Generations came together at AlumniWeekend seminar


The Aalto University School of Electrical Engineering's traditional AlumniWeekend attracted a record number of participants.

On a sunny October day in Otaniemi, the lobby of the School of Electrical Engineering at Otakaari 5 was buzzing with talk. Alumni from different decades met and were joined by current electrical engineering students, who described what studies are like in 2015. The building, which has been a School of Electrical Engineering facility since 1969, brought back great memories for many people.

Alumni also expressed their concern about the future prospects for universities.

'Times like this require renewal, and we believe that we are capable of this by means of strong research and cross-boundary collaboration,' said Dean Jyri Hämäläinen during his opening address at the seminar.


Industrial change means a different role for people

Global Technology and Product Manager Simo Säynevirta spoke on behalf of ABB. He reminded participants that the Internet of Things, in which people and things network in an industrial environment, is already here. A new element is the fact that while information is operated from just one place, it can be simultaneously utilised in several different places.

'People play an important role in industrial change. Although services and work are being digitised, we still need people,' explained Säynevirta.

In his presentation, Aalto University Professor of Robotics Ville Kyrki discussed robotics from the industrial perspective and considered why robotics development has progressed farther in the car industry than, for example, in the kitchen.

'This is because the environment perceives the kitchen as a more challenging setting than a road. One of our future challenges involves determining how much a robot can learn.'

Information security is strongly linked to the industrial internet development and device networking, a fact that was emphasised by F-Secure's Cyber Security Advisor Erka Koivunen in his presentation. The School of Electrical Engineering is closely involved in building the Industrial Internet Campus at Otaniemi. 

A message from the European Union

Member of the European Parliament Henna Virkkunen presented a message from the European Union via Skype. An energy union is one of the Commission's spearhead projects. Self-sufficiency and investment in renewable energy sources are important factors as the Commission considers the establishment of an energy union.

'At this time, Europe imports more than half of its energy from outside Europe. Imported energy accounts for more than 50% of the total amount in Finland as well,' said Virkkunen.

The aim of an energy union is to reduce dependency on imports and diversify the use of energy sources. The Union's target for 2030 is to decrease energy consumption by 27%. Energy efficiency, which is also a research topic in the School of Electrical Engineering, will play a big role in reaching this target.

In the European Union, each member state can decide what types of energy it uses as its main source.

'This will continue to be important, because each country has to make primary use of its strengths. For example, in Finland the biggest source of energy is biofuels, while  in Europe as a whole nuclear power is more common. The share of renewable energy is increasing steadily in all member states.

The AlumniWeekend had nearly 200 participants, the majority of which were enthusiastic students. The afternoon segment consisted of four parallel lecture series.

The lecture presentations can be downloaded from the seminar website.