept for homebound patients called ‘SMART At HOME’. It offered a combination »
of home health and community based services. She carried out in-depth research to come up with the right strategy, marketing analysis, project milestones, and deployment plan. Things seemed perfect on paper. Yet she ran into a game changer. Shortly after the project was launched, a competing company called HomesforYou was set up. It threatened to put her project on hold. HomesforYou offered similar concepts that which her project sponsors had in mind. However, Rita and her team had engineered some alternate options before the actual launch to keep the company ahead of the competition. Putting the project in a vulnerable position through an in-depth SWOT anal-
ysis (analysis of the strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats of a project) helped show the project sponsors where their focus should be. Her focus was primarily on selecting target markets and helping attract new customers. Sant was able to direct her team towards the right networks. She identified gaps in the south of Malta, and worked directly with doctors and insurance providers to bring in new customers. Sometimes, we are so taken up by our projects that we fail to see the obvious, to question the challenges whilst assuming we have already envisaged the end result. Project planning helps identify areas of weakness through tools like PESTEL analysis (analysis of political,
economic, social, technological, environmental and legal factors that impact business), SWOT analysis, performance testing to verify strategies (plan workability), design of project think tanks, project recovery planning, contingency planning, and risk analysis (amongst other research areas). There is a lot of research behind project management.
Plan for Energy Areas in the project that could have been overlooked suddenly become crucial. Sometimes being realistic is crucial to success. Another student, Joseph Borda, immediately received a notice that should his project exceed the proposed
A solar panel array on the Malta International Airport car park would mean the generation of just enough energy to supply the airport
budgets the project sponsors would incur heavy fines. Borda was clear with his ideas from the start. Developing the power engineering workforce for the future is what he had in mind. His design of a solar panel array on the Malta International Airport car park would mean the generation of just enough energy to supply the airport. Proper time scheduling ensured that the project would be delivered within the specified timeframes. This could only work together with a proper team organisational structure and pre-designed hierarchical task network, which is the approach to automated planning where dependency among actions is given in the form of a network. A well-researched proposal helped Borda envisage proper scheduling to ensure the project was delivered within the specified time objectives, together with the team organisation structure and task hierarchies required to complete the task in time. Could a project schedule really have helped Borda stick to his time-frames? A projectâ€™s life or death hinges on its delivery date. Incurring fines meant that the project was narrowed down to a critical selection of what areas of the project had to be done in time. The schedule alone would not have been a guarantee to a successful outcome. The initial stages of project research helped him and his team realise that the costings report for mounting
and installation of the array was heavily over-priced. The project schedule helped mitigate the over-budget fines through the planning of phased installations and so areas that were going to be over-budget were shifted into a secondary phase. Typical project management requires attention to time, cost and quality. Once restrictions appear in one area, other areas begin to shift to accommodate new demands. Having project management principles in place means there is a greater chance of fulfilling your objectives within the overall strategy and facilitating diagnosis of different situations as they occur. Just like captains need chart plotters or radars for distance and bearing to be able to manoeuvre ships in the worst conditions, so project managers use Gantt charts (a type of bar chart used to illustrate a projectâ€™s schedule) to help manoeuvre projects through time. Detailed planning helps translate business objectives into deliverables, provide a list of resource requirements, and a realistic assessment of project time-scales. Control measures can also be used to ensure there are no delays in target dates or to help identify team members who are not being productive.
Plan for Success Measures of project progress can also be used to indicate when things are not Âť
moving as planned. Marc Spiteri decided to incorporate this approach into his project plan to meet a specific target: managing the Malta national rugby union team to qualify for the Rugby World Cup. Spiteri chose sports engineering as his field of study. Spiteri’s primary objectives were to promote sports locally and to increase Malta’s appeal as a destination for sports tourism. The management plan was designed to operate on a three-point plan: first, having funding mechanisms in place for potential stakeholders and sponsors to bring in further investments; second, training and game planning aimed to work with the national team chosen to aid the organisational requirements for training camps and competitive games; third, a marketing strategy to tap into the local resources. However, Spiteri was faced with a difficult challenge. Sponsorship for his project plan was threatened to be
Photo by Matthew Scerri
reduced if specific targets were not reached. Spiteri had knowledge and insight at the planning stage to moderate the negative effects of this cut. During planning he was able to set key performance indicators in areas of finance, training, competition and markets as part of the project design. The performance indicators allowed him to set targets to reach his ambitious goal. Rather than add a measure of control as an after-thought, he was able to integrate this as a whole concept. This meant that significant changes or shortcomings would be assessed against a measurement system, allowing a prompt response to take place with the significant action.
Plan for Death Project control helps to ‘diagnose’ issues, plan for tackling weaker areas and adjust quickly to changes. It is normal for the team to assume that everything
will work out well in the end but unpredictable behaviours, unfortunately, do happen. A lack of ownership can cause as many problems as unscheduled timing of events or project delays. A project plan gives the team the ability to envisage areas in which people conduct their activities and carry out their responsibilities. The more prepared the team is (in terms of knowledge and know-how of project plan), the quicker the recovery period. Planning is also useful as a tool when it is used to focus and highlight project needs to those involved. This is of particular importance when a project manager has to suggest different solutions to his or her client. Johann Farrugia was particularly good at providing a number of solutions for his concept of a digital cemetery when he had a major on-site problem with humidity. Cemeteries are sacred, emotional spaces but also witnesses of human history. Information in cemeteries is handwritten meaning that some of the oldest
records are today hardly legible. This is why cemeteries need an IT system to meet todayâ€™s needs. Farrugia identified the needs of all the different groups of people who make use of or work at a cemetery and figured out a system that allowed the public to request information easily. Through the website, staff and undertakers could access all the information they needed about gravesite location and burial details. Farrugia faced problems with the testing system. Extreme humidity was interfering with the IT infrastructure limiting system usage. However, he integrated alternatives as part of his project planning phase thus being able to suggest solutions to his stakeholders and project investors. He was able to locate a secondary location system for supporting the project, thus eliminating completely the location of IT structures on-site. He also factored costings for any added insulation works required to counteract the problem and sought alternative zones that suffered from less humidity within the cemetery. In this case, since the unexpected problem arose at an early stage, the project manager could be flexible in his planning, allow for change, and bring in alternate ideas to deal with these issues. Having considered the options beforehand meant that he could reduce the impact of a sudden major change. In some cases, external events can trigger unexpected time delays. At times it can appear impossible to finish a project punctually, especially when there are delays in materials or suppliers. Sometimes a schedule should be consistent with your experience from previous projects. Your main focus should be on getting your critical requirements completed while avoiding distractions. The project management plan is critically dependent on the people who run it, design it, create it, and
implement it. Moreover, increases in dependences increase time-frames.
Plan for Sustainability Time-frames can quickly overrun when introducing sustainable measures into a residential development. Another student, Joslyn Magro, was keen to integrate into her project grey water reservoirs used to hold second class water for domestic use including lavatory use and landscaping photovoltaic panels, double glazing, and landscaping works. Sustainability has been an evolving theme to encourage environmental responsibility and promote intelligent decisionmaking with respect to energy use. Bad weather delayed the required materials that were being imported and this set the project back by a month.
