The hackathon school to invent the artificial intelligence professions of tomorrow

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is everywhere and the professions that revolve around it are being built today. In addition to their academic training, students can gain in maturity and technicality by participating in hackathons, these programming competitions that schools, but also companies and administrations, have taken up. Mathïs Fédérico, one of the winners of the first challenge of Huawei’s “Tech Arena” hackathon program, explains to Futura what these competitions bring and how they have allowed him to imagine what the AIs of tomorrow will be like.

Artificial Intelligence is all the rage. From industrial robots to toothbrushes, via the search engine of the slightest online service, AI is intruding everywhere. Its success is such that schools are struggling to train qualified professionals at the pace imposed by market needs.

First concerned by this shortage, companies are multiplying initiatives to get closer to the academic world and also contribute to the emergence of these new sectors. Among the tools at their disposal, hackathons play a central role, in particular by allowing students to apply their theoretical knowledge to concrete industrial problems. Thanks to these competitions, it is possible to become seasoned in a few days, or weeks, with different techniques in a human and collective way.

Mathïs Fédérico, who is in the process of creating his company which he baptized Bycelium, knows something about it. In parallel with his last year at École CentraleSupélec – Université Paris-Saclay, this student took part from the start of his course in competitions organized by Huawei under the “Tech Arena” banner. Competitions which, for him, have nothing to do with the others, since the company goes further by asking the candidates real problems imagined by its R&D teams, without chewing the work, and with identical computing power. for everyone.

While he was in the first year of CentraleSupélec, the student had registered as a competitor without a team. He found himself at the foot of the podium in fourth place, which motivated him to re-enter the following year. This time, he tried the experience as a team. A real adventure for the student. He was able to discover, thanks to this competition, that he imposed too much pressure on himself within a group of people to be truly successful. The team finished sixth, which is still a great position. It’s finally the third time that will be the good one.

Video presentation of the Huawei Tech Arena challenge. © YouTube

The hackathon, a plus to get to know each other better under pressure

Having become aware of these difficulties, he wanted to participate once again as a solitary candidate in one of the challenges imagined by Huawei. By managing the pressure on his own and by not falling into over-interpretation biases when faced with the problem posed, he propelled himself to the top step of the podium.

The problem posed was complex to solve. The aim was to create a preventive maintenance algorithm capable of predicting breakdowns in a city’s fiber network, starting almost from scratch. Mathïs believes that he learned as much during these ten ultra-intensive days in total immersion as during his training courses. Not so much on the technique, but on the human level and how to find original solutions to solve a concrete problem.

For him, this hackathon gave him most of the skills that allow him today to calmly approach the construction of his business. The objective of this one is to help companies and laboratories to save time and produce better quality publications thanks to AI adapted to the transfer of knowledge from one learning model to another.

A ten-day intensive course

For Mathïs, these hackathons are a real school for learning more about yourself and imagining new paths, sometimes more obvious than the marked path you thought you were following. A flexibility of mind that Mathïs sums up in one sentence: ” In the end, I found a rather simple solution after testing and searching lots of much more complicated alternatives. “. Before embarking on the creation of his company, the student did a six-month internship in the Huawei research center in Paris. He had the opportunity to work on reinforcement learning of an AI to minimize the energy consumption of smartphones. A real subject with which we make an AI learn through experience. It is this type of project that led him to create his company.

Today, with his studies and the achievements of his hackathons, Mathïs is convinced that, if the professions around AI are the present and the future, the Holy Grail for future professionals would be to combine the three types of historical AI, namely those based on symbolism, machine learning and automation. This will be the only way for an AI to do things like a human, but you still have to learn to use all these areas of AI.

Article produced in partnership with Huawei teams.

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The hackathon school to invent the artificial intelligence professions of tomorrow

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