How deep learning and drones can save the world from asteroids?

Sravanthi Sinha Holberton Recode
Sravanthi Sinha, from Holberton first batch, recently spoke at Recode Deep Learning summit in Singapore. She worked on improving the planetary defense using new ways to track meteorites, bad news: in only 3% of cases have meteorites been recovered. Good new: deep learning and drones can help. 

Tell us about your work at SETI in the NASA internship.

I am working as a data scientist on a “breakthrough” project idea — developing an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to aid in finding meteorites in the field. Currently, meteorites discovered on earth are identified visually through a labor-intensive manual search in the field. And these meteorites tend to be big. Smaller meteorite falls, which are more frequent, are hard to recover. As a result, the number of recovered meteorites on known approach orbits is small. My project is aimed at developing a small UAV — such as a commercially available quadcopter — equipped with cameras and onboard processors that can identify potential meteorite targets in the search areas calculated from triangulated meteor observations. This will make it possible to discover meteorites even from smaller falls. We’ll apply machine learning techniques to sample images in the lab and then the resulting search algorithms will be transferred to small processors on board the UAV. The machine learning will be developed using NVIDIA computing hardware – which will remain in the lab under NASA and SETI Institute control. We expect that the UAV, cameras, and onboard computing processing hardware will all be commercially available items.

 

What does it feel like to be selected for such a competitive internship?

It means everything and I am on cloud nine. I made many sacrifices to come this far and at the end of the day, it gives meaning to my life. It has always been my dream to work at NASA. This internship helped me fulfill that dream it and it’s just the beginning.

 

What is your background?

I grew up in India and I earned a bachelor’s degree in electronics and communication engineering from Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University in Hyderabad. Next, I was a student intern at the National Resource for Network Biology (NRNB) in 2012. I completed the Google Summer of Code in 2013 and 2014, first as a student and then as a mentor. I published WikiPathways: capturing the full diversity of pathway knowledge (2015) in Oxford Journals.

 

Why did you choose Holberton School for more studies?

I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Electronics but I didn’t have a chance to take a lot of hardcore computer science and programming courses. The curriculum mostly revolved around electronics and embedded engineering with limited software engineering coursework. Holberton School has an amazing vision of fixing the education system. Their coursework, with plenty of hands-on projects, was just what I wanted to transform myself into a full stack software developer. The curriculum is not limited to one language or one web stack. Every week we cover algorithm, low-level programming, front-end, back-end, sysadmin and devops. On top of those tech tracks, we also train on soft skills like networking, public speaking and writing which gives us more confidence and also a huge advantage vs tech-only developers. I am hooked on the program!

 

How is Holberton different in how it teaches compared to your previous education in schools?

At university in India, I attended classes all day, took notes and prepared for exams. But in the real world, a pragmatic experience is what always counts. At university, scoring a higher GPA was the only goal. There were some hands-on labs but mostly it was theoretical. Holberton School’s curriculum gives you challenging projects that teach you how to fix problems and build software.There are no teachers at Holberton School and the program teaches you how to learn instead of focusing on one specific technology. That makes a huge difference in how we address the projects and how we learn from it. The projects are not the conclusion of a class, but it is the source of knowledge. And at the end of the program, not only have you covered a lot of different technologies, but most importantly, because of the way we learn there, we are ready to take on any new challenges. That turns you from a rookie into a pro.

(Slides of the talk available here)

Before Holberton School, I was…

Holberton School is open to anyone, regardless of your professional or academic past. No programming experience is required. Our selection process is based only on talent and motivation, with no consideration given to gender, nationality, ethnicity or social status. Listen to our students’ stories and what they were doing before Holberton School…

Zee Adams

I was studying a Master’s of engineering in Technology Innovation Management at Carleton University. I decided to pursue this degree because I wanted to create my own Tech startup. I had a great product idea, entered an incubator and I had plenty of meetings with interested investors. The biggest question that kept coming up was: “who will build the product? Who is your technical co-founder?”. So I decided to start learning on my own but it was too difficult, there are  many resources online, but there is no structure and I did not know where to begin. The guidance that Holberton School provided through its project based curriculum and the exchange with mentors are teaching me the skills that I need to build a strong product for my startup.

Follow Zee on twitter  – Connect with Zee on linkedin

 

Siphan Bou

I used to work in a marketing consultancy firm, working closely with customers and the development team to iterate on the marketing analytics solution we were selling. The more time I was spending with the development team, the more I understood that their job was more interesting than mine. So I started to learn front-end development, for fun. I had not considered a career in the field at all. I had a strong preconceived idea that one should know everything about computers to be a Software Engineer. One day, I found out about Holberton School and started the application process, again for fun. When level2 started and we had to build a website, I became addicted. I felt that the experience was so self-developing for me… That’s how I discovered that this would be my next thing, something that I wanted to spend most of my time doing.

