From France to China

TUM students win hackathon

2 May 2019
The finalists of the Huawei Big Data Challenge 2018 on the Great Wall in China.

The finalists of the Huawei Big Data Challenge 2018 on the Great Wall of China.


A semester abroad in France leads Lukas Köstler to China. The mathematics student reaches the finale of the Huawei Big Data Challenge 2018 with his team "X-force". The task: identify malware.

Also there is TUM Informatics student Simon Klotz. During their stay at the École Polytechnique in Paris in November 2018 they got the opportunity to participate in the 24-hour hackathon - with great success: they won an exciting trip to China. In addition to the two TUM students, Hagai Dayan from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Martin Maarand from the Paris Université Pierre et Marie Curie are part of the team.

The Challenge: KI detects malware

The team "X-force" at the beginning of the hackathon: Lukas Köstler, Martin Maarand, Hagai Dayan and Simon Klotz (from left).

The goal of the Huawei Big Data Challenge 2018 was to train a machine-learning model that predicts whether software is malware or not. All teams received a record of software activity and access to powerful machines in the Huawei cloud. The organizers permanently evaluated the predictors on the basis of a test set and listed the best 5 teams in a live ranking.

After the introduction and the dinner, the participants coded all night long - in the constant competition for the Top 5. At 5 a.m. the breakthrough succeeded: The team of Lukas Köstler recognizes that consecutive calls to the systems API reveal crucial information about the intent of the analyzed software. With a powerful classifier the managed to enter the finals with the fourth best result.

Each team presented its machine learning approach to high-profile jury of professors and researchers at Huawei and was honored with a trip to Shenzhen and Beijing.

Journey to the Huawei headquarters

With nearly 20 million inhabitants, Shenzhen is the largest technology center in China. There, the finalists of the Big Data Challenge visited Huawei headquarters and meet researchers from the Noah's Ark lab- the Huawei Artificial Intelligence Initiative. Also, they saw the almost completely automated production process of a mobile phone - from the first assembly of the printed circuit board to the final quality control.

In Beijing, the teams went to a second Huawei Noah's Ark lab. They visited Chinese heritage sites such as the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Imperial Palace, learned about Chinese history and customs, tried the famous Peking Duck, and attended a traditional kung fu show.

For the 2 TUM students, the hackathon was one of the highlights during their 7-month stay at the École Polytechnique: It enabled them to meet international students with similar research interests, to take a look behind the processes of an international technology group and to experience China first-hand.