When friends become teammates

Do you believe in coincidence?

Well, I am not a huge believer in coincidence. But it so happened that the group that sits at the table in the far right corner of the class everyday was paired up for the oral presentation deliverable of ENGL 119. Prof. Humphreys aptly suggested us to cut the introductions for the first team meeting and go for drinks at the Bomber!

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Our topic was about whether algorithms control us or free us. As someone that loves computer science, I think of algorithms as a boon to humanity. However, after the first team meeting I realized how algorithms rule our day to day lives.

Cut One

I expressed my interest to my teammates to do a good chunk of introduction and take it from there. In particular, I had these goals for my part of the presentation

  1. Pour enthusiasm in the room by using the entire classroom as a stage
  2. Get the audience excited about algorithms!

I thought of binary search (link) to be a good example to show the audience that an algorithm is not rocket science! Binary search is an efficient algorithm to find an item in a sorted collection. In fact, you use binary search every time you look up a word in the dictionary!

But I was not happy with my performance. I thought I overshot my time limit in the practice presentation. As the speaker introducing the topic, the onus is on me to set the tone for the rest of the presentation. Going over my time limit is not acceptable. I also thought that I was unable to capture the audience’s attention.

Cut Two

It’s nice of Prof Humphreys to give us a second chance. Our group decided to cut down content to be under the limit. I decided to keep the parts I thought I did well in. I removed the binary search example in favour of an incident that illustrates how algorithms control us.

Our team did several mock presentations before the D-Day. This helped us with the timing and our presentation was under the 20-minute mark. However it was not without its fair share of nail biting moments. I remember sweating bullets as we practiced on the day before our final presentation.

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Each team had to critique the performance of other teams by partaking in the peer review process. This involved filling out a questionnaire to point out the pluses and minuses of each presentation. Prof. Humphreys incentivized the peer review process by allocating participation marks. It’s not like we needed an incentive. All the presentations were engaging and informative!

In particular, I really liked the presentation on how math is involved in different areas of professional sports. One of my favourite sports is baseball. If you are a baseball fan like me, you would know that baseball commentators live to breathe statistics. Sometimes I feel like the field of statistics was invented for the sole purpose of being used in baseball commentary.

Are you butterfingered in the ballpark today? Well, you have just committed an “error”. In fact this was your third error in the month of June and the fifth error ever since you came back from the disabled list. Wondering what a disabled list is? Well, it’s just a “baseball term” for injury. My god! Do they ever get tired of stats?

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Overall I think the entire class did a great job!

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