50 years of democracy: thinking the future!

What do we want the next 50 years of democracy to be like? What are the new challenges in a changing Europe? Will it be a different democracy from the one we have today?

These were some of the questions that journalist Eduarda Maio raised for discussion on “Consulta Pública”, Antena 1 programme, in its 15th episode on 2024, recorded on 24 April.

Henrique Lopes Cardoso, a lecturer at DEI and member of LIACC, was on the panel with Catarina Neves (Nova School of Business and Economics), José Neves (NOVA FCSH), Paulo Machado (Instituto Superior de Ciências Policiais e Segurança Interna) and João Cerejeira (School of Economics and Management, Universidade do Minho), and looked at the role of new technologies in general, and Artificial Intelligence in particular, as an enabler of democracy, leaving a positive message about the wealth of relevant applications in today’s society, although did point out that there are real concerns about the manipulation of technology and disinformation, something that in his opinion should be fighted with a growing commitment to digital literacy in all generations.

For 1h43m the five guests “thought the future of democracy”, exchanging opinions and arguments and bringing different opinions and perspectives on the subject to the discussion.

The episode can be listened in full here.

“Florensics” team wins TecStorm 2024

The awards ceremony of the 8th edition of TecStorm took place over the weekend of April 21-22, at the Champalimaud Foundation, where it honoured four projects by university students in the categories of Improving Lives through Connectivity, Energy Solutions for a Low Carbon Future, Health 4.0 and Data-Driven Sustainable Mobility Solutions.

Florensics, a team composed of Eunice Amorim, Francisco Pires and Lucas Santos, final year students of the Master in Informatics and Computing Engineering (M.EIC), was one of the winners of this edition, in the Improving Lives through Connectivity category, with a cash prize of 2,500 euros, sponsored by Vodafone.

The winning project is characterised by an innovative system based on IoT (Internet of Things), which consists of a network of devices (equipped with flame and carbon monoxide sensors, among others), strategically distributed throughout a forest area to collect data to prevent and fight fires more efficiently and earlier.

When asked about the experience, the team shares that TecStorm provided them with a unique experience that allowed to validate and present an idea with the potential to contribute to fire prevention, something especially relevant to our country. For 24 hours “we had the opportunity to put not only our engineering skills to the test, but also our teamwork, presentation, prototyping, planning and time management skills. We’re proud that our work has been recognised, and we’d like to thank all the organisers and participants who made this event a reality”, shares Lucas Santos.

TecStorm is the country’s largest technology competition, which encourages young entrepreneurship and the launch of innovative ideas capable of generating an impact on society.

It was created by JUNITEC, the junior company of the Instituto Superior Técnico, and stands out for being the oldest junior company in Portugal. Its core business is technological consultancy, where its mission is to realise projects with innovative technologies that have a high impact on society and bridge the gap between the student community and the business community.

Photo by JUNITEC

NIAEFEUP at Shift APPens 2024

Last weekend, the C. F. União de Coimbra Pavilion welcomed the 250 participants of Shift APPens, a 48-hour hackathon organised by Núcleo de Estudantes de Informática da Associação Académica de Coimbra and jeKnowledge, FCTUC’s Junior Enterprise.

In this 10th edition, the team made up of João Torre Pereira and Diogo Fernandes (L.EIC 3rd year) and Linda Albuquerque and Rafael Fernandes (Master’s in Design and Multimedia at FCTUC), won the 2nd place with the project BookShifter – Shift your head in the right direction, a mobile application that avoids tilting the head when exploring books in a bookshop/library. The mobile phone camera is used to read the books on the shelf and to get all the information about them without having to open them.

The pitch presented to the jury and the demo can be seen here.

Luis Duarte (L.EIC 3rd year) and Rubem Neto (L.EIC 2nd year) were also awarded prizes in challenges organised by the companies GoodBarber and RedLight, respectively. All L.EIC students mentioned are members of NIAEFEUP, Núcleo de Informática da Associação de Estudantes da FEUP.

As well as being a programming and entrepreneurship competition, where teams of up to four elements develop a project in the field of technology over 48 hours, Shift APPens is also the stage for talks, workshops, mentoring, contact with companies, personalised challenges, prizes, games, socialising and, of course, lots of fun.

