We are team 2 with 2 members – Viivi and me Ola who are both 2nd year Business ICT students at Haaga Helia but following different tracks – Vivii is pursuing the ICT-infrastructure profile in Finnish while I am doing software engineering/ICT infrastructure in English. We only got to know each other since joining this project. Viivi is a great and inspiring team member to work with and she is full of great ideas.
My knowledge on IoT devices at the start of the project was almost zero – I’ve been hearing about them everywhere over the last few years but I’ve thought of them as something very abstract and never had I ever thought of me myself, even in my wildest dream, would be able to build up an IoT device.
About our subproject
The project we picked for this year seminar is building an ESP32 based device with Arduino Dev Environmen tthat has GPS, air pressure and temperature sensor with a display showing current data. The device also has a Wi-Fi connection to a server with PHP files to collect data from the devices and an OpenStreetmap app to show the actual location and data. Viivi’s and my part is the air pressure and temperature sensor BMP280.
Day 1 – 10.04.2023 – pre-Seminar day
We got to Sierre on Easter Monday, I flew first to Milan, Italy then took a train from Milan to Sierre. It was my first time in Italy and Milan left a beautiful first impression on me. It was a beautiful sunny Monday morning when I arrived and the streets were full of people. Things were so lively and bright that at the very first glance it reminded of Vietnam – the crowd, the sun, the traffic. I tried to get a ticket from the train station but the train I intended to take was fully booked so I got the ticket for the next train with a slightly different route. I didn’t have much time to visit around the place before the train departure. Rushing through the way to find my platform, I said to myself I would definitely come back and spend more time to discover the city some day.
The train from Milan went smoothly, I changed to 2 other trains before reaching Sierre in the afternoon. The first thing I noticed there was the mountain. In my eyes, Sierre is a lovely village surrounded by breathtaking mountains with vineyards uphill from place to place. I found my way to the hotel with the support from 2 super kind bus drivers who merely communicated in French and bit of German which I didn’t understand much. Getting quite tired from the long journey, I decided to rest a bit to get ready for the seminar day after.
Day 2 – 11.04.2023 – 1st seminar day, team Switzerland
We walked out of the hotel in the morning to our seminar and for some unknown reason, we got to another campus of HES-SO Valais-Wallis and stucked there for a while before realizing that it was not right place (we learnt later that HES-SO has around 3000 students and 5 (!!!) campuses). The ”wrong” one that we got in was super cool, btw, and just the staircase itself brought me a very ”futuristic” impression.
After trying to reach out to Heikki, we found the way to the seminar place which was super close to our hotel place. The first seminar day was led by the host – Swiss team from HES-SO Valais-Wallis. In the morning we learnt to build up a vehicle which we can control it to move backward forward left right via our phone using Raspberry Pi. We were teamed up with Spanish students from Universidad Europa and led by a Swiss team member from HES-SO Valais-Wallis. I’ve never worked with Raspberry Pi before so it was fun to get to know about it. After this we had a short lunch break where I got the chance to learn about different lunch cultures, in general, or student lunch cultures in particular in different countries – Switzerland, Spain and Finland.
Later in the afternoon, the seminar continued with learning to use Unity to recognize a picture (2D) via the laptop camera and turn it into a 3D object (a cube) in Unity project environment via a step-by-step manual. Also, we got to learn more about the difference between AR (augmented reality), VR (virtual reality) and MR (mixed reality). They also brought back bit of history of Google cardboard virtual reality kit from the early days. It was so much fun to get to know about the technology and get some hands-on experience – playing around with the VR headsets.
In the evening, we had a pizza night at an Italian restaurant nearby our place. Such a great time to relax and get to know more about others. I was sitting with some of the Spanish students and they taught me so much about Spain (the difference between Spanish spoken in different parts of the country, some cool Spanish slangs and also how their study implementation at their university looks like).
