Future infrastructure experts familiarise themselves with data model use under the guidance of Sitowise employees. Students of Aalto University and Metropolia plan the sites on Kehä I in a project environment that matches the actual project environment as closely as possible.

For the past few years, Sitowise has been organising project-based data modelling courses for students of Aalto University and Metropolia University of Applied Sciences. The courses have been a success.

According to feedback received from the students, the courses have been interesting and provided useful tools for working life.

“We have, of course, hoped for such feedback,” says Sitowise’s Matti Heikkilä, Solutions Consultant, Digital Services, who is one of the course trainers.

“The purpose of the project courses is to practise working with digital tools and project partners in a project environment that is as close to the reality as possible."

Matti Heikkilä, Solutions Consulta

Training model developed by the company

Sitowise is well-known as a pioneer in data modelling for infrastructure and construction. Staying at the forefront of development has naturally required the development and implementation of an extensive in-house training programme. Over the years, the company has invested in finding exciting and effective ways through which infrastructure professionals of all ages could learn new things, while taking into account their various stages of career development and varying levels of data modelling skills.

As the company-internal experiences were good, it felt natural that the future infrastructure experts would also be provided with an opportunity to learn data modelling-based design and work.

Ilkka Tieaho, Sitowise’s Development Manager for data modelling, says that when he studied at Aalto University, practical, project-related teaching on data modelling was exactly what he was missing. “In the development of teaching, we have utilised all those things that we ourselves missed in the past,” he says laughingly.

Practical teaching

According to Professor Leena Korkiala-Tanttu, the “Project Course in Geoengineering” for the Master’s degree students in geoengineering at Aalto University is part of the long cooperation with Sitowise. “When the new Master’s Programme started in 2016, we noticed that we cannot organise such a project course by ourselves in the format that we wanted.

The project course has now been organised twice at Aalto University. Eight fifth year students participate in each course, with Master’s degree students from Spatial Planning and Transportation Engineering and Geoengineering taking part in the course held this spring. Students earn five credits from the course.

In Metropolia, the students are fourth year students with infrastructure orientation. The course is held in the autumn and it has been organised for three times, with 15 students participating in each course. The Metropolia students earn 10 credits from the course.

According to Leena Korkiala-Tanttu, the greatest benefit of the project course is that it is so practical. “Teaching at our school is mostly theoretical,” she points out. “The project course allows students to use design tools that are used in real life, and they can participate in the design of actual sites with the designers working on those projects as their teachers.”

In total, there are nine Sitowise teachers and experts involved in the project course. Josefiina Saarnikko, Consultant at Sitowise’s Road Department, is the person in charge for the Aalto University course. For example, Designer Frans Horn teaches rock engineering and Designer Juuso Virtanen teaches road planning.

“From the perspective of students, the project course is organised at the right time, as they are just about to write their thesis, so they can use all the knowledge they have acquired by then,” says Leena Korkiala-Tanttu. 

Actual sites

University teacher Henry Gustavsson emphasises that it is really great for the students that the work involves an actual, ongoing project.

The course provides an opportunity to practise working with digital tools and project partners in a project environment that is as authentic as possible.

In the autumn, the theme for the Metropolia students was the planning of road arrangements to be deployed during the construction work. At Aalto, the two groups had slightly different objectives and, in addition to data model-based road planning, the course included the planning of geotechnical solutions for the weak soil in the Maarinsolmu area and the drafting of rock-related technical reports and initial plans concerning the construction of the Hagalund rock tunnel, Matti Heikkilä explains.

The project course includes lectures and a four-hour practice on Mondays. The design work and calculations are carried out as team work using a computer. In addition, the course for the Aalto University students also included a site visit at the end of January, with students familiarising themselves with the planning area.

Students use Novapoint for data modelling. Civilpoint Oy, the Finnish representative of the Novapoint design software, is also involved in the training. The company provides the use and maintenance of the data model server. Among other tools, Civilpoint’s Geocalc is used in geotechnical design.

All the experience that Sitowise has accumulated over the years in relation to teaching and studying data modelling is utilised in the courses. For example, Sitowise started to create teaching videos already five years ago for teaching CityCad. Videos have been found to be extremely useful in terms of learning. Therefore, Sitowise has invested a lot of time and effort in making videos for various software programmes, and there is good reason to be proud of them. According to Ilkka Tieaho, video learning is the tool that once took data modelling learning to a whole new level.

Both parties benefit

Of course, Sitowise will also benefit from the data modelling training it provides to future infrastructure experts. With the development of the course material, the company’s internal training will automatically continue to be up-to-date as the material will naturally be used for company-internal training as well.

"The industry is developing so fast that it is extremely difficult to keep up. There is a constant shortage of competent people. In addition, we want to make it easier for the existing employees to master the use of data modelling tools to a larger extent,” says Ilkka Tieaho.

He hopes that, through projects such as this, cooperation between working life and educational institutions can be further developed in a natural way.