June 2020

The warmest of welcomes to your first read of Communitay – a digital round up of the latest news from Abertay's Alumni Network, the University and its wider community.

In the face of adversity and chaos, Abertay University and members of its far-reaching community have achieved some incredible things over the past few months, and without a doubt, this will include you too. Before you read on to explore this new communication and learn about a handful of these good-news stories, we'd like to take this opportunity to express how immensely proud we are of everything that's been and is being achieved by our staff, students, alumni, supporters and friends throughout these difficult times.  

With many stories, events and opportunities to share with you, we recommend pausing for 10 minutes to read Communitay from top to toe. If you're short on time, click the headlines below to help navigate through the round up and choose what you’d like to delve into -


News from the Alumni Network

CONE-cting through play

'How did that cone get there?' A significant question right now for 2018 graduate Matthew Aitchison, Co-Founder and Lead Artist at Dark Room Games. Over the past few months, Matthew and his team have been hard at work conceptualising this question to successfully prototype, create and launch The Cone Game.

This quirky game turns players into a traffic cone with the freedom to tumble around a 3D map of Glasgow in real-time. On decision of the final resting place (encouraged to be a hard to reach spot), cones can leave messages for their fellow cones to read. It does a fantastic job at playing on the city’s unique sense of humour in relation to the orange cone that’s been perched atop the equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington since the 1980’s.

We started the project as a bit of fun really - The thing that surprised us though, was that combining exploration with a mechanic allowing players to leave messages for others to read turned into a kind of 3D chat room or open forum. It's possible to follow how one idea would spark another like a form of emergent gameplay or online socialising/debate.

With fun quirks to get you smiling and exploring the city, Cones Make Glasgow billboards and functional play parks to name just a couple, it’s not hard to see why this game has seen huge success in the short time since its launch with over 10,000 cones being placed in the 3D world.

We mainly focused on Glasgow for the launch and it really took on the city’s personality as you explore the messages left. It’s become almost an artistic time capsule, where little stories developed around the city, some cute, some funny, some controversial, but we got a much bigger turn out than we could have possibly expected.

An incredible achievement for Matthew and Dark Room Games

Kash is king

Founder and face of world renowned travel website Budget Traveller, our 2003 graduate Kash Bhattacharya has recently joined forces with Hostelworld, and Stay the Night marketing agency to help launch #adoptahostel - a global fundraising campaign with the aim of saving an industry financially devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The campaign’s call-to-action is simple and true to its name. Adopt a Hostel encourages anyone with future travel aspirations to buy a virtual gift card now, which can be redeemed at a later date, or simply to donate to a hostel of their choosing – perhaps one which has provided happy memories from times past. Over 200 hostels from around the world have joined the campaign and many more are expected to follow in a move that could help save the sector from collapse.

Having spent the last 10 years visiting and blogging about almost 500 hostels, I can’t imagine the travel industry without them. The inspiration for ‘Adopt a Hostel’ came to us after seeing two independent hostels – The Beehive and 7 Fells - asking their past guests to help them through the crisis by buying a voucher. Known for providing affordable accommodation in prime locations across the world, hostels have made international travel accessible - and possible - for people of all backgrounds.

Whilst the hostel industry isn’t alone in its downturn, it’s one that can’t ‘go-digital’ as a contingency plan and relies solely upon freedom of movement and physical interactions to get back up and running.

A fantastic initiative to be proud of, Kash. 

A timely launch

Earlier this month, 2014 graduate Valentin Hinov bucked the trend of slowing business and launched his highly practical, easy to use, digital startup, Thankbox. offers a way to celebrate team occasions at a distance, providing the perfect online alternative to the paper card that circulates the office in a not-so-subtle brown envelope, more often than not bursting at the seams due to the weight of pound coins. It’s a creative solution to an outdated process, helping teams to celebrate anything from birthdays to successful projects via a digital message board, with the option to convert money collections into digital gift cards – all at the price point of a large paper card.

I actually began working on Thankbox last year but had to put it on hold as I joined another startup in order to help it get off the ground. At the start of March though, everyone (including me) was waking up to what was going to happen with remote work. The idea resurfaced and just blasted my mind with ‘This is the perfect opportunity for Thankbox, you have to do it. Everyone is working from home’.

With the majority of people currently working from home, there’s no question that Thankbox will help contribute to the feeling of connection between colleagues over the coming months. But this startup isn’t just for pandemics. Longer term, it’s the perfect tool for teams that include workers of all shapes and sizes. For the home-based, travellers and part-timers, it’s an obvious win. For those already in the office, it removes the moments of frustration when you have no change to give or pen handy to sign.

I want Thankbox to help teams bring some joy to each other. I want when someone receives a Thankbox with a wall of messages, regardless of the occasion, to get a smile on their face and feel a bit more connected to those that contributed to it. From a practical standpoint, I just want it to be a very easily accessible and modern product for teams to do what they've been doing in a far less efficient and impractical way until now.

The cherry on top of this fantastic startup? Thankbox is pledging to plant a tree for every 10 Thankboxes sold. Kudos, Valentin. Wishing you and the Thankbox team every success!

Delivering a different kind of social impact

Debbi McCulloch, a 2002 graduate, has been very busy the past few months adapting the operations of Spartans Community Football Academy to meet the changing needs of it’s local community during the global pandemic.

Currently the Academy’s Business and Operations Manager, Debbi and her colleagues have been working in collaboration with organisations in the North Edinburgh area to turn their sports facility into a temporary but much needed food distribution hub to support families in the local area.