Creativity Talks | “ ‘Design thinking’ and its relationship to other disciplinary approaches” by Prof. Nathan Crilly

Efforts to promote creativity often centre on encouraging people to engage in ‘design thinking’. Although this term has many different meanings, many of these meanings centre on the idea that even non-designers should behave more like designers. That is, people should treat whatever they are influencing as though it is something they are designing, whether that is a service, an organisation, some legislation, a piece of policy or anything else. The application of design thinking to these projects might include (amongst other things) an emphasis on developing an understanding for users, visualising ideas and iteratively testing prototype solutions. Although design thinking is often considered in isolation, it can easily be connected to approaches such as ‘systems thinking’ and ‘entrepreneurial thinking,’ which are also relevant to how problems are identified, framed and solved.

In this talk, Prof. Nathan Crilly will consider how these different approaches are related to each other, and how they are related to other similar approaches from other disciplines that might support us in undertaking creative work.

‘Design thinking’ and its relationship to other disciplinary approaches” will be presented April 23, at 6pm,  at the CTalks YouTube channel, moderated by Prof. António Lucas Soares (DEI).

All the information about the talk can be seen at the Creativity Talks webpage.

Nathan Crilly is Professor of Design at the University of Cambridge, where he researches human behaviour as it relates to design. This includes studying the behaviour of the people doing design work (e.g. designers’ creativity), and the experiences of those people who interact with design outcomes (e.g. users’ experiences). Nathan teaches design, creativity and communication at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. He also teaches design thinking at the executive level, promoting innovation across a broad range of business sectors. Nathan plans, manages and conducts commercial research to deliver user insights for design projects focused on various markets, including consumer health, digital devices and sporting equipment.”

Doctoral awards in the Conferement Ceremony 2024

The José Marques dos Santos Auditorium (FEUP Auditorium) will host another “Conferment Ceremony – Doctoral Awards & Career Award” on April 19 at 5pm, which will award the most honourable distinction to those who completed their PhD and defended their thesis in the 2022/2023 academic year.

The Prof. Doutor Joaquim Sarmento and Fundação Eng.º António de Almeida institutional awards will also be presented, as well as the Career Award 2023, which will be given to João Oliveira Cortez, Director of CELOPLAS. There will also be a place to honour doctoral graduates whose degrees have now completed 25 or 50 years, including Prof. João Carlos Pascoal Faria and Prof. José Manuel de Magalhães Cruz, from DEI, who are celebrating 25 years since graduating in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

The event will close with a final speech by the Rector of the University of Porto, Prof. António Sousa Pereira.

The honoured PhD students linked to the DEI:

Doctoral Program in Informatics Engineering
Gil Filipe da Rocha
Rui Portocarrero Macedo de Morais Sarmento

Doctoral Program in Digital Media
Adriana Silva Souza
António Humberto e Sá Pinto
Joana Rodrigues da Silva
Liliana Andreia da Rocha Santos
Yulia Karimova (Cum Laude)

Doctoral Program in Computer Science (Joint program with FCUP, UA and UM)
Arnaldo António Pinto Pereira
José Horácio Fradique Duarte
Muhammad Shehu Abubakar-Sadiq
Pedro Filipe Fernandes Oliveira
Ricardo Gonçalves Macedo
Shamsuddeen Hassan Muhammad
Vanessa Alexandra Freitas da Silva

ICSE 2024 – The 46th International Conference on Software Engineering

This week Centro Cultural de Belém is hosting what is considered to be the leading international software engineering conference, ICSE 2024 – The 46th International Conference on Software Engineering. Since 1975, ICSE has provided a forum where researchers, professionals and members of academia come together to present and discuss the latest innovations, trends, experiences and issues in the field of software engineering.

From 14 to 20 April, the CCB will host Keynotes, Workshops, Symposia, Technical Sessions, Tutorials, Poster Sessions and many other activities in its auditoriums and numerous rooms, in a programme that will explore topics such as ethics, reliability in Artificial Intelligence systems, inclusion, biases in software, energy efficiency or algorithms applied to software engineering, among many others.

