BEng Computing graduate, Francesco Belvedere, discusses his experience in Edinburgh, his ongoing projects, and academic achievements
I moved to Edinburgh in 2015 and have a passion for programming and solving problems with technology
I am a young Italian man who moved to Edinburgh in 2015. I have been living with my girlfriend for over 2 years. I have several passions, among which are programming, kickboxing, playing piano and travelling. Travelling allows me to experience foreign technology and public services, which I always look with a critical eye. I try to uncover problems with the aim to develop technology that can make the life of the public easier, be that securing a parking spot or finding water from a tap - the two most critical things during a summer in Rome!
The course at Edinburgh Napier seemed to encompass a great variety of fields, from Multi Agent Systems to web development
The course at Edinburgh Napier seemed to encompass a great variety of fields, from Multi Agent Systems to web development. Many of these modules, some of which were optional, looked very interesting. Moreover, this gave me the opportunity to gain an understanding of the many areas of programming and make a careful choice about where to specialise.
I have a passion for knowledge and experience
My biggest passion is gaining lots of experience, learning and succeeding in my projects. For example, I like to work in teams and share my knowledge, and I like others to share their knowledge with me. I like the intellectual challenge and that is what drives me, be that learning a new difficult piano piece or kickboxing with someone more experienced than me.
I want to make the world a better place than I found it
I am motivated by seeing the appreciation of my hard work from my peers. I want to surprise and make an impact. This is something I achieved for my final project, which was proposed for the Scottish Engineer of the Year Award, and for my university group project, where some of my collaborators referred to me as an exceptional mentor.
My final aim is to leave the world a better place than I found it, which means I want to get as much experience as possible to then change the world.
I see myself as a world-changer because of the exciting things I’m working on in the field on machine learning
Yes, I do see myself as a world-changer. For example, when I led my team to the victory of the “group project of the year” award. For this project, we created a working prototype of an event discovery platform based on the user’s feelings and interests. I worked as a project manager, was in charge of devOps, and worked on the front and back end development. My main tasks were coordinating the team, scheduling, structuring meetings, writing documentation, and guiding on web development. I also had the opportunity to mentor another student 1-on-1 on web development, which was an enlightening experience. It feels good to have successfully led the team to win an award together, and although that required some sacrifice from my side, I’m glad I did it.
Another example is the platform we are building at work for GP practices, which will make doctors' and nurses’ patients easier to manage.
Furthermore, my dissertation project gained traction and research was extended. Here, I enabled a NAO robot to recognise objects through the computer vision algorithm Siamese Networks, that I implemented in my dissertation. The novelty of the project comes from the fact that the robot only needs to see an object once to “learn” it. This makes the system flexible in situations where data is scarce, for example in the case a robot needs to collaborate with a human to complete a task and does not know the new object brought into the environment.
As a practical example, a generic robot programmed to search and pass objects to a human collaborator could be installed in a vehicle repair shop. The human could teach the robot what new tools look like simply showing them once. When asked, the robot could then be able to handle the learnt object to the human. Obviously, the ability to learn from only one example could be useful in a variety of domains.
A paper is about to be published about this project and be freely available, as well as all the software involved. It is hoped that the public release of the project will inspire the research community to advance in the areas of one-shot learning for computer vision, perhaps developing on my base project. The advance of one-shot learning will minimise the resources spent on collecting and labelling huge amounts of data needed for current object recognition.
I started alone in Edinburgh and have since achieved academic excellence
I started all alone in Edinburgh and I sustained myself through working from the very first month to this point in time. I reached academic excellence and was awarded a class medal. I’m also mentoring some younger developers at work which is extremely rewarding for me personally.
My biggest challenge has been my managing my workload and timings
My biggest challenge thus far was to manage my life and at the same time the workload coming from university. I was ambitious and working on a complex final year project which required much time. Often, I had to stop and think about planning the next steps. Overall, learning to plan one’s own time is the biggest takeaway from this experience that let me overcome that tough period.
My aspiration is to start my own software development company
My aspiration is to start my own software development company where I can develop services for the public to make everyone’s lives easier, and in the future manage and lead my own team. I want to create a different environment where people are free to learn and are motivated to grow professionally and personally.
Life in Edinburgh as a student is great
Life in Edinburgh as a student is great. There are plenty of places where you can go to eat and have fun, and it is very easy to meet new people through activities and sports. I liked Merchiston campus, where I was based. In the city it is easy to find a job to sustain yourself, I must have changed 6 or 7 jobs during my 4 years here.
Edinburgh offers spectacular sightseeing; it is very good for nature lovers and also to spend some time with friends and family.
My advice would be to not be afraid if you have no previous experience in the field
My advice to someone considering the course would be to get the most out of it, get as much experience as you can, interact with your peers, make friends because you will build connections that last and perhaps grow into professional ones. Try to excel in everything you do because the experience you get doing that will change the person you are.
Another piece of advice would be to not be afraid if you have no previous experience in the field. Before starting the course, I had never seen a line of code but now I am a fully confident programmer.
Next for me is to get more experience, travel, and keep developing my projects
What’s next for me is to get some more work experience, travel the world, keep working with the university as a researcher, and develop my own online services. The robot project will likely be continued by another Napier student, for which I will be glad to act like a mentor and give guidance. I am also currently working on a Machine Leaning website that will include the information gathered in my dissertation and an explanation of the theory behind the algorithm I implemented. This has the aim to make such knowledge as accessible as possible, gather interest from the research community and collect their feedback.