Become a game changer – Crash courses

Students from Aalto University’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Automation met during a project that involved designing a self-driving vehicle. By the end of the course, they found that sometimes the best lessons don’t happen in the classroom, but you learn more from each other.

Ville Kukkonen, Amin Modabberian, Pietu-Pekka Roisko, Pyry Viita-aho and Ilmari Vikström first met in January 2017 during a university course. Their task was the further development of a teaching and research platform for autonomous vehicles. “It was a really interesting project, we were lucky to get it. This is a very exciting field, with self-driving cars and everything”, says Ilmari. 

Another team had begun developing the platform prior to them, and figuring out the complex system was no easy feat. In the beginning, it was quite a challenge for the students to understand what needed to be done and how long it would take. Ilmari reflects: “I think those types of challenges are quite normal for larger projects. It really forces you to come together and get on the same page. You need to absorb a lot of information in a short time and then start steering the project towards the goal.” 

The group pulled together in no time at all. Everybody was very involved, which didn’t mean there were no hiccups. Ville expands: “We weren’t afraid of crashing the vehicle and having it go up in flames, it was more this worry that we would flip the switch and it simply wouldn’t work.” 

Sure enough, different elements of the code didn’t add up and by the midway point the project was headed towards disaster. To solve it, it wasn’t enough for one member to grind endlessly alone. “I think we solved the hardest problems when all five of us were together, looking at the code”, says Ilmari. “The best moments are when something that didn’t work before starts to work, when you bring the pieces together”, adds Ville. 

Attending Aalto University was an easy choice for each student. Ville had played around with software since he was a child, and studies in automation and systems technology felt like a natural way forward. Ilmari didn’t have a clear idea of which faculty or major to choose. Automation and Electrical engineering drew his attention when examining the study offering online. “It felt so interesting, I almost fell in love with it”, he laughs. 

Now the students are crafting things that don’t really even exist yet. They are busy designing technology that might help our daily lives in the future, shedding a new light on the world and potentially changing history. Their own future is looking bright, too. “Our employment rate is quite high. All my friends from here are working in a field related to their studies”, says Ilmari. “I think if you come to study information technology here, you will have many different possibilities in work life”, continues Ville. 

Whatever the students end up doing, they are already sure of one thing. They find it important that work itself is interesting, but the environment has to be challenging as well. “I personally value some level of autonomy in what you do and how you do things at work. That the employer lets you set your own goals”, Ville explains. “The work environment is quite important. I want to work in a place that feels like our project did, where people are driven — where we are all having fun solving problems and building something new”, Ilmari sums up.

Become a game changer. Find your own bachelor's programme (in Finnish) and apply to Aalto University 14 – 28 March 2018.