Information in cemeteries is handwritten meaning that some of the oldest records are today hardly legible. This is why cemeteries need an IT system to meet todayâ€™s needs
By using a Gantt chart, Magro saw the negative effects of this delay. It would impact other installations and works. To reduce the burden, she scheduled architectural detailing and structural elements to run in parallel. This would reduce the dependency on strict delivery dates. In her project plan she had also considered sourcing from different suppliers so she was able to negotiate costs affected by the delays. Once the materials were delivered on site, she could also introduce secondary teams of labourers to make up for the one-month back log. Costings saved during the delay, were used on a double-managed team unit. In her case, this may have proved to be the winning strategy as managing the on-site team as best as possible would help to counteract any further setbacks. Taking advantage of constraints is the best way in project planning when possible. Projects revolve around expectations so it is better to envisage opportunity rather than to try control an event. Turning a shell apartment into a home might sound like a simple project in comparison to the ones discussed earlier but the problems would, theoretically, be very similar. Delays, supplier changes and exceeded budgets would surely impact your strategy along the way. Having strict milestones might be useful. It is not always necessary to consider worstcase scenarios but do consider carefully how much risk is actually acceptable. Most importantly, do not try to solve the problem, solve the cause.
This article covers some work of the first cohort of students enrolled in the M.Sc. in Project Management launched by the Department of Construction and Property Management, Faculty for the Built Environment, University of Malta. The diversity of projects reflects the range of situations in which project management skills are being applied.
A life studying life Prof. Patrick J. Schembri lives for biology. His long career has brought him in touch with an endless list of creatures that includes fish, beautiful white coral, sharks, limpets, crabs, and ancient snails. The Editor met up with Schembri to find out more about the life around Malta
was nervous. I still remembered fumbling for excuses for handing in my assignment a few days late. Prof. Patrick J. Schembri’s stern gaze does not take excuses. This time I entered his office to learn about the wealth of research under this man’s belt. With over 150 refereed papers to his name I knew I would not leave disappointed. In 1982 Schembri returned to Malta after a doctorate at the University of Glasgow and a post-doctorate in New Zealand. ‘In Scotland, I was working on animals that came from a depth of 40m and in New Zealand with animals that came from the whole span of the continental shelf and upper continental slope at depths down to about 900m. For that you need a research
vessel, crew, collecting equipment, and so on. I came to Malta and there was nothing’, said Schembri. This did not stop him, like the animals he studies, he just adapted. ‘Nobody has looked at the ecology of shores in Malta before, so I decided to do that.’ And as simple as that, Schembri went from studying deep water animals to the near shore. The techniques and equipment needed are completely different — a diverse research background that must have helped him in his long career. After many years, Schembri returned to studying life in deep waters, invasive species, and many other things, but more on that later. Back in the 80s the Internet simply did not exist locally so Schembri’s biggest problem was not equipment but
sourcing academic journals. Every scientist needs to constantly read journals to keep up to date with the latest findings. It is essential for research inspiration, to see knowledge gaps that can be studied, to learn new techniques and knowledge, and to avoid repeating others’ research. Schembri, ever determined, went to great lengths to get the information he needed in order to research and publish. ‘Thanks to my mentors I was brought up with a culture of publishing.’ The renown of every scientist depends on the importance of the journals they publish in and how much they publish. Neither was a problem for Schembri. ‘I produced my first paper before I did my A levels. In the early 1970s, I improvised some apparatus to do experiments on »
Prof. Patrick J. Schembri. Photo by Edward Duca
Zonation of biota (lifeforms) on a vertical rock face (Il-Ponta talWardija, Gozo). Photo by PJ Schembri
something that you would [normally] need sophisticated equipment for, so rather than using a nitrogen chamber, I used a plastic bag to which I attached kitchen gloves, and it worked.’ After some encouragement from his tutor the paper was written as a note that was published in School Science Review. He also published around six papers from his Master's degree. No small feat, I have not achieved this even after a Master's degree and a Doctorate.
A Master of all Trades The breath of his studies is stunning. With his students, Schembri has studied animals which have invaded Maltese waters. These include the nimble spray crab (Percnon gibbesi) and the non-indigenous Red Sea mussel (Brachidontes pharaonis), which, unlike all native mussels is forming mussel beds with thousands of individuals. He has studied the seabed’s ecosystems that happen to be vital to maintain fish stocks. He has even delved into Malta’s ecological past analysing samples from cores drilled in Malta’s coastal sediments studying sub-fossil molluscs to piece together the Island’s early history. These were only possible through collaboration with many scientists and a vast army of students.
I produced my first paper before I did my A levels His collaborations have been essential. Schembri was contacted by Italian researcher Dr Marco Taviani to survey Malta’s deep seas. Taviani has access to the multi-million research vessel Urania. The 61.3m ship has on-board laboratories for geological, chemical, radiological, geophysical, and biological research. To make it in Malta, ‘if you don’t have enough resources you have to improvise and collaborate, especially with overseas researchers who do have the resources. And it worked’. Schembri has gone further than just making it work. He has flourished. His strategy involves participating in EU funded projects (to bring in the money) while keeping very ambitious long-term projects running in the background on a shoestring. The only problem is that for ‘all the EU projects, the agenda is set internationally. While [for local projects] the funds are minimal, I get a few hundreds a year. But I am free to study what is interesting and important for Malta.’
BENESPEFISH is one of his locally funded projects. ‘I want to find out what kind of habitats we (Malta) have and how fish interact with them.’ By studying what fish eat and where that food grows, by seeing the nursery grounds and spawning areas of the fish, by researching how the impact of fishing techniques affects the sea floor that ends up damaging the ecosystem. For example, in collaboration with the Government’s Fisheries Agency, students under Schembri’s supervision studied the effect of a type of fishing technique called otter trawling. They discovered that it can adversely change the benthic (seabed) ecosystem and that the trawling should be done in corridors, with spaces between them to allow the recuperation of the seabed, and therefore the dependent fish stocks. This will help fish stocks recuperate and fishermen to retain their livelihood. The above is called the ecosystem approach to fisheries management. Back in the early 2000s ‘Matthew Camilleri from the Fisheries and Aquacultures Department got involved in a FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation) project called MEDSUDMED,’ that was pushing for this approach. ‘So he asked if I could help out with the ecological aspect. […] Ecologists entered the picture because in this approach fish started being looked at as part of the ecosystem. For some strange reason, previously fish were one thing and the rest of the sea was something else’ — a clear reason for fisheries scientists and marine biologists to work together to be able to give the right scientific advice to the Government. The BENESPEFISH project hinges on a healthy relationship with the Government. The Government Fisheries Agency commissions the MEDITS trawl survey to monitor the health of fish stocks, which are mandatory for all EU member states that border the
Mediterranean. These surveys need to ‘follow a strict protocol’, perfect for science. However, the survey ‘is limited to about 40 species. They still get everything else such as benthic organisms [that live on the sea bed] that they used to just throw overboard. So I said to them, okay why don’t you keep it, give it to me, I work on it, then I give you the results. […] If I had to hire a fishing trawler and go out myself for 14 days it would cost me around €190,000, crews and everything. Instead, by collaborating, we get this data at a low cost. All I need to pay for is for insurance, fixatives, sample containers, and a research assistant to collect the samples. So that’s what the University funds, it funds the research assistant and materials. […] So you [the Government] get information which you would not normally get because you are not a research institution.’ Clever and it worked. These discards are valuable to find out about the ecology of the fish in our seas. ‘They were going to get rid of a few hundred sharks (the small-spotted catshark, Scyliorhinus canicula) […], so I got them and one of my students analysed their stomach contents which told us a great deal about what the fish feed on and also where they feed. […] They feed on fish but also on the benthos, the bottom material.’ From 532 stomachs sampled, over half were eating teleosts (a group of bony fishes) and nearly one fifth were eating crustaceans, with even
some cannibalism. Male and female catsharks had different diets. To keep catshark populations healthy these food sources need to be maintained. The seabed is vital. These MEDITS surveys have led to some surprising discoveries. During a survey one of Schembri’s students picked up a piece of white coral which she brought back to be identified in the lab. It turned out to be the deep water coral Lophelia pertusa that builds reefs. Schembri still had this piece and showed it to me. As I picked up this brilliant white coral he told me, ‘this is just a piece of a much larger structure. You can see the remains of some the individual animals [it is a colonial species made of many individuals], the cuplike structures with grooves.’ It is such a different species — out of this world.