The Academy has certainly played its part in creating a bridge of support for local families. What we have learnt and what we know is that the delivery of a food item or parcel is not a process. It is not a transaction. Instead, it’s an opportunity to maintain or create relationships with people and it can help us to be and feel connected to others.

Acting as a food distribution hub, the Academy has provided a staggering amount of support to date:

  • 34,005 packed lunches sourced and distributed

  • 1700 ready meals distributed

  • 396 food parcels made and donated to local families

  • 77 arts and crafts, games and play packs donated

Other activities we’ve been doing include, maintaining contact with and supporting the children and young people we work with as part of our Youth Worker in Primary School programme and other Youth Work provisions, an online presence from our Football Development Department and a weekly online Friday ZoomTea to replace our normal Friday FooTEA Club which normally sees 60 young people attend every week here at The Academy.

Even with no football on the agenda, Debbi and the Academy have done an amazing job at staying true to their vision of delivering positive social impact and change through the power of people and sport.

Lowdown from the Campus

Abertay University Archives launch new online access to collections
Abertay University has launched a new online archive and exhibition site, allowing people to explore its 133-year history from the comfort of their own homes.

‘Self-referencing study’ study awarded grant of almost £500,000
Experts at Abertay and Dundee Universities have been awarded almost half-a-million pounds of funding to pursue research into a unique method of teaching children by utilising memory boosting techniques.

Celebrities surprise students of Abertay Sports Awards
The Abertay Student Sport Awards ordinarily brings the curtain down on the sport year, and this year it was held online. To ensure the event remained special, famous faces from the world of sport, media and entertainment announced this year’s winners and recorded personal video messages for students.

Sport welfare resource launched as Covid-19 drives need for player support
Professor of Duty of Care in Sport, David Lavallee launches the University’s new free set of resources to help sports groups meet their safeguarding obligations as he believes that sports organisations must switch their focus to player welfare and support during Covid-19 or risk losing their top performers.

Mindfulness training linked to reduction in football injuries
New research from the University has revealed that football players are less likely to be injured if they practice mindfulness techniques as part of their training regime.

Innovative game designed by students for cystic fibrosis patients tested at Great Ormond Hospital
An innovative new game designed by Abertay students to help children with cystic fibrosis do their breathing exercises is undergoing medical testing at Great Ormond Street Hospital. Konglomerate Games is a company made up of students from Abertay University who recently received £10,000 of funding the Europe-wide Unloc Enterprise challenge sponsored by Verizon.

Abertay receives £25,000 funding boost from Santander Universities to help support students during the coronavirus pandemic
Santander, through Santander Universities, has supported Abertay since 2018 and has donated almost £72,000 to the University in that time. The funding comes alongside a broader set of initiatives introduced by Santander UK in response to the coronavirus outbreak to support communities. If you're interested in learning more about how to contribute towards supporting Abertay, please contact us at

Student develops videogame playable by people with sight-loss
FHear creates an atmosphere of terror through a 360 degree soundscape, as the player uses sound and music to evade a monster, and follow their friend’s voice to safety.


Blogs from staff and students

A close up of a drum kit

BLOG: The day the Sex Pistols played at Abertay

Archivist Ruaraidh Wishart looks back at the time the legendary Sex Pistols visited campus

Find out more

A picture of Eduard Margarit

BLOG: Accepting your needs, problems and resources during COVID-19

President of Abertay Psychology Society Eduard Margarit blogs on mental health during the current pandemic

Find out more

A selfie of Caroline Ford, in a nurses uniform with an Abertay University logo on her right. Caroline is also wearing an NHS Scotland lanyard arount their neck.

BLOG: Working on the mental health front line of Covid-19

Mental Health Nursing student Caroline Ford is working at the State Hospital, Carstairs

Find out more

A photo of India Lyall

STUDENT BLOG: Values and Optimism in the Time of Covid

Mental Health Nursing student India Lyall talks mental health during a pandemic

Find out more

Events and Opportunities

Abertay Digital Graduate Show 2020

No show space? No problem. #ADGS2020 moves online!

Head to this year’s online exhibition pages and check out the creativity and expertise of our graduating students from the School of Design and Informatics; the soon-to-be newest members of the Abertay Alumni Network.

The launch night of the show received huge praise from alumni, supporters and friends of Abertay, with the hashtag #ADGS2020 trending third on Twitter in Scotland. The exhibition remains open until June 15 and the conversation is still flowing. Let us know what you think on social!

@AbertayUni #ADGS2020


A virtual celebration for the Class of 2020

We're going to hold an online celebration for the graduating class of 2020, and we need your help!

We're looking to speak with Alumni who'd be interested in recording a short congratulatory video message for graduates from subject areas related to their profession.

If you'd be interested in taking part, please get in touch at We're determined to make this as memorable a celebration as we possibly can for our 2020 graduates, and we thought some words of wisdom from their soon-to-be Alumni Network would go down a storm.


For the foreseeable future, we’ll be looking to host upcoming events relevant to our Alumni Network and public audiences online. Please bear with us whilst we work behind the scenes to plan and launch these. 

Competitions and Funding 

In future Communitay updates, this section will detail competition and funding opportunities that we know of and that are relevant to members of our Alumni Network. 


So, what do you think of Communitay?

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Whether you're an avid reader of our e-newsletters past or this is your first one, we'd love to hear your thoughts.


Until next time,


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