IBM Best Student Recognition Event 2015 – Day 1

Today was day 1 of the IBM Best Student Recognition Event 2015. I’ve decided to document the entire event since I quite enjoy collecting visual data and reframing it with a narrative. IBM does too and that is our challenge for the next two days – in a nutshell!

My journey began early. I took the train from Exeter to London Gatwick where I connected to Amsterdam.

IBM

Thanks to Uzair for taking this picture despite the rain.

When we arrived at IBM, we were welcomed with a delicious lunch and got to greet and meet the other attendees. I had the opportunity to engage with students from Finland, Belgium, Czech Republic, Greece, Brazil, Ireland, Germany, France, Netherlands, Poland, Italy, Sweden, Pakistan and Kazakhstan. Everyone was extremely friendly, such good vibes.

Selfie desayuno

After lunch we got right to it. Saskia Bomas, Director of Finance of IBM Benelux, opened the day by stating the short and long-term expectations for us ‘best students’ attending the event and most importantly, she reminded us to “challenge, ask questions and think.”

Opening

Saskia Bomas

Then came a presentation on IBM’s history and strategy by Haydee Sheombar, Executive for Smarter Government and Business Development. My favourite part of her talk was on the potential of smart cities. I also very much agree with her remark on what a great opportunity it is to be in the same room with all these brilliant minds because of the potential to collectively generate ideas. Somewhat like cities where ideas multiply with each other.

The following session was by Gerard Smit, CTO – IBM Benelux on IBM innovation and research. Learned about IBM’s very cool project Watson and, of course, as a MSc Food Security student IBM Chef Watson caught my attention because of its potential to create recipes that add social value.

Room

Betty Spiele on the far right 🙂

The last segment of this IBM session was by Betty Spiele, Lead HR Partner – IBM GBS Benelux. She gave a concise explanation of the IBM Consulting by Degrees program, complemented by a Q&A session with a person who has actually done it. We had some much needed coffee breaks in between since, as you can imagine, I wasn’t the only one who had had an early start.

Coffee

After being introduced to IBM from different angles, we began to learn about the elements of the challenge we’re being called upon to solve. Robert-Jan Sips, Research lead at IBM Centre for Advanced Studies Benelux, who had also talked a bit earlier and listened to our dire need for COFFEE throughout the day, stated the prime restrictions: increasing population, dietary preferences, climate change and environmental pressures. I suggest you read this post where I talk about these points.

He presented the Poseidon or πoseidon project. In short, this initiative was built from realising that water reserves are being depleted by agriculture and how by understanding the causes: excessive or unnecessary irrigation, a minimum viable product can be designed and tested for adoption by its end-users. Learn more about this project here.

This was all framed with Robert-Jan’s travels towards the east of Netherlands where he visited countries like Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Russia, seeking for simple yet effective solutions to solve this water usage challenge. Later in the day, I discussed his talk with other attendees and what most struck us were the people and stories that Robert introduced as being affected to different degrees by this progressive water depletion.

Here came the presentation I was looking forward to the most: Food waste: context, sources and solutions by Toine Timmermans from Wageningen University & Research centre. The challenge is clear, 50% of food waste in the UK comes from households and the solution may lie in modifying behaviour, however, data are lacking. That! is our challenge for the next couple of days. Not necessarily for the UK only and with an element of visualisation that can engage millennials in cities, like, let’s say, Amsterdam.

The final talk of the day was given was Alessandro Bozon from TU Delft on Big and Social Data in Societal Problems and a City Context. This, hands down, was my favourite talk of the day! Such unique approaches to data collection like creating maps based on smell.

The day ended in this delicious barbecue. Special thanks to Clara, Eva, Demelza, Rozemarijn and the rest of the organising team for such a great day. Very much looking forward to day two. Off to bed!

BBQ

I would really like to know what was your favourite talk of the day and what are your thoughts on the challenge – let me know in the comments below or through Twitter @farmingafuture

Click here to read:

The challenge is clear, 50% of food waste in the UK comes from households and the solution may lie in modifying behaviour, however, data are lacking. That! is our challenge for the next couple of days. Not necessarily for the UK only and with an element of visualisation that can engage millennials in cities, like, let’s say, Amsterdam.

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