Schembri and his group reported finding this coral around Malta that attracted Marco Taviani (Institute of Marine Sciences, National Research Council of Italy), who was a colleague of Schembri, to organise a research cruise. Using the Italian research vessel the Urania they explored Maltese deep waters. This was the first of three such cruises that Schembri’s research group were invited to participate in. During one of these cruises they found other species of corals including the endangered red coral (Corallium rubrum), exploited since antiquity to make jewellery. They saw it at depths never seen before, around 600–800m, which is two to three times deeper than previously. When studied, this deep water population was found to be genetically isolated from others, probably because the different populations were not breeding amongst each other.
For some strange reason, beforehand fish were one thing and the rest of the sea was something else
Malta’s Coast When Schembri first came back to Malta he started working on its shores. But our coasts are not just beaches and cliffs. ‘Inland the coastal area extends as far as sea spray carries, since this renders the soil saline and therefore only adapted plants can thrive. […] Offshore, the coastal area extends to depths of 150–200m as material from the land, like sediment, still finds its way to the seabed even at those depths.’ »
The small-spotted catshark, Scyliorhinus canicula, as an egg (left), juvenile (middle), adult (right). Photos by Hans Hillewaert 33
A colony of the cold water coral Lophelia pertusa. Large populations of this and associated coral species were discovered growing on a submarine escarpment south of Malta at depths of 450â€“600m. These form deep water coral frameworks supporting a large variety of marine animals. Photo by Jean Claude Vancell
That is a huge area for a researcher to cover, but Schembri wants to record all its habitats, obviously with a lot of help. Enter the project Faunistics and Ecology of the Maltese Islands (FEMI), ‘the aim is to have an inventory of what we’ve got. […] I want to understand what habitats we have and which species live there.’ To cope with such a massive project, Schembri splits it up into bitesize research questions that his students can tackle over a few months (or longer if it is a Master's or a Doctorate project). ‘The results of each small project contribute to the whole. […] By now I would say that over the years the number of people who have contributed to the project must be at least a hundred, although it is usually around six at any one time.’ Many of these student projects lead to research publications coming out from the University of Malta’s Department of Biology. One of the most important things for the FEMI project is to figure out the state of our current environment. By knowing how things are we can tell how they are altered by future change. Back in 1998 Schembri, Dr Mark Dimech and Dr Joseph A. Borg studied how fish farms in St Paul’s Bay were affecting the ecosystem underneath. The nutrients and waste were reducing the biodiversity immediately under the cages to around a range of 30m. In between 50–170m, the fish farm unexpectedly increased the number and diversity of invertebrates. Without knowing the species normally growing in sea grass meadows this would be impossible. By studying Malta’s coast and offshore waters for so long, Schembri can say which areas and habitats around Malta have the greatest diversity in species and which are at risk. These tend to overlap; on land the sand dunes and saline marshlands need to be preserved, while at sea it is the seagrass beds, maerl and other rhodolith bottoms, and any form of natural reef that need conserva-
The red sea-squirt, Herdmania Momus, an immigrant from the East Mediterranean very recently discovered in Malta. Photo by Julian Evans
The Marsaxlokk fishing village. Photo by bass_nroll, flickr, bassnroll@500px
tion. Such long term studies are essential to know how humans are impacting the environment and to better manage Malta’s living resources.
A Warming Mediterranean The world is changing. The actions of human beings are warming the planet much faster than just natural processes. ‘The Mediterranean Sea is warming up. The sea is also receiving less rainfall and less terrestrial runoff, which is making the sea more saline [salty]. All of these phenomena are leading to many changes occurring at the same time. The first thing that you are getting is that native species, which were limited to the warmer parts of the Mediterranean, can extend their
range to the colder parts, so southern species are moving northwards. It means that the cold-loving species cannot move further north, because we are completely surrounded by land. So populations of cold water species are becoming rarer and less distributed and if things go on like that some might become extinct because they cannot escape. In the Atlantic they just move further north, but not here, they cannot do that.’ Loss of species is not the only thing a warming sea causes. ‘The second thing observed is that species from the East Mediterranean, which is the warmest and most saline part of the Mediterranean [and includes many species that invaded from the Red Sea via the Suez Canal], are moving westwards. »
Species which are warm water Atlantic species enter the Mediterranean and are now moving eastwards.’ This means that these species are all passing by Malta as they disperse, making the island an ideal monitoring station to observe a changing Mediterranean. A warming sea is one main reason why new alien and sometimes invasive species are being found in Malta all of the time. These species are making great leaps. Dr Julian Evans, Dr Joseph Borg, and Schembri have recently (2013) found for the first time the Red Sea sea squirt Herdmania momus in Malta. This record is 1,300km further west than ever before. This sea squirt came through the Suez canal, established itself in the Levantine Sea off Lebanon, and was last observed around Greece and Turkey. It is not the only foreigner that has established itself in our waters. Schembri and one of his collaborators Dr Marija Sciberras saw the nimble spray crab (Percnon gibbesi) all along Maltese shores. This crab is an Atlantic species that entered the Mediterranean through the Strait of Gibraltar in the late 1990s. When they found it in Malta they did not just collect it — they studied it. They found that this shallow water species grows ‘up to a depth of 3m, in other parts of the Mediterranean they have found it down to depths of 10m. It needs a habitat of cobbles or stones, it does not live on bare rock. [In Malta this means] that you find it more towards the north rather than the south, because the coast slopes down to the north and you’ve got many more opportunities for this sort of habitat while the south is mainly cliffs.’ The local shore crab (Pachygrapsus marmoratus) also beats this invader. They saw that the local crabs are much more aggressive than the invader. The nimble spray crab has mostly occupied a niche different from that of local shore crabs. When we hear the word invader we do not imagine a mostly plant-eating
crab sneaking into a new niche while the local omnivorous crab remains reigning supreme; but an invasive species ‘simply means that it spreads very quickly. [To understand] what the effect on the ecosystem is requires many years of study. We have many invaders. Another one, which is even more invasive, is a seaweed — an algae (Caulerpa racemosa) — this is now found everywhere. What does it do? What effect does it have on the local ecosystem? I don’t know, nobody does.’ This is why we need to invest more into scientific research over many years. You cannot figure out how a species is acting overnight.
A warming sea is one main reason why new alien and sometimes invasive species are being found in Malta all of the time
Schembri has been studying Malta’s ecology for decades. This long-term knowledge is vital to see slow trends like a warming Mediterranean, climate change, or habitat loss. When I asked him about the changes affecting Malta and Gozo, he replied in a sombre voice ‘I’ve seen a lot of change. In terms of change of habitat, apart from places which have been developed, not much has changed on the open coast. What has changed are the characteristics of the community. For example, previously you used to find large limpets, now you’ll find small limpets. That sort of thing. You haven’t lost a limpet or had a complete change in the ecosystem, but there have been changes nonetheless.’ In some places, especially sheltered areas, things have changed drastically. For his Master's degree, Schembri collected specimen from Marsaxlokk Bay. This was many years before the development of the Freeport and Delimara power station. When he had a look at it after these developments the species he studied had vanished. ‘The bay has changed and when they started dredging it was even worse because a lot of the sea grasses disappeared. That bay was full of sea grasses before.’ Schembri does not think they will return anytime soon. Loss of sea grasses are even eroding the shore. ‘The sea grass was acting as a buffer to the waves, although it could also
Nimble Spray Crab, Percnon gibbesi Photo by divemecressi, flickr
be because people have been building breakwaters and things which would change the current patterns which would also cause erosion. These things are complicated and without studying them it is difficult to know and nobody has looked’ — another reason for more researchers and funds being needed. Marsaxlokk is not the only place. Especially since the 1990s the Maltese coast has been heavily built up, with developments sprouting in many picturesque areas like Armier. Dealing with this development has become a political issue, rather than seeing the consequences from a scientific lens. Schembri’s view on this change is a bit peculiar to me. When I referred to the changes in Marsaxlokk Bay as ecological devastation he replied saying, ‘I don’t talk about ecological devastation, because what life does is that if the environment changes certain things disappear and other things take their place. Saying it is devastation is a human emotion. Scientifically it’s not what happens.’ Schembri was speaking impersonally from an ecological perspective. I find it hard to see the complete loss of a species or beautiful area because of human progress in this way. If humans are doing the destruction, humans can stop it or reduce the problem.
