Campus and Community

JEEC Connect: a challenging and interactive online edition

About a year ago everything was ready for the 2020 edition of JEEC 20 – Electrical and Computer Engineering seminar series. For the first time, the event should take place in an outdoor tent, at Alameda campus. “To make this possible, we had to review marketing strategies, logistic management and prices, so that we could bear the costs. The week before the event we were really happy, because our work was a tremendous success”, recalls Ricardo Espadinha, coordinator of JEEC 20. The pandemic and the lockdown forced the Electrical and Computer Engineering student group (NEECIST) to deal with some difficult situations. The student group turned adversity into opportunity and presents an attractive and challeging online edition this year.

The coordinators of last year’s edition, Ricardo Espadinha and Isabel Castelo, have kept their positions for this special edition. They called it “JEEC Connect” because although students are at home, JEEC organisation wants them “to feel together for an entire week fighting for their future in an interactive and challenging way”. An app was created in order to provide a unique experience.

“One of our main goals when we were designing the app was to replicate as much as possible the interaction between groups of friends and companies”, highlights Isabel Castelo. “Instead of focusing on the individual progress of each participant, we have found mechanisms to encourage students to participate in groups, through a daily parallel competition in squads”, she adds.

The app is the main new element of this edition, making all the difference in the transition to the online format. However, this is not the single factor that makes JEEC attractive and lively. Over the past few years, the JEEC team has been able to bring together speakers of great importance, and this year was no exception: Samuel Ngahane, Staff Machine Learning Software Engineer at Spotify, Anne Aaron, Director of Encoding Technologies at Netflix, Elena Kolevska, Senior Technical Enablement Architect at Redis Labs, Fabio Petroni, Research Engineer at Facebook, Nelson Ferreira, Industry 4.0 Team Coordinator at Bosch Portugal, and Hannah Gamiel, Development Director at Cyan.

From New York, Samuel Ngahane explained how Spotify has been using Machine Learning (ML) to increasingly personalise the user experience. The speaker conducted a very engaging lecture that lasted 1h45. He explained why Spotify is the most popular audio streaming subscription service in the world and showed some of the tools behind this success. “We are trying to connect millions of creative artists to billions of fans through their art,” he said.

Samuel Ngahane also explained how 345 million monthly active users produce data that allow the creation of services such as Spotify’s Discover Weekly, the personalised weekly playlist based on the listening habits and tastes of each user. As the speaker explained, this unique recommendation model is created from the combination of collaborative filtering and Natural Language Processing (NPL).

“The next time you find a good song through Spotify’s music recommendation, think of these thousands of people who have played this song before, or who have created a playlist for you. And imagine which of your favourite songs could also have played next. It works surprisingly well”, he said, confessing that he himself was skeptical of a machine’s ability to understand his refined taste in music until he used Spotify. “And to be honest, Discover Weekly is one of the reasons why I came to work for Spotify, because I thought: I want to see the magic that makes it so good and work on it”, he shared.

About 1000 students have already installed the JEEC Web App

Besides lectures, JEEC also includes panel discussions, workshops, matchmaking sessions, Doc Talks and many awards.

In the first 3 days of the event, about 1000 students installed the app and 200 students were connected simultaneously in the activities. “This shows the importance of JEEC and the massive participation of students, which exceeded our expectations”, says Isabel Castelo. “We have created the squads to take full advantage of the online format. However, we didn’t forget to reward the individual student performance with JEEC’s merchandise, which will be delivered in a safe and orderly manner as soon as possible”, she adds.

Ricardo Espadinha says “the number of attendees has far exceeded our expectations and we have managed to make this edition more accessible, interesting and captivating for students”.

50 companies attended this year’s edition: Worten, Deloitte, KPMG, Teleperformance, Link Consulting, Premium Minds, and EDP, among many others. “This has all been possible thanks to the 35 companies that stayed with us after the cancellation of JEEC | 20, and trusted us to carry out the JEEC | 21”, highlights the JEEC team.

“I believe that JEEC has everything to stand out from the other technological events at national level: top business keynote speakers, team organisation, student app”, says Isabel Castelo. However, the Técnico student highlights “our main objective is, and always will be, to organise an event that is useful and interesting for Electrical and Computer Engineering MSc students at Técnico, which includes lectures, panels, networking moments and opportunities for the future”.