The main speakers are “prominent figures in the field of Software Engineering, chosen for their significant contributions to science and industry and who are at the forefront of research, innovation or leadership in the field”. Carol Smith (Principal researcher SEI/CMU) will address the topic of ethics and trustworthiness in AI systems; Rupak Majumdar (Scientific Director, Max-Planck Institute for Software Systems) will analyze the challenges and opportunities in Model Checking Large-scale Distributed Systems; Soumith Chintala (VP Fellow at Meta AI), inventor of PyTorch, will explore the unique properties of the latest generative AI systems; Martin Rinard (Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology) will raise questions about the connection between large language models and software engineering.

Other highlights include the presence of Bertrand Meyer, a French academic who created the Eiffel programming language in the 1980s, Alexander Serebrenik, whose research aims to facilitate the evolution of software, taking into account the social aspects of software development, Luís Cruz, a PhD from MAP.i, working at Delft University of Technology in the areas of Sustainable Software Engineering and Green AI, among many others who promise to enrich the event by providing a “comprehensive overview of the multiple facets of Software Engineering, from theory to practice, and opportunities for in-depth learning and peer interaction”.

The conference’s Organising Committee includes several DEI professors and as General Chairs, Ana Paiva and Rui Maranhão Abreu, who are ready to welcome the nearly 2 000 participants arriving in the capital this week.

Alexandra Mendes wins the Atlantic Security Award 2024

The current international situation has reinforced the importance of excellent scientific research to support good security and defence policies in the Atlantic area.

The Atlantic Security Award, which is the result of a partnership between the Luso-American Development Foundation (FLAD), the Atlantic Centre and the National Defence Institute (IDN), is a programme that provides 15,000 euros to two researchers with high-quality research projects that will contribute to the advancement of knowledge on topics related to current challenges in the field of security and defence in the Atlantic area.

Alexandra Mendes, Assistant Professor at DEI/FEUP, was one of the winners of this edition, with the project “Leveraging Large Language Models Trained on Dark Web Data to Support Decision Making for Atlantic Security and Defence“. She sees this achievement as recognition of her professional career and the value of her research project, the aim of which will be to have a model that facilitates the formulation of defence policies, strategies and operations by security forces against cybercrime, illicit trade and other threats facilitated by the dark web in the Atlantic.

Over a period of 8 months in the current year 2024, Alexandra will develop a prototype of a software tool that aims to make use of a Large Language Model (LLM), trained or fine-tuned using large databases with data from the dark web, and from policies relevant to the Atlantic.

“The Award is an important milestone in my career because, besides recognizing my professional journey and the value of my research proposal, it allows me to strengthen my collaboration with colleagues from Carnegie Mellon University,” shares Alexandra Mendes.

This is the third year the prize has been awarded, this year by the following Jury members:

Ana Santos Pinto, Professor at the Faculty of Social and Human Sciences at NOVA University Lisbon;

Luís Miguel Escudeiro da Costa Cabral, Atlantic Centre;

Maria Francisca Saraiva, resident researcher at the National Defence Institute.

+ information about the award and the 2 winning projects, of Alexandra Mendes and Jan Stockbruegger, can be seen here.

Incentive Award 2024

For the 14th consecutive year, during the celebration of the 113th anniversary of the University of Porto, the Incentive Award 2024 honoured the best 1st year students from each faculty at U.Porto.

The list of the 22 students who completed their 1st year in 2022/2023 with the best average is headed by four students from the Bachelor in Informatics and Computing Engineering (L.EIC), with Bruno Oliveira having the highest average at the University of Porto, with 19,85 marks. In addition to Bruno, the students Rodrigo Silva (19,2 marks), Gabriela Silva (19,05 marks) and Tiago Torres (18,9 marks) are also on the list of the best U.Porto students.

Let’s get to know them a little better:

Bruno Oliveira has always been interested in programming, so studying Computer Engineering was always a certainty. The prestige of the University of Porto and the testimony of former students, as well as the proximity of his home, made L.EIC the right choice for the student from Vila Nova de Gaia. From his first-year experience, the young student highlights the pleasant atmosphere and the support for new students, as well as the availability of the teachers to help students.

