Computer Science and Integration

Universities are open for encounters. Openness and education are important foundations for integration – that’s a few of many reasons why Austrian universities will open their courses for refugees. „More“ is an initiative of the „Universitätenkonferenz“ that creates the framework that allows refugees to enter universities.

Non-bureaucratic ways to assess qualifications, languag promotion, access to libraries, waivers of tutorial fees and a buddy system to provide orientation are a few examples of that framework.

A possible follow-up could be a „No-Border-Academy“ that includes refugees in the planning and teaching of classes, explains Elisabth Fiorioli, general secretary oft he Universitätenkonferenz.

Informatik Austria and the institutes and faculties of computer science of the Austrian universities support this initiative and will provide offers for refugees.

The institutes of Computer Science of the Alpen Adria University Klagenfurt will offer 50 places for refugee-students and create a course in object oriented programming. The faculty of informatics oft he Technical University Vienna (TU) will accept refugees as extraordinary students and create a buddy-system. Moreover, a follow up of the initiative „Welcome.TU.code“ is being considered: During the summer, the TU offered beginners’ classes in computer science for young refugees.


(shorted version; full version available in German)

Hacking for Security

The iCTF hacking contest taking place since 2003 at the University of Santa Barbara. 88 teams from all over the world joined this year’s competition, the team “We_0Wn_Y0u”, consisting of teachers and students of TU Vienna finished third.

“The Capture-the-Flag-Contest is about intruding in other teams’ servers and protecting your own server at the same time”, explains Markus Kammerstetter, head of iSecLab Security-Labs (Automation Systems Group) at TU Vienna. All teams were assigned their servers on Friday evening and had to start to search for possible security flaws immediately to protect their own servers and attack others. “Such competitions are not just games, they are a great opportunity for the best of our 400 students to apply the knowledge they gained from our courses on ‘Internet Security’ and ‘Advanced Internet Security'”, says Kammerstetter. “If security is at stake, you need a lot of knowhow, you need to keep track of a lot of details, and sometime you need to be really fast.”

The team of TU Vienna joined the competitin already for the seventh time and always ended up at least among the top five. Two times (2006 and 2011) the team won the competition and qualified for the DefCon CTF contest in Las Vegas, which is considered as the worlds’ most difficult hacker contest.

Kammerstetter: “We’re very happy that we made it again. Internet security is an exciting research area, and it’s very important for the industry. With our success, we prove that we educate excellent students who can apply their knowledge practically. For the future, I wish that we can continues this – and that the funding for our research and teaching improves…”

informatik_austria – the first week

On Friday, the first ever media seminar of informatik_austria took place. Silvia Miksch and Franz Wotawa gave an overview on computer science in research and education on Austrian universities. Roderick Bloem gave an introduction to verification and validation, Werner Purgathofer took the audience on a round trip through Visual Computing in Austria.

Articles on the event were published in many media; among others:
Wiener Zeitung

In the evening, informatik_austria invited to the open discussion of Gerhard Widmer and Peter Norvig at Café Heuer. The moderator was Elke Ziegler; Widmer and Norvig discussed on intelligence and other antropomorphisms in computer science (Do we really believe, that machines think) and answered questions from the audience.

(Pictures: Nadja Meister)

Peter Norvigs Vienna-trip in the media:
ORF Science
Tiroler Tageszeitung
Südtirol News


Peter Norvig cam to Vienna as a guest of the Faculty of Informatics of the Technical University; he was the speaker of this year’s Gödel Lecture.
Here is a complete recording of his talk.

Computer Science in Austria – Data from a first Call

Seven Austrian universities teach computer science in in total 83 courses.
The largest course is Software & Information Engineering at the Technical University of Vienna with 1710 students. The currently smallest course is Bioinformatics at the University of Linz with 16 students.
The research areas comprise some classical areas like software engineering, visual computing and research on parallel and distributed systems, more application oriented topics like Aerospace Research in Salzburg an reach up to areas that – at the first glance – don’t really sound like computer science at all. As an example, biomedical engineering was just recently transferred to the Faculty of Informations an the Technical University Graz.
That’s only one of many indicators, that computer science is becoming more and more a crucial element in other sciences rather than just a tool.

