Tampere’s Science Slam a roaring success

Submitted on Wed, 10/04/2017 - 12:28
Science Slam/ Kuva: Jaakko Kinnunen
The entertaining presentations in the Science Slam competition warmed up the audience in the packed YO-talo restaurant. The last to arrive had to sit on the floor to watch. Photographs: Jaakko Kinnunen

“Artificial intelligence – motorbikes, perfume and glory” was the topic of Heikki Huttunen’s winning presentation

The Researchers’ Night event in Tampere ended with the Science Slam competition in which researchers talked about their results in 10-minute presentations.

Associate Professor Heikki Huttunen from Tampere University of Technology (TUT) won first prize – the Golden Microphone – in the latest Science Slam competition. Organised at the legendary YO-talo restaurant in Tampere on 29 September, the competition was part of the European Researchers’ Night, which aims to disseminate information on scientific research to the general public.

The rules of the competition are simple: contestants have ten minutes to present their research to a packed audience. At the end of the evening, the audience vote to determine the winner.

This year, five brave researchers took to the stage. The Golden Microphone was finally won by Huttunen, whose performance made the audience laugh the loudest.

“I am tired but happy. My day started by talking to primary school pupils. The atmosphere at YO-talo is very laid-back today. The audience was quite receptive,” Huttunen said after his victory.

The other contestants were the University of Tampere’s Jaakko Stenros (Adult games, indecent games?), Louise Settle (Breakfast is a very dangerous time: A history of crime in Britain during the twentieth century) and Jaakko Peltonen (How to make pancakes out of clouds: visualising high-dimensional data), and TUT’s Sanna Leena Rautanen (Water flows Nepal), who is running a water supply project in Nepal.

AI tickled the audience’s funny bone

Huttunen’s topic was artificial intelligence (AI) and its applications. Huttunen admitted to preparing his presentation the night before the competition.

“I spent a couple of hours at a café at the University of Tampere. I used most of that time to edit my video. Perhaps the whole thing was some sort of engineering porn,” Huttunen joked, with the Golden Microphone in hand.

The Science Slam contest has been organised in Tampere since 2013. Judging by the size of the audience, the event has a bright future: the seats of the restaurant filled with research lovers well before the start of the contest, and the last to arrive had to sit on the floor to watch.

Huttunen emphasises the significance of popularising scientific research.

“Popularising research is important for the recruitment of new students and cooperation partners, for example. Such events enable us to reach the general public,” Huttunen said, as his mobile phone pinged with congratulatory Tweets and other comments.


Heikki Huttunen/ Kuva: Jaakko Kinnunen
“Artificial intelligence – motorbikes, perfume and glory” was the topic of Heikki Huttunen’s winning presentation.


Artificial intelligence is able to learn on its own

Huttunen’s field – artificial intelligence – is developing fast and has excellent prospects.

Many AI applications are now capable of deep learning, and Huttunen highlights logistics control in Finnish harbours as an example. AI automatically reads the identifiers of all arriving and departing containers, updating the data on the location of the cargo in the information system. Similar applications are already used in many car parks.

“The most dangerous place to work in a harbour is directly below a crane, where an employee must stand and note the location and contents of the containers. When such operations can be automated, the risks diminish and the work becomes more efficient,” Huttunen explained.

The Science Slam is meeting a demand

Jari Kolehmainen, the first winner of the Tampere Science Slam in 2013, was the evening’s master of ceremonies. Kolehmainen is research director at the Faculty of Management of the University of Tampere. He was pleased to see such a large audience.

“It was great that all the contestants received votes from the audience. That means that everyone in the audience found a topic they were interested in,” Kolehmainen says.

The Science Slam is developing into a Researchers’ Night tradition, but Kolehmainen says that more participants could still be found. “I hope that when the news about the Science Slam spreads, we will get more participants. There is obviously a huge demand for such events,” he says.

Tekxt and photos: Jaakko Kinnunen