Rodrigo Silva, from Cortegaça, loves “facing problems and challenges” and being able to do so with people who share his tastes and interests made group work one of the most memorable experiences of his first year. The student emphasises his personal growth, advising future students to be persistent and resilient, never giving up in the face of adversity.

Gabriela Silva highlights the prestige of the University of Porto, its proximity to her home and the variety of training on offer in her “area of interest” as the main reasons that led her to join L.EIC. The student gives a very positive assessment of her first year, emphasising “the climate of unity” between teachers and students.

Tiago Torres always knew he wanted to be a computer engineer. That certainty, combined with the prestige and geographical proximity of the University of Porto, made L.EIC an obvious choice. The student, from Valongo, was very “positively surprised” by the knowledge he acquired in his first year, as well as the spirit of mutual help among the students, not only from the same year, but also from subsequent years and even from other courses. For future students, Tiago emphasises the importance of time management, so that they can have “a balance between studying and having fun”.

The Incentive Award, awarded annually since 2010, is an individual monetary prize corresponding to the value of the annual tuition fee applied to U.Porto’s national students.

“Synthetic data for a better understanding of models and algorithms” by Carlos Soares

The generation of synthetic data has gained a lot of relevance, particularly to provide more data for learning models, for example with GANs (Generative Adversarial Networks), which are effective and have a relatively simple implementation method, making them one of the most widely used methodologies for generating synthetic data. However, (semi-)synthetic data is also relevant to an even more important task, which is to improve our understanding of the behaviour of ML (Machine Learning) models and algorithms.

Carlos Soares, Professor at DEI and researcher in this area, invited by the Università degli Studi di Bari Aldo Moro (Italy) to integrate a doctoral jury, also gave in this institution a seminar on March 26th entitled “Synthetic data for a better understanding of models and algorithms“, addressing  limitations of current research practices in Machine Learning /AI, describing some of the work underway at FEUP with the aim of improving these practices, within the scope of projects such as the Center for Responsible AI and AISym4Med.



NCGM at the 10th edition of Comic Con Portugal

Exponor recently hosted the 10th edition of Comic Con Portugal, the “biggest Iberian Pop Culture event”, that took place March 21-24.  The 200,000 square metres hosted stands and aficionados for whom comic books are no longer enough and who therefore eagerly await this great cosplay festival every year to “be whatever they want”.

In this edition, NCGM – Núcleo de Computação Gráfica e Multimédia was invited to be part of the programme and took to the Gaming Stage on the 22nd to answer the question: “How do you start a career in the video games industry?“.

António Matos, member of NECM and leader of Game Dev Meets, Teresa Matos, Developer at Mindera Gaming and invited Professor at DEI, and André Oliveira Santos, Cinematic Artist at Saber Interactive Porto, shared the stage and debated the most effective methods of entering the video game development industry, particularly for young people. Topics such as acquiring basic skills in the area, the importance of building a network of contacts, enabling the formation of an appropriate team, putting together a solid portfolio and even receiving and interpreting feedback, especially when it’s unfavorable, dominated the conversation, which also discussed the current state of the video game production industry in Portugal and the strategies a new developer can adopt to increase the visibility of their work in the eyes of the public and be recognised by the established companies in the sector.

We asked Teresa Matos what advice she would give to anyone who wants to start a career in the field, and her answer was assertive: “Having a degree is undoubtedly relevant, but it’s vital to start creating connections in the area, even if only within the institution itself. Participating in game jams and other similar events, having a portfolio with complete projects (even if they’re online tutorials) and attending game dev meets where people from the industry are usually present, are essential first steps.”

NCGM shared with us its enthusiasm about their participation which is reflected on a post in social media: “Finally, we would like to thank COMIC CON PORTUGAL OFICIAL and the Portuguese Game Developers Association for this opportunity, as well as everyone who attended the session. We hope we can continue our work of supporting small game developers and creating the means for exposure and networking.”

Also in this edition of Comic Con Portugal, we would like to highlight the participation of Rui Rodrigues, Professor at DEI, in Podcast 90 segundos de Ciência on the subject of “The Science of Video Games“, which will be available soon on the programme’s platform: https://www.90segundosdeciencia.pt.