Month: September 2016
Big Data holds no secrets for Erwan Le Covec (ESME Sudria Class of 2016). One of the school’s recent Symposium Prize winners for a project based on data processing, this Big Data and Digital Intelligence student remained in his chosen field by taking his end-of-studies internship at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). A few days after completing his internship, he reflects on his fascination for this rapidly growing field.
Why did you want to attend ESME Sudria?
At first, I chose the school for its Energy major. I was extremely interested in the major, and knew ESME Sudria had an outstanding reputation in this domain. As I made my way through the curriculum, however, I realized that the major was not for me. Instead, I decided to try out another area that I enjoyed, namely information technology. I therefore switched to the Big Data and Digital Intelligence major.
What makes IT so interesting?
I’ve always liked it, maybe because it’s a field where you really have to dig in and “get your hands dirty.” With code, you can create something interesting from nothing. That definitely has its allure. Finally, IT is the gateway to new technologies: there are always new things to see, learn, and discover.
You took an internship at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). How did you find it?
It all started with my 5th year project, which I completed in partnership with HPE. It was about WADA, a project that analyzed weather and health insurance data. Because this project went so well, the company asked my colleague Anthony Ginoux and me if we’d like to do our internships with them, in the same field and still using HPE tools, but on another subject.
What was the subject?
It involved a study of the world’s refugees. In the earliest stages of the project, our mission was to create a demo with HPE’s Big Data tools. As we were pretty much free to choose the subject for this demo, Anthony and I gathered quite a bit of open data to see what might make for an interesting topic. That’s how we stumbled upon the data on refugee streams. Once we realized a lot of relevant data could be tied together, we were off and running.
What kind of data did you gather?
Well, there was the data on the refugee streams, as well as data on wars and on natural and industrial disasters throughout the world. We also gathered data on religions and development indicators such as a country’s GDP and birth and mortality rates.
How does one get hold of open data?
Simply by combing through open data sites like those of universities or international organizations. Incidentally, we found the refugee stream data on the United Nations website, which has quite a few records.
Big Data not only makes it possible to analyze correlations between more factors, but also to use logic to make predictions. Were you able to make any predictions?
That’s exactly what we tried to accomplish: predict refugee streams in the future. By using a variety of algorithms, we succeeded in coming up with something rather compelling. In our final application, called Refugees Flow, you can choose a country on a map and see the number of wars and disasters that are estimated to occur between 2015 and 2030. Consequently, an estimation is provided of the number of refugees who will flee the country during any given period.
Does the application cover the entire world or just a few specific geographic areas?
Since data was lacking for certain countries, our predictions are only based on half of the world’s countries.
Will this application be made available to the public?
In theory, only HPE can use it. That said, the company will release some non-modifiable graphical visualizations of the results.
What are your plans now that you have finished your internship?
HPE offered to keep me on, but I decided to look elsewhere as their offer didn’t quite match what I was looking for. During the internship, my work was extremely close to that of a data scientist: this is the direction I saw myself taking. I therefore simultaneously began to look for opportunities to work abroad as part of a VIE (International Volunteer Mission in a Company). I found one in Brussels and applied: it’s a one-year VIE (with the possibility of renewal) as a Junior Data Scientist at Keyrus Biopharma, a consulting firm in the pharmaceutical industry. Keyrus Biopharma has accepted my application, so now I am just waiting for approval from Business France, the organization in charge of VIEs, before going.
The data scientist profession is what you might call a “new profession.” What do you like about it?
The domain of Big Data is constantly evolving: there are always new products, new technologies, etc. It requires the continuous search for and testing of new methodologies. I am especially drawn to the “exploratory” side of the profession: data needs to be explored continually if you wish to reach worthwhile conclusions. You feel just like an explorer of modern times.
Why did you decide to go abroad?
Because I also love exploring the world! I get a thrill from discovering new cultures so really felt the urge to go abroad. Admittedly, Brussels is not much different from France. But one day I hope to work in Singapore or Hong Kong, two cities which are known to have a large number of data scientists. After a year or two in Brussels, I’ll have the necessary experience to apply for jobs in these cities.
Open to all ESME Sudria students as well as students from IONIS Group schools (subject to availability), the first workshop of the 2016-2017 school year by e-Smart Lab Paris-Montparnasse will focus on graphical programming. Scheduled for Thursday, October 16 at 3 pm in the presence of 3rd year students of the Introduction to Digital Arts Minor, the workshop will allow participants to become familiar with graphical programming by , a free and open source programming environment.
e-Smart Lab Paris-Montparnasse presents its WRKSHP#1: Introduction to graphical programming via Processing
Thursday, October 20, 2016 at 3 pm
ESME Sudria Campus Paris Ouest
40 rue du Docteur Roux
From July 8 to August 19, twelve ESME Sudria students from the developmental aid association “IDÉES Madagascar” headed down to the island of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean to conduct a number of humanitarian missions which called upon their engineering spirits. Jean-Baptise Varlet (ESME Sudria Class of 2017), President of the association, has been improving the everyday lives of Malagasy locals since his very first mission in 1996. Let’s take a look back at this memorable 2016 adventure.
