My Education 19 - 21

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Stephen McHugh (00:22):
Hi there, and welcome to episode eight of the Stevens Evolution Podcast. I'm Stephen McHugh, your host. I have Asperger's, a form of autism, and I make fortnightly episodes based on my lived experiences with the condition. In this episode, I'm going to talk about my education from the age of 19 to 21. During this period, I would study what was known as a GNVQ in Advanced Information Technology. This was following on from my A-levels for which I received relatively low grades.

Stephen McHugh (01:08):
During my time of studying A-levels, you could get grades from A to E, which would be classed as passes, and narrow fails as a Grade N followed by a lower grade, which was a U. I had achieved a grade C in AS-level maths, which was half an A-level, but a narrow fail in biology and a U in computer science.

Stephen McHugh (01:37):
This was a two year course where we would acquire knowledge of various computer software packages during word processing sessions, we would be shown how to format documents in various ways, including being shown how to style text in various ways.

Stephen McHugh (02:01): 
For spreadsheets, we would be shown how to do basic calculations and how to set up a spreadsheet to enable more efficient and quick calculations, even when changing one value without it affecting the rest of the spreadsheet itself.

Stephen McHugh (02:19):
For databases, we would be shown how to set up a database, establish relationships between pieces of data, such as relationships between tables. The most interesting part I found when doing databases was setting up queries to retrieve and display certain data based on the criteria one may enter. For programming, as my general understanding improved, I found myself more able to write more in the way of basic programs, including one where one would select two numbers for a particular times table to be displayed.

Stephen McHugh (03:07):
To improve our understanding of the course, we would be set assignments for which we would have to research relevant content for them. We would have to apply knowledge from relevant literature to whatever assignment we were set. We would study the use of computers, data and relevant technologies and their uses in society and the wider world in general.

Stephen McHugh (03:36):
As the course progressed, I found myself writing more commendable essays. This was one sign that my language and ability to understand and apply new knowledge was improving. The course had eight main units. At the end of a unit, there would be a multiple choice test outlining problems for which we would have to apply our knowledge to. I managed to pass seven of these. First time I had to resit a test three times, which was the only minor disappointment of this course.

Stephen McHugh (04:19):
One significant achievement for me from the course which stands out was that I created and wrote a program for math students where it could not only check their answers, but add up their scores as well and display those too. In addition, I was able to explain to maths teachers how math students could use the program itself.

Stephen McHugh (04:49):
One session from the course involved doing group work where we were given different mini automation systems and be asked to try and get them to work. The group that I was in was given a mini-lift. We would have to get the lift working and get it to call to whatever level it was being called to. For me, getting the lift to stop at a particular level to which it was called proved to be the most difficult part of the task. I managed to come up with a solution, and it was simply a matter of getting the motor to stop when the system detected it was at the right floor.

Stephen McHugh (05:37): 
There were other interesting things that I learned from the course. One was creating a display counter which would display the numbers from zero to nine. It was simply a matter of getting various segments to light up. This offered me a wonderful insight into how liquid crystal displays displayed numbers on things like calculators.

Stephen McHugh (06:04): 
The course also helped me to answer one question, how systems can know certain things like how hot certain objects are. I found out that it was all to do with higher temperatures inducing higher voltages, and a certain voltage would correspond to a certain temperature.

Stephen McHugh (06:26): 
Another interesting fact I learned was how robots could sense when they were near something, which was by them having what's called proximity sensors. And when these sensed when the robot was too near something, a signal would be sent to a certain component within the robot, which would get the robot to change direction.

Stephen McHugh (06:51):
One other section of the course I found interesting was the study of binary, which is the combination of ones and zeros. Such combinations of ones and zeros are how data in computers is represented. Numbers in binary are represented using what's known as base two, which go from right to left using powers of two. I decided to delve a little deeper into this and find that logic gates are used here with the number one representing a switch in a non position and the zero representing a switch in the off position. These can be found in logic gates in electronic circuits.

Stephen McHugh (07:42):
The number one in binary is represented by one. The number two is represented by one zero, and the number three is represented by one one. For those of you with knowledge of logic gates and electronics, these will mean something to you. This information also gave me some insight into how calculators get the correct answers to sums.

Stephen McHugh (08:11):
So yes, the course did help me to find some answers to questions that I would ask myself when I was young. Looking back, the A-level that I studied in computer science was difficult in terms of one requiring to have a lot of technical knowledge.

Stephen McHugh (08:32):
However, some knowledge from the computer science course proved useful for the GNVQ Advanced Information Technology course. I was studying, for instance, one term from databases, a primary key. I needed to know this as being a field which uniquely identifies a record in a database along with the binary number system and how numbers are represented in binary. At the end of the GNVQ Advanced Information Technology course, I gained the equivalent of two A levels at grades C, stroke D. This was a clear improvement from the last time I studied A-levels.

Stephen McHugh (09:20):
If you are autistic, I'd be interested to learn about your academic achievements along with any subjects you are good at and others that you found more difficult. In addition, I'd be interested in learning about any underlying improvements in subjects you found more difficult as well.

Stephen McHugh (09:43):
If this episode has resonated with you in some way, why not leave a review or a rating on a platform of your choice? You can do this on Apple, Spotify, Podchaser, or Podcast Addict.

Stephen McHugh (09:57):
And towards the footer of the homepage of my website, You can find a link to a page where you can sign up to receive news of newly released episodes. Goodbye for now and I'll talk to you all again soon. On the next episode, when I shall talk about what prospective employers should be aware of. 

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