September 2020

Welcome to September's edition of Communitay. 


Did you hear?

Abertay has been named UK University of the Year for Teaching Quality by The Times & Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021, in addition to being ranked top in Scotland for social inclusion. It’s an incredible accolade achieved by the consistent hard work our passionate community of academics, support staff and leadership put into our institution. We're extremely proud to say the least.

Good vibes have been echoing throughout our wider community too over the past couple of months. Take a look at what some of our alumni, students and staff have been getting up to.


News from the Alumni Network

Down the Tunnel

'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 ranked top 3 in Scotland for student satisfaction
Abertay University has been ranked as one of the top three universities in Scotland for overall student satisfaction in this year’s National Student Survey, with more than 89% of students responding positively about their experience.

E-cigarette liquid breakthrough set to reduce toxic health impact
Scientists at Abertay University have developed an e-cigarette liquid with the potential to significantly reduce one of the most toxic groups of harmful vaping emissions. The research project created a new liquid formulation that reduced health-damaging carbonyls in the inhaled vapour by between 72% and 100%.

International Project to explore using VR, apps and videogames to tackle loneliness
Abertay University has been awarded £276,000 as part of a ground-breaking international project aimed at using new technologies such as virtual reality, apps and videogames to tackle loneliness and social isolation. From Isolation to Inclusion (i2i) involves multiple partners from across Europe’s North Sea Region including Norway’s University of Agder, which is leading the project, along with institutes in Germany, Belgium, Sweden and Denmark.

Student film project enjoys international award success
A student film project that premiered at the 2020 online Abertay Digital Graduate Show has enjoyed award success at two international film festivals. Left Behind, directed by recent Abertay graduate Carla Begg, has been named Best Student Short at the Vancouver-based Bridge Film Festival, and Best Silent Short Film at the Istanbul Film Awards.

Sports science testing for Carnoustie Golf Links youth project
Abertay University and Carnoustie Golf Links launched a Golf Collaboration Project which set out to test the effects of golf on young people.

Abertay receives share of £100,000 grant from StoryFutures Academy
Abertay University is one of seven universities to receive a share of a £100,000 grant, awarded by StoryFutures Academy, the UK’s National Centre for Immersive Storytelling. The money will be used to develop a project from the university’s world-renowned School of Design and Informatics, looking at the practical application of virtual production techniques in education for the film and entertainment Industries.

InGAME announces new videogames research and development projects
The Dundee-based Innovation for Games and Media Enterprise (InGAME) has announced the next wave of funded R&D collaborations aimed at increasing the scale and value of the Dundee videogames cluster. A total of six projects were approved by a panel of games industry and regional development experts.

Unique videogame aims to improve speech therapy for elderly
An award winning games developer from Abertay University has designed a unique videogame aimed at improving speech therapy for the elderly. Computer Game Applications Development student Jamie Bankhead has already enjoyed success with the company Konglomerate Games, which has created a ground-breaking videogame to help children with Cystic Fibrosis do breathing exercises.

Playscape for V&A Dundee as designers respond to pandemic
The area outside V&A Dundee has been transformed into a giant interactive painted playground, as part of a collaboration with Abertay University. The colourful chalk playscape aims to show the importance of playing together, even when you can’t be physically close. Created by Abertay lecturers Dr Lynn Love and Dr Mona Bozdog, the installation is designed to allow visitors to interact and play games with one another while maintaining 2-metre social distancing.

Blogs from staff and students

Hospital environment - patient lying in bed and 4 Nursing staff standing around the bed

BLOG: Abertay and nursing

Archivist Ruaraidh Wishart looks back at Abertay's impact in the world of nursing

Find out more

A photo of Annie Keir Lamont from 1905

BLOG: Annie Keir Lamont and Emergence

Archivist Ruaraidh Wishart blogs about influential alum Annie Keir Lamont

Find out more

BLOG: International Women in Engineering Day 2020

Dr Rebecca Wade blogs on work to get more women into engineering

Find out more

Events and Opportunities

Mentor one of our fantastic students

If you're interested in becoming a virtual mentor to one of our students, we'd love to hear from you!

The Abertay Career Mentoring Scheme aims to support and inspire students to develop their employability. Students are matched with professionals in industry who, through a mentoring relationship, will share their knowledge and experience to enable students to develop their own career goals.

Here's what some of our previous mentors had to say...

"...creates the perfect opportunity to help someone at the start of their career… the free exchange of ideas has been a positive experience… the Mentoring Scheme has a clear objective, which helps focus clearly on the task…"

This opportunity is open to all. If you interested in taking part or learning more, please do get in touchClosing date for enquiries is the 21st September.

Early Career Support

Abertay's Career Team have created some incredibly useful resources to help support early career decisions and progression bespoke to today's uncertain job market. These are aimed at our newest graduates, but may also come in handy for those who've graduated within the last 3 years. 

If you'd like to opt-in to receiving updates on these resources, please update your communication preferences and we'll send these directly to your inbox. Alternatively, you can head to 

A call-out to our Psychology Alumni

MPfof Show 2020

Friday 18th September, 1pm (BST) / 8pm (CST)


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. 


We're always in the market for feedback, so do share your thoughts on Communitay...we'd love to hear them.

Until next time,


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