Did the IDÉES Madagascar projects go off as planned this year?
Absolutely! Everything went extremely well and we were able to complete all our projects on time. Once on-site, we needed three weeks to create a 1,150-foot drinking water supply network (from the Andohatraka village source) and five weeks to finalize the completion of the Alakamisy-Ambohimaha village school extension. We finished the school project the night before flying back to France! In addition to these two projects, we completed two other small missions (painting the school built last year and repairing a water supply network) and one more large mission while there: the creation of a computer club in Alakamisy-Ambohimaha, a project that took around a month to complete.
The computer club wasn’t part of the original plan, was it?
It’s true the project wasn’t on the initial agenda drawn up at the beginning of the year. But at the end of the day, the association was able to raise a lot more money than expected: we went from having 30,000 euros – or the ideal budget for carrying out the two main projects – to 67,000 euros! We owe this surge to a crowdfunding campaign we launched, and especially to the pair of 22,000 euro donations made by the PartnerRe corporation. PartnerRe financed 75% of our mission, and for that we are extremely grateful!
It seemed like we were “playing it safe” by not taking advantage of the situation to add another mission. The donations came at just right time, for we had recently received a request to set up the computer club along with an outline of its plans and a provisional budget. To build it, we had to call upon help of local workers, whereas we usually work with masons from the capital of Tananarive who travel with us to the sites. Even if this particular site progressed more slowly than usual, everything ran smoothly and we were able to complete the project on time.
What does the computer club look like?
Actually, the club already existed, but the building was pretty much left to rot. The equipment was extremely outdated, and pigs and chickens were roaming around the computers… We decided to provide the club with a proper structure, as well as some new equipment: if I remember right, we brought in about a dozen PCs and laptops, some Ethernet hubs, cables, a box for Internet access, etc. Once on-site, we were able to count on the help and support of the club’s director, who is also a member of our association and who has been working with us for four years now. The director gives computer and software lessons (Word, Excel, etc.) to the local youth with the help of students from the University of Fianarantsoa, a large city located around 12 miles from the village. We hope our efforts will allow the town and the communities around it to continue to develop, and that the children of the region, more and more of whom are attending school, will be able to continue their studies all the way through college.
Incidentally, the room upstairs from the computer club is now the headquarters of the NGO IDÉES Madagascar! After more than ten years of paperwork and administrative struggles, we finally obtained a document called a “headquarters agreement,” which provides us with an NGO status in Madagascar. In France, however, we are still an association so our status will not change.
How will your new status help the organization?
It provides for certain “privileges,” but comes with a number of responsibilities vis-à-vis the Malagasy State in return. Basically, the two main advantages are that we no longer have to pay for visas – we go from having tourist visas to courtesy visas – and we are now exempt from customs fees when we have equipment imported into the country. On the other hand, we are required to adapt our plans to the development plans of the village, as well as employ local workers for all work performed on site – which is something we already do.
Nearly every year, IDÉES Madagascar provides a village with access to drinking water. How does your team feel at the end of the construction when it sees the first drops of water flowing from the faucet?
This year, I wasn’t able to take part in the ceremony because I was too busy with other sites and the purchasing of equipment. But I was there in 2015 to celebrate the creation of the water supply in the village of Ambohibory – by the way, I must confess I didn’t wait until the entire network was finished before turning the valves, as we were all too excited to see just how much our hard work had paid off! Whenever we first begin working on a site, whether it be 1,000 or more than 3,000 feet long, we always ask ourselves how the water is actually going to make it to the village. When the water flows for the first time, the entire village jumps for joy with us. It’s an incredible feeling, and a real moment of bonding with the workers from the village. It’s also when we feel a sense of personal euphoria for having pushed ourselves to the limit to get the job done.
What exactly did the extension of the Alakamisy-Ambohimaha village school entail?
The school was already in place. Although it consisted of three buildings, its classrooms were overflowing, with up to 80 students in one class at the same time. It was therefore necessary to build a new building with three classrooms. Our goal was to improve the school’s learning conditions – and we succeeded. The building, however, is not entirely finished: next year we have to do the painting. This is the already the fourth school we have built, and in general we take time out of the following year’s mission to complete the painting and add the finishing touches. For now, the school is already functional. But next year it will be prettier! We also bought benches, desks, and chairs for the students and teachers so they can return to school in the best possible conditions.
Check out IDÉES Madagascar on its website, Facebook, and Twitter.