Another indicator for the diversity of computer science may be seen in the gender equality of students. The most male class is Scientific Computing at the University Vienna with over 91 percent of male students. On the other side, almost half of the students at the Didactics of Computer Science class at the University of Vienna are female. The overall ratio of male and feamle students is 80:20 – computer science is more female than other technical studies.

This overview was part of the first media seminar of informatik_austria. Other topics were an overview on Software Engineering and Verifictaion research by Roderick Bloem, and a crash course on Visual Computing by Werner Purgathofer.

More events are planned. To stay up to date, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Universities as the soil for start-ups

Stanford University has prepared the ground for Silicon Valley. And that’s not an isolated case: „Innovation hubs don’t work on the long run if there are no research- and education-institutions close“, states Eva Winroither in the Austrian daily newspaper „Die Presse“. 
The article mentions a few examples for cooperation between austrian universities and companies, among them the new founders program that’s  currently being prepared as a cooperation between the Pioneers Festival and the Institute for Software Technology and Interactive Systems at the Technical University of Vienna. Another example is the vision of the IT Quarter Vienna as an integrated innovation campus, that should settler start-ups close to the university to foster cooperation.
Read the full article at

Chatty search engines and artificial intelligence

Peter Norvig, Speaker at the Gödel Lecture of the Faculty of Informatics at the Technical University of Vienna and guest of the Logic Lounge on Friday talked to journalists in Vienna on more intelligent and talkative search engines. Search needs to become more interactive to make it easier for searching users to find suitable search terms. The current recommendation-mechanisms focus too much on single terms; search engines need to learn to deal with more complex requests in a meaningful way.
The articles on Peter Norvig can be read here:
Artificial Intelligence was also a topic in “Reality Check” at the radiostation FM4. The report is also available online.

The LogicLounge is back

Peter Norvig is visiting Vienna as a guest of the Faculty of Informatics of the Vienna University of Technology. The 59-year old computer scientist was Head of Research at the NASA Ames Research Center and has been working at Google since 2001, since 2006 as a Head of Research. He authored several publications on Artificial Intelligence that have been labeled by criticists as “will deservedly dominate the field for some time” or “Possibly the best hardcore programming book ever”. Norvig also created public online-classes on Artificial Intelligence.

Gerhard Widmer is professor for Computational Perception an the Johannes Kepler University in Linz. His research focuses on Artificial Intelligence and informatics in music (Intelligent Music Processing, Music Information Retrieval). Widmer was the 2009 Wittgenstein-laureate; publications like Wired or New York Times wrote about his work.

On March 27, Norvig and Widmer will talk about the question “How artificial is intelligence?” The discussion will be moderated by Elke Ziegler (Ö1) and starts at 17:00. The venue is Café Heuer at Karlsplatz.

Norvig will have another public lecture in Vienna on March 26. He is this year’s Gödel Lecturer in the series of Vienna Gödel Lectures of the Faculty of Informatics at the Vienna University of Technology.

The LogicLounge is the sequel to the events series from the Vienna Summer of Logic and at the same time the starting point for the initiative informatik_austria. Details on the event can be found in the events section.

informatik_austria is a new networking platform of computer scientists at Austrian universities. The main targets of the initiative are to clarify the importance of informatics for modern society, to create attention for the relevance of research in Austria and to create points of contact for the press and public. A first step is this website, where research institutions will publish frequent updates. Relevant events and conferences for the informatics crowd will be posted in the events section.

Smart Cities at Ars Electronica – “Post City”

Questions like these are the main topic at Ars Electronica 2015. Cities change, they have to cope with new challenges – and informatics is an important player in the quest for innovative and working solutions. Especially the creation of new urban ideas is one of the most exciting examples for the interaction of technology and social organisation.

The Ars Electronica Festival will put these questions on the main stage and address them in the typical combination of arts, technology and society. From 3. to 7. September 2015, international experts will discuss at the “Future Innovation Summit” which range of choices we have in creating urban habitat in the 21. century and beyond. The detailed agenda is to be announced on the AEC-Website.