Day 3 – 12.04.2023 – 2nd seminar day, team Spain
We found our way to the seminar much smoother now thanks to yesterday’s experience. For the 2nd day of the seminar team Spain presented us Unity and Blender programs which was a great chance to repractice what we had learnt from the previous day and got more advanced with that. Some of our Finnish students have taken 3D printing course at the school and used Blender, however, it was the first time for me to get to know the program. Also, I got to use Visual Studio (violet) for the first time, as of now, I am only familiar with the Visual Studio Code (blue) for my programming courses. Visual Studio is an integrated development environment (IDE) with much more built-in support for various programming languages and remarkably more complex and heavier than Visual Studio Code which is more of a text (code) editor.
Later on, we were divided into 2 groups into 2 separate rooms with dedicated theme – escape room and VR. We first entered the escape room in a group of 4 and our mission was to unlock all the puzzles in the room to get the final key to find the exact location of the bomb and defuse it. I know that I has mentioned a lot of ”first time” in this note, but it’s another first time for me to try out the escape room game and we had so much fun while trying to solve all the puzzles which some of them were very tricky. I was really impressed how the Spanish students combined the tech (we also got to use VR) with just a casual puzzle game. After the escape room, we got to the VR room where we had more fun learning to use the VR headset playing some games to train our vision and body motion.
The day continued with a trip to a hydroelectric power plant located nearby the seminar location. We got to see the plant from inside and learn about the history development of it.
After the trip, we got back to the hotel to do the final preparation before our presentation the day after. Together with other team members, we practiced assemblying the board, re-checked and re-ran the code to make sure everything go smoothly, and did some last-minute adjustment on our presentation.
Day 4 – 13.04. 2023 – 3rd seminar day, team Finland.
Finally the day has come, we first started with Heikki presentation on IoT crashcoursed followed by our group presentation on our project this year. Later on, we got into hands-on practice part and divided into 10 small groups where each of us (team Finland) would team up with other students from Spain and Switzerland to build up the device. I was under a huge stress because my LCD device seemed to get into some issue while installing but to my surprise and luck, we managed to get the device up an running with the help from 2 members of my team – Gwen from Switzerland had her hands on code debugging and Celia from Spain did check all the wiring before Heikki popped in and found out the root cause lied in the ESP32. We replaced it with a spare one and voila, it worked like a charm just before we started the ”Easter egg” hunting event. Our mission was to find Heikki’s secret location using the box and its GPS navigation.
Working in a team with Gwen and Celia really did open up my eyes of how team working and learning could be so much fun. As mentioned, I was under a huge stress when the things didn’t go well as expected and when I was supposed to know the best and lead/teach the others. That day I learnt that the end result (getting the device up and running) was really important and so were the challenges we encountered halfway. Handling these challenges was an inevitable part of the learning journey and it actually made the whole experience much more memorable and meaningful for further development. Apart from that, I learnt that when working in a team it is not about being the best among all team members, it’s about being together and working together to troubleshoot the issues and moving forward with that.
Day 5 – 14.04.2023 – 4th seminar day – closing
We started the day with some presentation of previous years seminars alumni. It was interesting to see how far and how ”real” people who participated in the earlier seminars got from there. They were showing a lot of practical and interesting projects they were working on and sharing tons of tips and tricks which were super helpful and inspiring for all of us. Heikki also shared a bit of history how the idea of forming an international seminar was coined and how it looked like throughout the years. In that very moment, I was super proud with the thought that us being there would be also a part of the seminar history which I believe would last and develop for many many more years.
I had to leave earlier to catch my train to Geneve and hence couldn’t participate in the latter events (networking). Such a pity!
Thoughts after the Seminar
In short, I would say – If you have a chance to participate in any kind of project like this, don’t hesitate to join, learn and most importantly, have fun from learning. I had doubts at the beginning as I had almost no experience when it came to IoT but I did learn a lot throughout the few weeks preparation for the trip and later on at the seminar. I was super happy that I was a part of the team and part of the history of (another) successful seminar edition. Also, I was so grateful for being a student at Haaga-Helia and for the great amount of opportunities and co-operations with schools and business partners which Haagaelia offers.