Category Archives: IAIK

Any Idea How to Spend Your X-mas?

Last year I asked you what you could tell your grandpa about studying in Graz and how
you spend all your time

In this blog, I would like to give you some hints how to be able to show off when you meet your colleagues in January again.

You might, for instance, read the book “Free Speech: Ten Principles for a Connected World” by Timothy Garton Ash. Timothy Garton Ash  is professor at the University of Oxford. You might also want to check out the web that comes along with the book:  You might get a lot of good ideas about the current discussion on hate speech, and similar topics.

If you are more for novels, you might want to read “I hate the Internet” written by Jarett Kobek. There you can follow a story about what can happen if you tell the truth and the whole world can hear you. If you are not sure whether you should read this book, read a review here:

I wish you all Merry Reading and a Happy New Book.

LosFuzzys: An essential ingredient of TU Graz

LosFuzzys” is a group of young people interested in competing with others in so-called “capture-the-flag” competitions. Maybe you have heard about them. Maybe you read about them for the first time in this post. They are currently (Monday, Dec 19th, 2016) ranked at place 38 in the world. Tendency rising. Ten days ago, IAIK gave them a prize of 3000 Euros for their achievements.

I consider LosFuzzies an essential ingredient of our university life. Let me explain why.

  1. University is a place where imagination of the young ones meets experience of the old ones. The right mixture of these two ingredients creates new insights for humanity. Call it curiosity, call it knowledge, call it research.
  2. Some students, let’s call them “ordinary” students, quite often complain about their workload dominated by duties arising from day-to-day course work.
  3. Some teachers, let’s call them “ordinary” teachers, all too often complain about the seemingly too many lazy students not following their suggestions.
  4. Some students, let’s call them “extraordinary” students, use the available experience found at the university and embark on “making their own thing”. These are creators and not just followers.
  5. The students of (4) typically get together regularly and “do their thing”. They might, for instance, meet on Wednesday evenings in the IAIK seminar room, and train for the next capture-the-flag competition (
  6. These students do not need teachers for being active. Teachers noticing these students’ activities get rather worried when they see that students without the narrow guidance of teachers can create a working atmosphere in classroom far beyond the intensity of what a teacher might dream about having in her/his classroom.
  7. Students like those found in “LosFuzzies” obviously “burn” for a goal. The goal is twofold: Their intellectual curiosity is directed towards a concrete topic like “secure information systems”. As a group, they cooperate in becoming better. In addition to cooperation, their goal is also to become best by competing against others.
  8. Teachers like me, for instance, are amazed by the power emerging from the activities of such students as found in “LosFuzzys”; the reason for this amazement is that these teachers notice that they don’t have to pull anymore. All what is left for the teachers is to take care that the students’ energy drives this world to the better and not to the worse. It’s a question of ethics.
  9. A side effect of “burning” students is that they become experts and professionals in some area of expertise in a much shorter time than ordinary coursework can do. In the case of “LosFuzzys”, their expertise in understanding security and insecurity of IT-systems reaches far beyond of what can be taught in ordinary classes.
  10. As a teacher I feel lucky to have the guys of “LosFuzzies” in the room next to my office. I can feel the energy from this room whenever I am in my office. And as a teacher I sometimes dream that these were “my students”. What an arrogance.

(photos by

IAIK’s Systems on Chip: The class of 2016.

This course has reputation, and not too little.

The System-on-Chippers of 2016 are a group of 8 students plus their two teachers Mario Werner and Thomas Unterluggauer. Their project was to build a secure smart-home system.

Today, they have delivered their presentation including a live demo of the system. For me — and I am sure, for many others too — it was a day to be proud of our students.

In case you don’t know:

The course “System-on-Chip Architectures and Modelling” is a course in which a group of students has the opportunity to achieve one common class goal. We try to model real-life situations:

  • The course’s theoretical topics follow the project’s needs; not the other way round.
  • Every participant works on a different task; thus, everyone’s results count for the group.
  • The project has a limited time budget. Oh dear, the deadlines are hard.
  • Trainers and trainees work together in order to achieve a common goal. No “us” and “them”.