Ecologists for Tomorrow Ecologists like Schembri are vital to know the changes taking place around our islands. Without monitoring our land and seas we cannot know how to preserve them so everyone can enjoy them. Nature should be for everyone to enjoy and experience. Malta’s situation has definitely improved. ‘We have a huge marine protected area going all the way from Qala in Gozo to Portomaso in St Julians to protect all the seagrass meadows there. How are we managing it? We’re not.
Marsaxlokk Bay is surrounded by development such as the Delimara Powerstation and Malta Freeport
It’s a line on a map, but it is a first step’ since if anyone wants to develop the area the development’s impact on the ecology needs to be rigorously studied. Unfortunately, no one knows if the sea grasses are doing well or not. The problem is that the area is huge. ‘You don’t try to keep track of every single square metre of sea grass but at least you keep track of some of them. You establish a monitoring programme, the Government is obliged to do it having declared a marine protected area in terms of the Habitats Directive, and some monitoring is being done but there is no management plan.’ The problem is that Malta is an island with limited resources and 10 people abroad would perform one person’s job here. Government needs to give the environment and science more importance. Schembri’s flexible approach to research is powerful. He makes it work despite the odds, but I do wonder how much more we would know about Malta’s natural wealth if there were many more researchers studying the Maltese environment and if they had better support. There are other researchers apart from Schembri, but they are few. For such a serious man, serious investment
in research would surely make him, and future generations, smile.
FURTHER READING • Sciberras, M. & Schembri, P.J. (2008) Biology and interspecific interactions of the alien crab Percnon gibbesi (H. Milne-Edwards, 1853) in the Maltese Islands. Marine Biology Research 4: 321-332. • Costantini, F., Taviani, M., Remia, A., Pintus, E., Schembri, P.J. & Abbiati, M. (2010) Deep-water Corallium rubrum (L., 1758) from the Mediterranean Sea: preliminary genetic characterisation. Marine Ecology 31: 261-269. • Gravino, F., Dimech, M. & Schembri, P.J. (2010) Feeding habits of the small-spotted catshark Scyliorhinus canicula (l., 1758) in the Central Mediterranean. Rapport du Congrès de la Commission Internationale pour l’Exploration Scientifique de la Mer Méditerranée 39: 538. • Evans, J., Borg, J.A. & Schembri P.J. (2013) First record of Herdmania momus (Ascidiacea: Pyuridae) from the central Mediterranean Sea. Marine Biodiversity Records 6: e134; 4pp. [Online. DOI: 10.1017/ S1755267213001127]
THE UNHEARD MAESTRO Lydia Buttigieg 38
Maestro Carmelo Pace wrote over 500 compositions, survived WWII, taught Malta’s best contemporary musicians, and never left the island. Lydia Buttigieg (Ph.D. student at Durham University) writes about this elusive personality who shaped Malta’s musical landscape. Illustrations by Sonya Hallett
or a small Mediterranean island, Malta possesses many eminent composers. One of the most prominent was Maestro Carmelo Pace who left a legacy of musical compositions. I studied his musical language and career. I also ask myself if he had some degree of autism. Can this idea be proved through his musical works or is it due to other reasons that his writing method remained mostly unchanged throughout his musical career? Despite his unchanging style he is considered to be a modern music composer when compared to his Maltese predecessors. Strangely, his writing does not seem to be have been influenced by the new experimental techniques emerging throughout Europe at the time.
A Maestro’s Life Born at 4.15 a.m., 17 August 1906 in Valletta, Chevalier Maestro Carmelo Lorenzo Paolo Pace was the eldest of seven children. Living in the same household was his mother’s brother, Vincenzo Ciappara, a prominent composer, arranger, bandmaster, and a gifted viola player who highly influenced his nephew. Due to lack of documentation and resources we know relatively little about Pace’s musical education as a teenager and a young adult. The British Military bands stationed in Malta were his earliest experience of classical music. During frequent visits
to his father’s workplace at the Commerce movie theatre in Valletta, Pace was captivated by the live music played by the resident quartet during silent films. Thanks to his uncle’s tutelage, Pace made good progress in his lessons, and at the age of 15 joined the orchestra of the Italian Opera Company at the Royal Opera House. Pace continued his studies for a further nine years under three foreign musicians who were resident on the island, but about whom
He narrowly escaped death: a bomb directly hit his office nothing is known. Pace had lessons for the violin with Antonio Genova, violin and viola with Professor Carlo Fiamingo, and harmony, counterpoint, and composition with Dr Thomas Maine. According to his friend, the late Georgette Caffari, Pace never enhanced his musical studies abroad but continued to develop them independently. In 1921 Pace joined the conductor Carlo
Diacono’s cappella di musica and by the age of 22 became section leader of the violas at the Italian Opera Company. By playing several different orchestral instruments Pace gained invaluable experience for his career. Despite this Ann Agnes Mousu, who interviewed Pace, said ‘Pace was displeased with irregular hours which left him with very little time for teaching music, a career which he had very much at heart: he did not wish to forfeit his love for composing either and therefore, he decided to quit’ — apparently in 1938. With the onset of WWII, Pace was conscripted with the rest of Malta to the British Forces. After being found medically unfit for duty, he was appointed shelter supervisor in Valletta guarding about 600 homeless refugees. Pace later worked as a civilian clerk with the Royal Air Force; he deciphered allied aeroplane movement codes, which was a highly secretive exercise. Pace was permanently stationed in Valletta where attacks were constant. Over 3,000 air raids were registered over Malta. During one air raid Pace refused to leave his office to continue working. When he finally left he narrowly escaped death: a bomb directly hit his office soon after he left. Due to his work and the onset of war, Pace stopped composing from 1940 to 1944. Despite this break he still conducted a small orchestra for the refugees. Pace also managed to teach music after office hours at the Command School of Education in South Street, »
Valletta. Pace, his wife and his family were forced to move house, from Merchant Street to Old Mint Street, after it was bombed. As the War drifted to northern Europe, in 1944 Pace resumed composition with one of his works being the Innu ta’ L-Istudenti Universitarji (Hymn for University Students). The score is a short piece written in simple traditional harmony. Albert M. Cassola was the lyricist and it was soon chosen as the University’s official hymn after it won first prize in a national competition organised by the students themselves (the University Student’s Representative Council, today known as KSU).
From Folk Music To Virgin Sacrifices Pace was a musical powerhouse, having penned around 550 works. They range from solo and chamber instrumental music to fully-fledged symphonies, operas, and concertos. Many have not been performed. Pace was the first national composer to collect Maltese folk rhythms. With the intent to preserve the island’s national identity, Pace composed Maltesina (1931), the first composition based on folk rhythms. Other folk music followed. However, Pace was well known for his choral work L-Imnarja (1960), an unaccompanied SATB choir (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass) written in the Maltese language, which was another attempt to retain the true identity of Malta’s musical heritage. Pace also wrote four operas. They are considered to be the first fully-fledged Maltese stage works. Local critics praised them for their mastery of har-
the opera’s plot revives the time when beautiful girls used to be sacrificed to the gods
monic language and musicianship. Pace’s operas (which consist of a combination of mythological and historical events in Malta) are mostly directed towards a nationalistic style reflecting the country’s strong attachment with Europe. Hence Pace’s operas shed light on Malta’s historical background, composed for soloists, choir, and orchestra. The operas were all original works and not based on an existing literary work. Pace’s first opera Caterina Desguanez was written in 1965. The plot of the opera is based on a historical event which took place during the Great Siege of Malta in 1565, a battle between the Turks and the Maltese. Two years later Pace wrote his second opera I Martiri (1967), a dramatisation of the rising of the Maltese against the French, who under Napoleon in 1798 took possession of the Islands without any serious opposition. However, when the Maltese began to feel oppressed they revolted against the French garrison. The French had to take refuge within the ramparts of Valletta where they remained besieged for almost two years, till they surrendered. During the siege a priest, Dun Mikiel Xerri, and others started organising a revolt within Valletta to attack the French, but unfortunately they were discovered and killed by a firing squad. The third opera — Angelica (1973) — is based on a fictitious story, though it is inspired by real events. In its history Malta was often invaded, its treasures robbed, and its people carried away as slaves. A slave in the Cumbo family, who converted to Christianity and was set free falls desperately in love with his master’s daughter. She, however, is to be wedded into the rich Manduca family. Haggi Muley reaches
an agreement with the Pashà of Tripoli kidnapping the girl during her wedding ceremony and taking her to the Pashà. Notwithstanding the riches of his Harem, Angelica craves for her Maltese lover. Although she is finally liberated, her suffering leads to an early death. His last opera — Ipogeana (1976) — is based on another fictitious story set in 1600 B.C. The libretto is set within the temple of Melkart and the surrounding countryside. Within its historical context the opera’s plot revives the time when beautiful girls used to be sacrificed to the gods. A tragedy emerges when the High Priest Brabani falls in love with one of the priestesses, Maħbuba. Brabani, who was considered by everyone to be a holy man, reveals
his true nature at the end. Maħbuba kills Brabani pleasing the god Melkart who showers his people with rain and a good harvest. Pace’s first composition takes his story back to 1926. The work, called Two Pieces, was written for a piano trio and transcribed in the same year for chamber work, followed by the violin and piano. The work was first performed in 15 October 1932 at the Juventus Domus in Sliema by an ensemble that included the Royal Opera House orchestra’s principal cellist Paul Carabott. Until Pace Maltese composers mostly wrote for ecclesiastical or liturgical functions, an approach Pace wanted to abandon. He ventured towards a more modernist style. Although Pace’s innovative
approach was considered avant-garde in Malta for its harmonic language, the developments happening throughout the rest of Europe were not reflected in Pace’s work. Pace seems detached from other composers. Pace’s advanced harmonic organisation changed Maltese chamber music from conventional harmonies to more experimental styles. Pace’s advanced musical works constitute contrasting links in their musical contours and tempo, and are unified by means of shared thematic material and harmonic connections of various kinds, such as the use of similar types of chordal structures (a harmonic set of three or more notes that is meant to be heard simultaneously). Typically of Pace, these »
connections can be extremely subtle and elusive; the music gives the impression of continuous improvisation, since the musical material undergoes continuous transformation and development. Pace’s first attempts at composing such avant-garde music was through his set of eleven string quartets. They were presented in a reclusive manner, reflecting his true character and emotional conflicts that continued to accumulate throughout his life. In the early twentieth century, Pace turned his attention to string quartets. His predecessors never fully understood them. Pace’s quartets were scored from 1930 to 1938, with his last two written in 1970 and 1972. Unfortunately only one string quartet was ever performed — the String Quartet No. 2 (1931) premiered on 5 February 1965 in Waltham UK. Pace’s string quartets are structured on the classical three- or four-movement plan. He bestows excellent compositional techniques and has meticulous precision detailing each instrumental technique, phrasing, and dynamics. Many well-known musicians and composers considered Pace
an exceptional technical composer. His compositional prowess sheds light on his turbulent emotional conflicts, while his obscure and dissonant harmonies reflect his reclusiveness, silence, and insecurity. Remarkably, his handling of instruments, sonorities, textures, and melodic contours remained consistent throughout his career, even when he composed two quartets after not having composed one for 32 years. His symphonies, concertos, and solo works also have a dissonant, obscure, harmonic language which remained stagnant in their musical approach, similar to that employed in his string quartets. Such works include Symphonie Dramatique (1931), Symphony No. 2 (1966), Piano Concerto No. 2 (1944), Clarinet Concerto (1970), Piano Sonata No. 2 (1973) and Visioni for solo violin (1973). Pace’s modernist works reflect a continuous trail of improvisatory ideas that
In my opinion, he could be considered as having some degree and form of autism
are constantly being transformed into new rhythmic patterns, and constitute different tempos and textures. In these scores motivic segments (short musical motives extracted from main thematic material) occasionally appear and occur randomly throughout the movements. Most interestingly, Pace’s musical works appear unchanging (falling into three different stylistic genres) and keep the same compositional approach as that employed at the beginning of his musical career.
The Maestro’s Legacy In my opinion, by examining Pace’s musical work, he could be considered as having some degree and form of autism. This is due to his restrictiveness and repetitive patterns presented in his musical works, coupled to an unchanging musical style and reclusive behaviour. Prof. Michael Fitzgerald at Trinity College (Dublin) suggests that Autism Spectrum Disorder is connected to creativity. People with autism can be highly focused and intelligent but do not fit into the school system, lack social skills, and are uncomfortable with eye contact. They can also be quite paranoid and oppositional, yet highly moral and ethical. Such persons could follow the same topic for 20 to 30 years without being distracted by other people’s opinion, and can produce in one lifetime the work of three or four people. Although Pace has left a legacy of musical compositions, the circumstances of Maltese musical life hindered his creative development. His career illustrates the difficulties faced by modern composers working outside the major European cultural centres. Malta’s native musical traditions were lacking, meaning that audiences did not appreciate instrumental and new music. Audiences’ unchanging tastes prevented local composers from experimenting and developing a more modern style. Malta also lacked mu-
sic professionals capable of performing complex modern works, a reason why his more stylistically interesting compositions were never performed in his lifetime. Pace must be one of the few composers who hardly ever heard what he wrote. It is extremely difficult for a composer to develop his artistic aptitudes if he does not have a chance to hear his own music performed at a good live performance. The nail in the coffin was Malta’s lack of musical infrastructure. He ended up working largely in isolation and in a critical vacuum. This could be another reason that explains his unchanging style, rather than having a form of Autism. We will probably never know for certain and till today, his musical output remains virtually unknown and unperformed. Pace was one of the leading composers of his era. By the 1950s Pace was a well-established composer, musician and educator. His life was dedicated to composing and educating students in harmony, counterpoint and history of music. He did little else. His teaching reputation quickly spread and student numbers rapidly increased. His students ended up becoming leading musical theorists, composers, and conductors, their names much more familiar than Pace himself. Amongst his students were Prof. Charles Camilleri (one of Malta’s most famous composers who was also inspired by folk music and legends), Dr Albert Pace, Prof. Mro Dion Buhagiar, Prof. Mro Michael Laus, Mro Sigmund Mifsud, Mro Raymond Fenech, Moira Barbieri Azzopardi, and the late Maria Ghirlando. Many of his students have reached top positions in Malta’s musical sphere and superseded their teacher in fame and success. After dedicating his entire life to music and teaching, Pace suddenly fell ill with pneumonia and died on the 20 May 1993. He left hundreds of unperformed works that are still to be heard.
The Educator: A Journal of Education Matters is an annual peer-reviewed education journal issued by the MUT Publications Ltd. and edited by Dr George Cassar (University of Malta). For a more detailed article see their first issue published in December 2013. The journal is currently open to contributions that promote debate on educational issues and research in education. Interested authors should contact the editor on firstname.lastname@example.org For more information see www.mut.org.mt
About game research, WikiLeaks, speech technology, and preventing heart attacks
Literature, Philosophy, and Games DANIEL VELLA shares his passion for game research I FIRST DEVELOPED an interest in cultural studies through studying film and literature during my B.Comms. (Hons)(Melit.). In 2008, my eyes were opened by an introductory course to Game Studies run by the Department of English. In 2009, I enrolled in the Department’s Masters programme in Modern and Contemporary Literature and Criticism. The Masters programme gave me the opportunity to continue studying literature while focusing my thesis on the analysis of imagery in digital games. I graduated in November 2010. I knew I wanted to continue to a Ph.D. in Game Studies. Over the following year, while striving to put together a Ph.D. research application, I taught
English at the Malta University Language School and wrote scripts for a children’s television show on PBS. I also took part in my first Game Studies Conference in Athens, which gave me my first glimpse of the international game studies community. I submitted my Ph.D. application to the IT University of Copenhagen, a world leader in game studies research. It was successful, and in February 2012 aided by a Malta Arts Scholarship award, I moved to Copenhagen to begin three years of study. My research is about subjectivity in games. I use philosophy and literary theory to look at questions like: ‘who is the “I” that the player is playing in a game?’ ‘Can games be used as a way for the player to explore different
identities and characters?’ Besides my research, I also teach a course entitled ‘Foundations of Play and Games’ to Masters students. Continuing my studies abroad has brought me into contact with many leading figures in my field. It opened me to new perspectives and ideas from fellow researchers. I have had the opportunity to present my work at several international conferences, from Finland to the USA, and I have just returned from a three-month research stay at the School of Creative Media in Hong Kong. While I was abroad I kept in touch with the University of Malta, helping to organise and contribute to the Games and Literary Theory conference held here last year.
Exploring the world of big data DR ANDREW ZAMMIT MANGION writes about his career: from CERN to winning awards for research based on data released by WikiLeaks IN THE SUMMER of 2007 the University of Malta (UoM) gave me the opportunity to visit the world’s largest scientific experiment at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. CERN houses a particle accelerator looking into what makes up all matter in the universe. There I saw for the first time the vast amount of data being used to find answers to big questions in science. Over one petabyte of data is processed daily at CERN. A stack of DVDs storing this amount of data would reach the top of Dingli Cliffs, Malta’s highest point at 253 metres. My experience at CERN was to leave its mark on my future career. I had just finished my undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering (UoM) and intended to pursue a career in this field. Following CERN I completed a placement with the German Aerospace Centre through the student organisation IAESTE, and worked with Computime Ltd as a network engineer. Soon after I applied for and was awarded a Ph.D. scholarship at the University of Sheffield. My research focused initially on signal processing and control, subjects I had specialised in during my undergraduate degree, but I soon found that these techniques could be used in the upand-coming ‘big data’ arena. A year into my Ph.D. I made the conscious choice to move out of my ‘comfort zone’ and dedicate my time to applying engineering tools to study
complex systems. The hard work only paid off in 2012, when I applied algorithms developed in my Ph.D. to the controversial WikiLeaks data set. Using data recorded by the US military I showed that one could identify the likelihood of conflict in a region a year in advance. The predictions were based on records of events which occurred between 2003 and 2009 in Afghanistan, such as patrol incidents or strategic operations. The work was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) of the USA and awarded a prize in Applied Statistics and Engineering by that institution, and won an award for best doctoral dissertation by the Institute of Engineering and Technology in the UK. It was featured in newspapers and technology websites around the world such as Wired and The New York Times. Based on these findings I wrote a short book. Today, seven years after CERN, a Ph.D. and two post-doctoral positions, I use data to study complex phenomena on a daily basis. Recently
I shifted my focus to an area known as environmental informatics. For the past two years I have studied satellite data from NASA and the European Space Agency to analyse sea-level rise due to ice melting in Antarctica. This summer I will take up a research position in Australia to carry out similar work for other environmental problems, such as greenhouse gas build-up in the atmosphere. Looking back I see the gamble of venturing into the unknown and steering away from my comfort zone as a determining factor to a successful career path. I intend to continue venturing out of this zone as much as possible. I believe this is necessary for successfully tackling emerging and exciting research questions in the new world of big data.
Interpreting Chatter ANDREA DeMARCO writes about the best decision of his life IN 2008, I ventured into the area of speech technology during the final year of my B.Sc. I.T. (Hons)(Melit.). I did not know what I was getting into. Through my four-year course, I studied Artificial Intelligence. However, I ventured into speech technology (as well as human language technology) because there seemed to be a renewed interest, and an increased reliance of speech
and language technology on statistical modelling techniques. The particular area I studied was speaker identification, which is when you identify a person from a voice sample. A little over a year later I enrolled for a Master of Science by research in Computer Science at the University of Malta in the same topic. The reasons were two-fold. Firstly, I liked the idea
Preventing Sudden Death PROF. CONNIE BEZZINA writes about her work tracking down genetic risk factors that lead to sudden cardiac death MY PASSION for human genetics started during my Bachelor of Pharmacy at the University of Malta. In 1992 for my undergraduate research project I conducted studies to identify the genetic defect causing blood coagulation disease in a Maltese family. This project was too ambitious for an undergraduate level and I did not manage to resolve the case by the time I graduated.
Thanks to my mentor, Professor Alex Felice (University of Malta), I could continue my research on this family during my Ph.D. studies. During my Ph.D., which I obtained from the UoM in 1998, we managed to uncover the genetic defect located in a gene encoding a blood coagulation factor. We also found out how the mutated coagulation factor works. For this research I went for a short spell
to Hammersmith Hospital in London in the laboratory of Professor Edward Tuddenham, a pioneer in blood coagulation. The taste of research abroad made me crave for more and in 1997 I moved to Amsterdam. In Amsterdam I started working as a post-doctoral scientist at the Academic Medical Center of the University of Amsterdam. There I joined the group of Professor Arthur Wilde who
of research but was unsure about the long-term commitment required for a Ph.D. Secondly, my undergraduate research project spawned many ideas that I had no time to implement. However, this M.Sc. gave me time to do so. I was inspired by cognitive scientists on how language and phonetics could be processed in humans. I then loosely applied these ideas to algorithmic equivalents for speaker identification. In this project I discovered salient fractions of phrases which are important for algorithms to identify speakers. I cut down the amount of data required for proper identification making it more efficient. A few months before completing my M.Sc. I started contact-
ing a number of research labs in the UK. By that time I had realised that I loved solving research problems. That was when I felt ready for a longer-term commitment to research, and started a Ph.D. at the University of East Anglia, in the field of native accent and speaker identification. During my Ph.D. I developed a stateof-the-art classifier for accent identification from speech. The classifier does not require any speech transcription, which is how accent identification usually works. I collaborated with researchers from the University of Birmingham to adapt baseline speech recognition to work better for regional accents. I am now exploring the combination of ac-
was establishing a research theme centred on the identification of genetic risk factors for cardiac rhythm disorders, which are linked with a high risk of sudden death. My work since moving to Amsterdam has focused entirely on this topic. In 2005 I was awarded an Established Investigator Fellowship by the Netherlands Heart Foundation. This provided a major impetus in building my own research group, which is key for a young researcher in order to succeed. In 2012 I was appointed Professor of Molecular Cardiogenetics at the University of Amsterdam. My current team is made up of 15 young talented post-doctoral fellows, Ph.D. students, and research analysts. Our
research aims at discovering genetic risk factors for sudden cardiac death that enable genetic testing for the pre-symptomatic identification (that is, diagnosis before the occurrence of potentially lethal heart problems) and treatment of individuals that are at risk for sudden death. Last summer I was awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award from the European Society of Cardiology Council on Basic Cardiovascular Science. It recognises basic science researchers with outstanding accomplishments in the early stage of their careers. I am very glad in the way my mentorship at the UoM prepared me for my career in scientific research that led to my current achievements.
cent identification with speaker identification systems. I am currently in the final year of my Ph.D. studies at the University of East Anglia, and employed as a senior researcher in algorithms that can identify emotions. We are developing a mobile app that tracks and keeps a diary of your mood using your voice. This project is funded by a Technology Strategy Board grant. Taking the leap from artificial intelligence into speech technology might have been the best decision of my life.