Follow Siphan on twitter – Connect with Siphan on linkedin

 

Ian Wagener

I was in High School and also working as a delivery driver on the side, I realized my passion for computers in senior year of High School (even though we had no computer class). I knew for a while that I was attracted to software but I was not aiming to enter the industry. My dad and step-dad are both in the field and that helped me to get interested more about it. My dad realized how valuable Holberton School would be and told me that if I wanted to give a shot to computer science, this would probably be the best option. So I started the application process and I instantly realized that I loved it and wanted to start a career in the Tech industry.

Follow Ian on twitter – Connect with Ian on linkedin

 

Steven Garcia

I had a strong interest in technology for a while, I started as a mechanical engineer major but soon realized that I was very interested in what was behind the scene, the “brain of the machine”, which is actually software. That’s why I decided to switch to computer science major, but it had more requirements, mathematics and physics classes, most of my time was dedicated to things that were not about what I wanted to do: writing code. I actually took 2 programming classes, the first one was about C++ and we never used a computer; we were writing code on a piece of paper. It was really boring as I never executed the code, I never understood what we were actually doing. The second class was a Java class, we were using a computer, but building useless and meaningless software, I did not see the point. Then I heard about Holberton School and then I got in!

Follow Steven on twitter – Connect with Steven on linkedin

 

Kristine Bredemeier

I graduated from a small liberal arts school where I studied community art and got a certificate in urban studies. I wanted to use art to change the city. I started to work for Apple in Chicago as a Sales Representative and quickly transitioned to Visual Merchandising. I also worked as a nanny one day a week for a family with five girls, which only left me with one day off per week. Then I saw my dad starting to teach programming at the high school level and enjoying it a lot. We were often discussing his experiences and I also had a lot of friends in web development who happened to also be artists, and they were encouraging me to try coding, so I went for it. Then I discovered Holberton School and the application process was so fun, interesting and nicely formated that I decided to take a chance and apply.

Follow Kris on twitter – Connect with Kris on linkedin

Want to be part of the community and become a Full-Stack Software Engineer? Apply now!

PS: Thank you Laurane Graulier for making this video!

Welcome, Hippokampoiers!

Today, we are very proud to announce that we have selected the 33 students for the inaugural class of January 2016. Yes, we announced that we would select only 32 students, but there were just too many great applicants. Please join us in welcoming team Hippokampoi!

hippocampoiers

The selection process

To become students at Holberton, candidates had to go through our four-step selection process, based only on talent and motivation, and not on the basis of educational degree, or programming experience. We designed the selection process to be the beginning of the curriculum so that applicants start learning through it. No programming experience is required at all. It consists of four different levels:

  • Level 0 – Fill out a short online form about yourself (~2 to 10 minutes)
  • Level 1 – Small online projects and tests that applicants can do at their own pace (~2 to 10 hours of work)
  • Level 2 – A step by step challenge during which you will create your first website, with a specific deadline (~50 hours of work)
  • Level 3 – On-site or Skype interview

zee_quote

Level 2 is a hands-on project, designed for beginners, during which applicants create their first website, from A to Z. Not only do they build a website with HTML, CSS and JavaScript but they also install and run their web server (Apache) on a Linux machine (Ubuntu) using the Linux command line. Here is an overview of what applicants did during Level 2:

  • Access a distant server using ssh
  • Learn the very basics of the Linux command line
  • Install software on Linux
  • Use the Emacs text editor
  • Install a web server on Linux
  • Read a configuration file
  • Use HTML, CSS and javascript to build a website
  • And most importantly: search for information and help each other

From 1,338 applicants to 33 students

Here are some stats about our funnel. Since the announcement on Sept 29th, 1,338 applicants started the admission process. Overall, the 33 students of the January class represent the top 2.5% of all applicants. Congratulations to them!

admissions-stats

 

Women performed better than men

Women performed better than men on average during our selection process. At the very top of the funnel, women represented 20% of our visitors.

sessions-male-female

And at the end of the funnel, 40% of our students are women. Note that Level 0, Level 1 and most of Level 2 are completely automated. It’s only at the end of Level 2 that we are hands-on because we need to check the projects of the applicants. Level 3 is an interview, during which there is also a technical test on Linux. Here is our funnel in terms of gender percentage:

women-stats

Connect with Holberton students

In the past weeks, they have already set up their servers and installed different applications, including a blog where you will be able to read more about their lives and what they learned at the school. Also, you can follow them on Twitter and say congrats by tweeting at @hippokampoiers!

Interested in becoming a full-stack software engineer?

Applications are now open for the next two classes, starting in May and September 2016.

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