If you look carefully at the photo above — well, you don’t have to look carefully, it’s obvious even without looking carefully — you can see a lot more than the 8 student + 2 trainers.

We were glad to have visitors from St. Petersburg in Russia attending the SoC show. The visitors were five Master students with their professor from St. Petersburg State Polytechnical University: Iuliia, Anastasiia, Aygul, Tsagana, Iuliia, and Vadmi.

I must say that I really enjoyed this visit. As the host, I was proud to be able to provide “a good show” without any extra effort from my side. This is how it should be. The five students got entertained not only by the System-on-Chippers, but also by several members of LosFuzzys, the local capture-the-flag team that just got ranked top-notch.

Days like today are a professional feast for a seasoned university worker like me.

“The Magnificent Seven” at IAIK

We are proud to announce the winners of this year’s “Student Research Excellence Awards“:

  • Christian Kollmann
  • Daniel Kales
  • Christian Ertler
  • Michael Schwarz
  • Moritz Lipp
  • Klaus Wagner
  • Manuel Jelinek

(on the photo above from left to right).

In addition, a special award goes to “LosFuzzys”. More on LosFuzzys will come in an extra post.

We selected these 7 students not only for their excellent work within their Bachelor Thesis project or Master Thesis project, but also for their success in publishing their results at major international conferences.

By awarding students for excellent results we not only want to express our appreciation for the work of students, but would like to encourage others to follow suit. The achievements should exemplify that it is well possible to hit extraordinary top-notch levels in research within all the ordinary course work that needs to be done to finish some curriculum.

Do you wonder how to maximize your chances to get your own Student Research Excellence Award? A good starting point for getting this award in 2017 or the year after is to start research within a Bachelor Thesis project at IAIK. Right now we put together next semester’s participants for “Bachelor@IAIK 2017“. Get out your intellectual guns and aim high.



Bachelor@IAIK 2017: Presentation on Dec 2nd, 12:00. IAIK, ground floor.

We invite students to participate in “Bachelor@IAIK 2017” in the spring semester 2017. Join us for getting your Bachelor-thesis project done.

On December 2nd we start “Bachelor@IAIK 2017”  with a presentation of the project. We are going to offer approximately 20 students to work on their Bachelor thesis with us.

This is the plan:

  • Dec 2, 12:00: Presentation of topics. Get informed. Location: IAIK, Inffeldgasse 16a, ground floor.
  • Dec 12-15: Join one of the meetings of our working groups. In case you found a theme, you might want to join the meeting of a thematic group. Meet people who understand your problem.
  • Dec – JanDecide whether you want to participate.
  • Feb 27 – March 10, 2017: 1st working block.
  • March 13 – April 7: weekly meetings in the writing lab
  • April 19 – April 28, 2017: 2nd working block.
  • April 28, June 9: final presentation.

We want you to be successful. Therefore we offer to

  • help you to research a topic,
  • help you to structure your project,
  • help you to become better in scientific writing,
  • show you how we work,
  • ask you to participate in our project meetings,
  • offer you to get to know us better,
  • offer you to discuss your ideas with us,
  • encourage you to master with us times which need tedious work,
  • explain to you what it means to work in science and engineering,
  • an much more.

Alternatively, you can always do your Bachelor Thesis with us any time, too. 
 Talk to one of the teachers from your courses at IAIK.

Who is going to be “Best Of IAIK 2016”?

As every year, we are going to award students for their excellent work at IAIK during 2016.

Join us on Friday, Dec. 2nd, 12:00, at IAIK’s foyer, Inffeldgasse 16a, ground floor, for the award ceremony.

By awarding students, we emphasize that we care about trying to be excellent.

The ceremony will be embedded in the presentation of next year’s edition of “Bachelor@IAIK”. In case you want to know more about “Bachelor@IAIK 2017”, you should not miss our presentation on December 2nd.

