On Wednesday afternoon a limited number of the 200 students who?d applied for the CGCU Internship Centre's BBC trip met at Television Centre and took part in a amazing back stage tour. Ordinarily this would probably not be newsworthy, had it not been for the quality of the staff we met and the time they dedicated to us- this was no ordinary tour!
We started in a meeting with Micheal Bell who used to do graduate recruitment for the BBC, nothing out of the ordinary there then? He started by explaining about the BBC?s broadcasting team- by this I mean the people responsible for streaming data around the world, from outside broadcast vans, studios, war zones to television Centre or elsewhere via cable or satellite and then broadcasting it to people's homes. They?ve recently been contracted to Siemens and the person talking to us is soon to become the head of recruitment for Siemens (I presume in the UK, but I could be wrong). If you know what Siemens do for engineering you?ll realise this significance (I could research a list but it?d be longer than the article).
So, how close did they let us get to the big toys they use to process this data? From the satellite dishes sending and receiving information to the touch screens in the main control room there?s not much we haven?t seen- and there?s a lot to see. Huge satellite dishes; modulators, amplifiers; data transmission matrices; quaternary phase shift keying encoding; the shear mass of data cabling be it co-axisial, tri-axial (which confusingly has 5 transmission lines- go figure), copper wave-guides (pipes) or optical; and the contrast of digital cutting edge and 1960s irreplaceablity is second to none. This was a VERY technical tour and all the better for it!
We then spent another couple of hours discussing everything from the failure of satellites to data transmission in Wales. It got to seven-thirty in the evening before we thought we should let our hosts go home. I could continue for pages but you really had to be there and there?s another point I?d like to make.
This trip came about by collaboration from Anne Baarup, a volunteer Internship Center Co-ordinator and Peter Chase, a CGCA (engineering alumni) member who works at the BBC. The CGCA has a huge number of members and many of them are more than happy to help students get an idea of an industry, be it through a one day event such as this, a summer internship, focused graduate recruitment or simply a discussion.
Yesterday Dramsoc ran its second backstage tour of the Albert Hall and saw the vast new underground complex created in the last few years' building work, and the extensive modifaction made to the venue by Circue du Soleil and the odd choice of suspending a huge section of the stage from the ceiling. This was arranged by Dramsoc Alumni Etienne Pollard and DramSoc President Martin Chong.