Andrea DeMarco was awarded a STEPS scholarship for his Masters studies, and a UEA Vice-Chancellor’s scholarship for his Ph.D. studies.
FACT or FICTION?
GAME REVIEW by Costantino Oliva
TxK TxK MARKS the return of seminal designer Jeff Minter whose career spans over 30 years. The recurring themes in Minter’s works are frenetic action and psychedelic experiences. All these abound in TxK — a new arcade shooter for PS Vita. The game starts off with the player in a wireframe setting being attacked by what looks like an army of angry ribbons. Soon you will discover that you are actually an oddly shaped spider(ish) creature that is crawl-
Developer: Llamasoft Platform: PS Vita Game Rating: ««««« ing at extremely high velocity. Once your attacking abilities have been mastered, the environment will constantly reshape around you. Before you know it, you will find yourself upside down fighting enemies from every direction. It is an exercise in minimalism; so much is achieved with few details. It is up to the player to make sense of the bizarre juxtapositions of graphics and sounds. Thanks to its unique style, TxK shines.
How do you cook the perfect steak? Fillet is the best cut. Trust me. It’s worth the money. Use molecular gastronomy to take advantage of decades of researching how meat changes with heat. Science indicates that the best cooking temperature is around 55˚C, and definitely not above 60˚C. At a high temperature, myofibrillar (hold 80% of water) and collagen (hold beef together) proteins shrink. Shrinking leads to water loss. In the water lies the flavour. To cook the fillet use a technique called sous vide. It involves vacuum wrapping the beef and keeping it at 55˚C in a water bath for 24–72 hours. This breaks down the proteins without over heating. The beef becomes tender but retains flavour and juiciness. Take the beef out. It will look unpalatable. Quickly fry it on high heat on both sides to brown it. The high heat triggers the reduction of proteins or the Maillard reaction. Enjoy with a glass of your favourite red.
Send your questions to email@example.com and we’ll find out if it’s the truth or just a fib! 48
by Krista Bonello Rutter Giappone
You’re Next A HOME-INVASION movie with the possible tag-line ‘they got more than they bargained for’. No, it’s not Home Alone — though you may be forgiven for thinking that. From part of the team that gave us V/H/S, You’re Next bears Adam Wingard’s trademark playful-violent stamp (think Home Alone’s cartoonish violence, with lethal contraptions thrown in). Wingard makes an appearance in both V/H/S and as himself in his segment for The ABCs of Death (‘Q’); though he doesn’t appear in You’re Next, the latter film incorporates a characteristically self-conscious knowing wink, featuring writer Simon Barrett and fellow film-makers Ti West and Joe Swanberg in supporting roles — Ti West’s Tariq introducing himself as a ‘documentary film-maker’, with high ‘intellectual’ (and short-lived) aspirations. Adam Wingard self-consciously plays with conventions, without quite overturning expectations. The ‘final girl’ slasher convention is here taken a little further, Sharni Vinson’s Erin is not a scream queen fleeing danger, with a dash of luck on her side, she is resourceful and an equal match for the ‘invaders’. The villains’ usual resistance to death is here transferred to a less likely character, in a ‘why won’t you hurry up and
Film: You’re Next (2013)
««««« Director: Adam Wingard Certification: R Gore rating: SSSSS
die already?’ moment that is brilliantly played up for comic effect. Little nods to other home-invasion movies frame particular moments: such as an animal-masked figure — simultaneously disconcertingly jarring and ridiculous — sitting on a couch beside a propped-up dead body in an upper-middle class setting, for a quiet Funny Games pause in the action, with an added cartoonish element. The generally fast-paced action is spaced out with moments of tension, and an effective balance is struck between the danger trying to penetrate into the space of the family/parents’ home, and the danger already ‘within’. The ‘home’ itself is a newly-acquired house, territory as unfamiliar to the family and guests as it is to the uninvited invaders — not quite lived in, not quite a ‘home’ yet, just as the family-relations
are themselves characterised by awkwardness. While lessening the terror that stems from the violation of a warm and safely welcoming homely space, this accentuates the unsettling absence of refuge for the characters, with vulnerable interior–exterior boundaries. With two striking exceptions, death scenes were disappointingly standard. The premise and set-up of the movie could easily have led to more inventive devices. You’re Next is slasher, home invasion, and murder mystery, all rolled into one; yet, it remains firmly and respectfully within genre conventions. Nothing wrong with this — I’m not about to make any apologies for a genre I have so much affection for. Yet, there is a lingering sense of an opportunity missed — Wingard’s self-awareness and sense of the ridiculous gives a glimpse for greater potential here restrained.
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ideas to change MALTA
by PROF. GORDON CALLEJA Picture a Maltese crowdfunding website dedicated specifically to locally based creatives. It would be supported and promoted by government entities to the Maltese public, based locally and abroad. For this to work the public sector plays a crucial role in promoting the site and educating the public on how crowdfunding works.
The site creates a platform for followers of local creatives to contribute towards performances and products made by artists they love. Unlike sites like Kickstarter, products that can be digitally distributed or ordered will remain on the site doubling as a digital distribution platform for locally made works.
by Dr Ġorġ Mallia
TECH REVIEW by Dr Kenneth Scerri Microsoft Surface Pro 2
Google Nexus 7
Which tablet? A FEW WEEKS AGO a good friend of mine made the mistake to ask, ‘Which tablet should I buy?’ After two hours and a long rant, I think he regretted asking that question. The reason? Until a few years ago buying a tablet was easy, few products really competed with the iPad. Now, however, the choice is much more difficult. The tablet market is very varied with products ranging in price from a few hundred euro to €1000. So are the more expensive tablets always better? The answer has to be a resounding ‘no’. And the choice is not limited to budget. You would also need to consider size, both physical and memory-wise, OS (Operating System), and manufacturer. The right choice mostly depends on the intended use. As an e-book reader alternative, a light and portable 7 to 8 inch tablet seems ideal. Here Google’s Nexus 7 proves an excellent budget choice, with the iPad Mini a more expensive but stylish alternative.
Size does matter. If you intend to use your tablet to browse the internet or watch movies a 10 inch tablet is your best choice. Here the iPad Air still provides a powerful tablet with an excellent display in a lightweight package. Equally strong and stylish are the offering from other manufacturers such as the leather cladded Samsung Galaxy Note and the waterproof Sony Xperia Z2. If you wish to replace your laptop with a tablet, now you can. Windows based tablets as the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 add a clever keyboard and a full Windows 8.1 experience to provide a real alternative to a laptop. Hybrids such as the Asus Transformer, a netbook with a detachable screen, and the Lenovo Yoga show that functionality does not need to be sacrificed when opting for a tablet. I could go on, and on and on… Gadget rating:
Sony Xperia Z2
BOOK REVIEW by The Editor
The Universe Within Neil Turok Quill rating:
WOULD YOU LIKE to learn about how the cosmos works? Why it relates to our society? In short, how quantum physics can change your life? Then read The Universe Within by Neil Turok. The laws of mathematics and physics rule our Universe. Neil Turok does not shy away from showing a few equations then devoting pages to what they mean, so you might need to come equipped with some basic mathematical skills. The Universe Within is yet another astrophysics/quantum physics book talking about our amazing and wonderful Universe. It uses the typical formula of talking about the usual heavyweights like Einstein and Newton amongst others. However, Turok surprises by talking about oft glossed over scientists namely from the Scottish Enlightenment. At the turn of the 18th century, Scotland proved the unlikely source of leading intellectuals such as Adam Smith (who invented capitalism), David Hume (revolutionised philosophical thought), and James Watt (invented the steam engine). Turok also focuses on the achievements of Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell (responsible for finding out the relation between electricity and magnetism, which drives devices from electrical generators to wireless chargers).