If you are not so inclined with future events — here are some links to past events for you:

Computer Engineering, Computer Science, and Software Development: A Comparison.

At TU Graz we offer three different Bachelor programmes for students interested in “computers” and “information technology”. In this blog post I dare to try to compare first-year students of all three degree programmes.

The degree programme “Computer Science” (CS) is the “general” program. Its German name “Informatik” seems to be more appropriate, as this programme is not only about the “science of computers”, but the science of information and the automatic processing of information.

In the degree programme “Information and Computer Engineering” (ICE, formerly known as “Telematik”), students dive deeper towards hardware topics. Students are also exposed to courses in electronics and signal processing, for example.

In “Software Development and Business Management” (“Softwareentwicklung-Wirtschaft, SWD-BM), the business aspect of information technology is added to the general courses.

I have the pleasure to get to know all students in the 2nd semester in 2 different courses. In the course “Computer Organisation” (“Rechnerorganisation”, RO) I meet students of
CS and ICE. In the course “Computer Networks and Computer Organisation”(Rechnernetze und -Organisation, RNO) I meet the students of SWD-BM. All three degree programs have approximately 70 students in their 2nd semester.

Both courses, RO and RNO, have a common starting point: Students start by understanding how a rather simple C-program can be compiled to assembly language. This assembly code is then further assembled to machine code for the “TOY computer”. “TOY” is an educational computer with a small instruction set; it has a main memory of 255 word, and input/output. There exist several simulators for TOY. This part of the course’s material is being presented during the first 3 weeks of the second semester.

In the practical, students get asked to first solve a problem with a C program. This year, the problems were “sorting” and “search and replace”. In a second step, students manually compile their C programs by substituting for-loops with while-loops, then substitute the while-loops with labels and goto-statements. They also need to understand how to resolve the access to array elements by using pointers. As soon as they have modified their C code adequately, each statement in the modified C code can be translated directly into an assembly instruction for TOY. The machine code can then be simulated on one of the TOY simulators.

The graph above compares the results of the first assignment of the practical for students in their 2nd semester. In the left column you can see the performance of the ICE students.
Roughly 70% of all registered 2nd-semester students submitted a TOY machine code which passed the “standard” test, i.e. a test case which has been specified in the specification of the assignment.

CS students were less successful in this respect: Only 44% of all  2nd-semester students handed in a solution which passed the standard test.

2nd-semester students of SWD-BM had to solve a slightly different problem, but with similar difficulty. 50% of these students’s submissions passed the standard test.

Let us have a look at the other end of the “spectrum”. We have many students who just register for the course, but then do not submit any work at all. It is a general rule that these students do not get graded. In the ICE programme, we have 13% of all registered students who are “inactive”. In the CS programme, this group is a lot larger: Almost 30% are inactive. In SWD-BM, this group amounts to approx. 20%.

My guess for this rather significant difference in the amount of inactive students is that ICE students seemingly have chosen their degree programme more carefully than CS students, for instance. The SWD-BM students are somewhat in the middle between these two groups. It seems that if someone chooses to become a “computer engineer”, she is more dedicated than if someone chooses to study “Informatik”. Students interested in “software and business” lie in the middle.

Another interesting outcome is the amount of students who only submit “assignment 0” and then quit. Assignment 0 is almost a “no-brainer”; students are asked to submit a short text in which they declare that they understand the concept of plagiarism, that they understand the consequences of handing in plagiarized work, and that they state that they do not intend to plagiarize. Whereas the size of the group of students who only submit “assignment 0” and then quit is negligible in ICE, it is rather large in SWD-BM. This difference seems to be due to the different deadlines for assignment 1. For ICE students and CS students, this deadline was right at the beginning of this year’s Easter break. The deadline for SWD-BM students was 4 weeks later. Is it due to the unbelievably long Easter break  — 3 weeks — or is it some other reason which could be used as an explanation for this difference?

In case you are interested in more details, check out the detailed results in these blog posts:

You can find the course webs for RO and RNO here: