The BIM Summer School – interview with Vishal Singh of Aalto University

In this interview with Vishal Singh, assistant professor at Aalto University, we discuss the upcoming BIM Summer School. It will start in Otaniemi, Finland, on Monday 29 May and end a week later.

What is the Aalto BIM Digital Design and Construction Summer School 2017 all about?

The BIM Summer School is an opportunity to bring many different perspectives of what BIM is to students beyond what they’ve been taught in classrooms. One of the reasons I do the summer school is that it gives more flexibility, ditching the routines. It is more like a combination of a class and a hackathon.

You organised a BIM summer school in 2016. What inspired you to arrange it?

We had started up collaboration with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, a leading technical school in India. We got some funding from CIMO (Centre for International Mobility) that supports the exchange of students. In Finland, we’ve had a very strong background in BIM for a long time. We wanted to open it up to a wider community, expose what’s happening here to international students and explore together where BIM is heading.

Every university and school adopts their own view of what BIM is, which means that students don’t get a much wider perspective than what the faculty in that school teaches. We wanted to create something more international in terms of networking.

The first BIM Summer School was a pilot. We wanted to see if we had the ability to manage it. We had around 40 students, 10 of whom were international, even though we had not announced the school internationally.

Vishal Singh, Assistant Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, Aalto University, Finland

What did you do differently this year?

This year, we announced quite early, towards the end of December 2016. We got over 90 applicants for approximately 40 places. Of them, 25 will be taken by international students; the rest will be taken by students from Finland.

How did you choose the attendees? Did you have any specific criteria?

For the selection of students, we did not set any criteria. We don’t want to teach only those who know something about BIM, so it was very open. We chose a wide selection of bachelor’s and master’s degree students and a representation from as many countries and universities as possible. For example, there were two universities from both of which about 25 people applied. We could not take all of them because then you’d have basically the same crowd coming from one class to another.

The idea was to keep it as diverse as possible in terms of experience. So people who have a lot of knowledge of BIM and people with none will be sitting together. It will make for challenging teaching, but as an experience to learn and exchange ideas, it will be more interesting.

What’s in the program?

It’s all together for seven days, including the weekend. The way it’s divided is based on days.

On the first day, we first talk about BIM in design as a form of information management. The second half is a workshop with Solibri.

On the second day, we move to the generative aspect of BIM. Professor Toni Kotnik will talk about parametric design. At the afternoon workshop, arranged with the help of Archicad, we’ll look into parametric modelling and the Grasshopper connection.

On the third day, we explore BIM in the construction phase and how it can be used for automation. Lauri Koskela will talk about lean construction. We’ll have industry examples of lean and automation. The third afternoon workshop is hosted by Trimble.

Facilities management is the theme of the fourth day. We’ll talk about what Granlund and others are doing in this space and use cases of IoT. Miikka Kostamo will share his experiences in laser scanning. In the workshops, we’ll look at point clouds and how to aggregate data from different sources. VisuaLynk, a start-up, will demonstrate data aggregation and how BIM can be extended to the facilities management stage.

On the fifth day, Arto Kiviniemi will talk about BIM collaboration with OpenBIM. Furthermore, we’ll discuss teamwork and have doctoral students talk about their research.

What happens over the weekend?

During the weekend, students will work on projects in teams. For their projects, they’ll choose one of the topics that has been covered during the presentations. The objective is to challenge one assumption that is taken for granted in construction and try to address it during the weekend. It’s a bit like a hackathon.

The last Monday´s programme is still open. We’re planning on a half-day visit to a company. You can get the final details once the programme is confirmed.

Can people other than the selected students attend the summer school?

Registration is over for the students, but anyone else is welcome to come to take part in the presentations. The Design Factory in Otaniemi is a large space, so there’s enough room at the BIM Breakfast.

We do Aalto BIM Breakfasts every three to four months. The idea is to discuss a specific, interesting topic. For example, we can choose a TED talk and have a discussion around it as a group. At the summer school, we’ll have a specific BIM Breakfast with people who are doing something worth discussing.

What can students expect to learn?

We can teach people only so much in seven days. What we expect is to influence their thinking – how to approach their career, how to approach BIM, and what’s happening in construction. We want to create awareness that BIM is not just one thing, taught in one environment.

Where can people get more information on the BIM Summer School?

The program is available online. You can learn more about Aalto BIM at bim.aalto.fi.