Turok loves science. This drive leads to some great moments in the book. He has one of the most beautiful descriptions of the Big Bang, space-time, and Einstein’s E=mc2 — you might finally understand them all. He has a nice style if uneven. At times, he falters by being
He sees the Universe as having existed before the Big Bang and that it will exist past the following Big Bang too academic and using overly complicated analogies. The scientific idea behind the whole book is his explanation to take the Universe into the quantum domain. He sees the Universe as having existed before the Big Bang and that it will exist past the following Big Bang. ‘There was no beginning of time nor will there be an end: the Universe is eternal.’ Through this book Neil comes across as an enlightened man. One of his pre-
dictions sees the next Einstein arise from Africa. This continent is full of untapped potential and has enough problems to fill all the issues of THINK a few times over. To solve them you need scientists and skilled people. With this in mind he helped set up the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences — a true visionary, who had to flee South Africa due to his parents’ role in trying to bring down British apartheid. Turok also knows his philosophy. In the beginning, he links Einstein’s thoughts to Hume. Towards the end of the book more philosophical questions arise. This is one of my favourite parts of the book, till he strangely asks: might we be the means for the Universe to gain a consciousness for itself ? He also sees quantum physics as a role model for society, and manages to sneak in how quantum computers will evolve with humans making some form of hybrid species. The author has a good heart. His ideas about the skills today’s children need, how scientists are human, and the meaning of life are beautiful. He also hits the nail on the head when writing, ‘politicians tend to think no further than the next election, scientists no further than the next grant’. This book is worth a read, and if you don’t understand it you’ll definitely look clever having it on your coffee table.
BOARD GAME REVIEW by David Chircop
Onirim SOLO BOARD GAMES are a funny business. First of all, nobody can catch you cheating. The temptation of closing an eye to a few little mistakes or ‘forgetting’ a rule are alluring. Second, you have nobody to rub the wrong way when you make a good move. Third, there’s nobody to beat. Board games initially strike us as a multi-player group affair, but solo games do exist. We have all played solitaire. Onirim is a one-player card game. Although two people can play co-operatively I like it best solo. In Onirim you play as a ‘Dreamwalker’: a person stuck in a dream trying to find his way out before he is consumed by his own nightmares. To escape you must assem-
ble a total of eight doors before the deck runs out. If it does you’re in trouble and stuck forever (till the next game). By playing cards you move from room to room inside a labyrinth. When you manage to play three rooms of the same colour consecutively, a door of that colour ‘appears’, as in, you search for one inside the deck. ‘Hah, sounds easy!’ you might say. ‘Hah, you’re wrong’. There are nightmare cards, and nightmare cards are… horrible. You can only play one card per turn, and you might have a cunning plan set up cheerfully in your hand, but then a ‘nightmare’ happens, and you need to discard all your cards, and start over. Thankfully, the ‘nightmares’ can
Designer: Shadi Torbey Publisher: Z-Man Games Game Rating: ««««« be dodged. Prophecies allow you to see the future, while keys negate a ‘nightmare’s’ effects. I like Onirim. It is different, has gorgeous art, and is wonderfully balanced. The only downside is that it is out of print. But worry not, Dreamwalker! Onirim will be reprinted this year and you can get your dreamy paws on it... soon enough.
The 10 students who launched the UoM Caution Money Scheme. Photo by Sean Mallia
Students for Research 54
ducation is a word we are constantly bombarded with. After sitting for hundreds of exams, having read thousands of notes, spent endless nights fighting with coffee machines and sticky notes, you probably know the hardships of our education system. However, education is much more than books and lectures. Education is a way of life. It changes us and can bring out our potential. Our University is the place we all come to learn, work, and ultimately spend most our time. Be it students, staff members, academics, or researchers, it is of utmost importance for us all to be in line with why we are all here, to nurture education and develop our society’s future. The University has been growing rapidly in the past decade. Construction is ongoing, labs are being renovated, and the number of postgraduate courses and doctorates has grown exponentially. Naturally, research has spiked up too, and the UoM is also spearheading a few world-class projects. Why am I putting so much importance on research? The answer is simple. Without research Malta can never make a leap forward to improve our quality of life. The main aim of research is always that of identifying and exploring new knowledge that will ultimately make our world a better place. Locally, researchers are not just donning white lab coats. Maltese researchers are diving deep into Mediterranean waters to explore native aquatic species, some are crawling face down in garigue environments to investigate local flora and fauna, while others are breaking
new grounds to find the Maltese genetic components responsible for cancer and other deadly diseases. Students perform research for their dissertations (see the student section of THINK). This is when a student will first experience hands-on research. A university supported to conduct top research is necessary to give students more real-world research opportunities. Encouraging a research mentality within the early stages of the University experience is essential to foster a lifetime commitment towards our alma mater. Unfortunately, the biggest obstacle in research is funding. This problem is worldwide. But whilst other countries have already made substantial efforts to fight this problem, locally we have just started to get the ball rolling to instill the much needed awareness and culture around research funding. Investing in research is essential and we are seeing an initial good response from society. People are slowly starting to realise that through research we are not only creating a hope for future generations, but we are also aiding the education of our children and helping our country’s socio-economic well-being. In the past year we have managed to raise important funds for cancer and kidney research, and other important causes. The University Research Trust’s latest initiative, in collaboration with the KSU, is a project whereby students can directly donate funds towards research within their faculties. Dubbed as the UoM Caution Money Scheme, this initiative lets final year students from the Faculties of Engineering, ICT and
Sciences donate their laboratory caution money towards research projects and equipment in their faculties. Ten students, who decided to set an example for their peers to follow, launched this scheme during an annual KSU event, showing that everyone can contribute towards research at University. We are now encouraging all final year students from these faculties to follow suit and also contribute towards research. Malcolm Zammit, one of the students who already donated the money appealed to his peers saying, ‘This small deposit we had left in our first year is negligible when compared to the amount that the University has invested in all of us. Today, I feel it my natural duty to give something small back to this place which has given me so much.’ The initiative has also encouraged other student organisations to donate. ELSA has just given the Research Trust some funds for University research. These initiatives are all helping towards fostering more awareness and funding so that together we can continue leaving a tangible impact on our campus and society.
Mario Cachia is the Campaign Officer of the RIDT, which is the University’s Research Trust aimed towards fostering awareness and fundraising for high-calibre local research. More information on how to participate in the UoM Caution Money Scheme will be published shortly. Please visit our website www.ridt.eu to donate online, and our Facebook page www.facebook.com/RIDTMalta for the latest events and initiatives.
heatre T al ks alks
MusicArt Film EVENINGS
on campus July • August
www.um.edu.mt/events/eveningsoncampus firstname.lastname@example.org 7984 3480
Games to solve conflict, for education, and a short history of board games. This issue of Think focusing on game research to celebrate the l...
Published on Jun 19, 2014
Games to solve conflict, for education, and a short history of board games. This issue of Think focusing on game research to celebrate the l...