Google Developers Student Club Delft co-leads Krzysztof Baran and Ali Faruk Yücel.
Ali Faruk Yüce (left) and Krzysztof Baran: “We want to organise a sustainable cities hackathon.” (Photo: Heather Montague)

There’s a lot to learn outside of your studies, say Google Developers Student Club Delft co-leads Krzysztof Baran and Ali Faruk Yücel.

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Krzysztof: “I’m in my second year of a master’s in Computer Science, in the Software Technology track. I started my studies at TU Delft in 2017. I have a wide variety of interests, and I’m also doing courses at other universities. I like the worlds of both software and AI and the intersection between them and I applied myself in these fields during my internships. I like cycling and swimming, and I also like to work on coding projects in my free time.” 

Ali: “I’m doing my bachelor’s in Computer Science and Engineering and this is my third year. My main interests within computer science are the computer vision and natural language processing side of AI, distributed systems, and human-computer interaction. Outside of my studies, I love doing all kinds of sports. I play ice hockey and I play the drums. GDSC has existed at TU Delft since 2019, but there weren’t many events in the last few years. So we decided to take on the mantle and do something about it.” 

Krzysztof: “GDSC is an organisation where students from different universities are given a framework for how to establish a club. We invite speakers and organise workshops so that we can help students develop outside of the classroom and work on projects that are outside of the classroom. People can also learn about things they could use for their class or personal projects. We promote technology that is either open source or from companies, but it doesn’t have to be from Google.” 

Ali: “Google does not in any case force us to promote their products. They simply say to promote products that we have found useful in building things, so that’s what we try to do. Our mission is to bridge the gap between practical knowhow and theory. At TU Delft we get an extensive amount of theory-based knowledge. Our lecturers also focus on industry best practices and create real-world assignments for us to apply most of the knowledge they teach us, but sometimes due to the sheer number of things we need to learn, some students get caught up in the theory side of things and can't find the time to focus on the application side. We want to provide a hands-on approach, bringing in people from industry and showing how they do things.” 

‘Great technologies are not a silver bullet for everything’ 

Krzysztof: “We get a certain amount of freedom in building our projects during our Computer Science (CS) studies. However, throughout my studies and my experience as a Teaching Assistant, I see students sticking to the same technologies. For example, CS students tend to use Java or SQL in their projects as those are the technologies used during many of their courses. While they are great technologies, they are not a silver bullet for everything. I think one of the possible reasons for this is a fear of failure and a familiarity bias. I believe that we should look for suitable technologies for the task or project at hand. It's essential to tackle any project in this manner to broaden your horizon and to learn something new. If not during courses, then at least for personal projects. Ultimately, we want to encourage and inspire people to develop something new and get them out of their comfort zone.” 

Ali: “There’s an event coming up that Google does every year called the Solution Challenge. They encourage us to build solutions for local problems that we have and the idea is that they should relate to one of the 17 UN Sustainability Development Goals. All participants get mentorship from Google and the winners get a lot of exposure and monetary rewards. We want to create as many teams to join this challenge as we can. The solutions don’t have to be just software related; they can also be interdisciplinary. 

We have a hackathon idea which developed when I participated in the sustainable architecture summer school (funded by the Embassy of the Netherlands in Portugal) here at TU Delft and the city of Covilhã last summer. I got to meet a lot of architecture students and lecturers who had vastly different capabilities. Their aptitude for imagination, idea generation and design skills combined with my more technical and problem-solving focus, enabled us to create a technically feasible, sustainable and architecturally appealing solution. I learned so much and thought why don’t we do this on a larger scale. 

One of the biggest issues our generation will face is an overloaded electricity grid due to the electrification of transportation and the addition of distributed generation with household photovoltaics. I would like to help bring people together on this issue and make it easier for everyone to help our world become more sustainable. So towards the end of this year we would like to organise a sustainable cities hackathon where we would ideally merge computer science, electrical engineering, architecture, and urbanism disciplines. We’re working to make it international, like a hybrid hackathon so people will be able to participate from anywhere in the world.” 

Krzysztof: “People can participate in any of our events and contribute their own ideas. Part of our motivation for GDSC is enticing speakers to come to campus and having events that will be interesting and thought-provoking as well. It would be nice for us to get speakers from start-ups, scale-ups, mid-sized and big companies like Google, Amazon or Meta. It would be nice to have a variety of topics to inspire people. Building a wider community will also help us connect more for this purpose.” 

Ali: “There are two ways to get involved with GDSC. We are still accepting core membership applications from marketing and operations people. Anyone can fill out the form on our website and we will be interviewing applicants. But anyone can join the solution challenge without even being a GDSC member, you can just click to join on the website.” 

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