People on scaffolding made of wooden beams and metal (replica of a fly?)

Ferienakademie 2022: High Alps and Deep Learning

October 19, 2022 / On behalf of course 4, Melissa and Lars

Since 1984, the “Ferienakademie” brings together teachers and learners in a special environment. This year, Melissa and Lars from the University of Stuttgart also traveled to the Sarntal Valley in South Tyrol and report on impressive hikes, new findings in "Deep Learning in Computational Science and Engineering" and an encounter with glacier mummy Ötzi.

Since 1984, professors, doctoral candidates and students have gathered annually in the Sarntal Valley in South Tyrol for the Ferienakademie. This year, 2022, professors and students from the University of Stuttgart, the FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg and the TU Munich came together to discuss, philosophize, program and to explore new paths in science and the local hiking areas.

Alpine landscape with blue sky and some clouds: mountains in the background; in front a mountain lake reflecting mountains and blue sky. On the left a hilly hiking trail.
Impressions from the Sarntal (or so–no idea where the photo was taken and which mountain we see here).

Nine courses offered a wide range of topics for participants from climate change to dark matter, medical imaging, physics in computer games and applying deep learning to physics problems.

The “best course”  was our course 4 in which we explored the topic of Deep Learning in Computational Science and Engineering. Presentations given by the participants explained the basics of Deep Learning as well as discussed highly recent and complex topics such as Bayesian Neural Networks, Reinforcement Learning and Generative Design, with plenty of time for discussions. In the second part of the course, a project about machine learning for topology optimization of a bridge offered us the opportunity to try out what we had learned and new ideas in practice – a challenging experiment in which “natural intelligence” was (still) superior to artificial intelligence.

Group of people behind a beamer an in front of a silver screen.
Group picture of our course, thanks to the pandemia quite modern in hybrid format.

The numerous hikes in the Sarntal Alps offered a sporty change for both experienced and inexperienced hikers - but a certain enthusiasm for hiking and suitable equipment were a prerequisite. The hikes passed through the great landscape with green meadows, along streams with crystal-clear water, up stony rock faces, some still covered in snow and ice, to high peaks with breathtaking views.

In further free time, we visited the Iceman Ötzi in Bolzano, learned about the traditions of Sarntal valley, relaxed in the pool, sweated in the sauna, played table tennis and chess, drank wine and ate Kaiserschmarrn,...

Alpine landscape. Meadows and river in front, hills behind, snow-covered mountains at the very back. Blue sky, some clouds.
Auf dem Weg vom Penser Joch zur Flaggerschartenhütte.

The time passed much too fast and the Ferienakademie soon came to an end. However, all the things learned, the beautiful memories as well as the contact with the other participants will remain.

About “Ferienakademie”

The “Ferienakademie” (Vacation Academy) is organized by TU Munich, FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg as well as the University of Stuttgart and promises a “study of exciting topics in an alpine environment”. The interdisciplinary course for selected students takes place in the Sarntal Valley at the end of September each year and is financed by companies as well as sponsoring associations and the participating universities' own funds. The application period for the next Vacation Academy starts in February 2023.

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