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Flight Simulator Design in Paris, France

July 29, 2015

About Me 

Samuel Lindemer is a junior electrical engineering student from Boston. Sam has a passion for traveling and has spent the past year living in Europe. He attended Queen Mary University of London for a semester abroad last Fall, and moved directly to Paris in January to begin an engineering research co-op. Sam is currently spending the summer with his girlfriend in Norway, and is going to sail to Sweden in August. He has already received a job offer for his final co-op from a tech startup in Belgium, and is planning to move there next Spring.

Flight Simulator Design in Paris, France  

I spent six months living at a top French engineering university called Centrale-Supélec and working at a lab called Signals and Systems Laboratory (L2S). During my stay there, I worked as the full time Python software developer for two professors in a field called control theory. I had no idea what “control theory” was before I went to France. I also didn't know any French.

The job description was pretty straightforward: “[1] make an artificial intelligence for an automotive racing simulator, [2] develop a flight simulator for quadrotor UAV drones (from scratch) and [3] write and publish an article about part [2]”. Once again, I didn't know how to do any of this, but the professors in France insisted that I just take the job and try my best. Somehow, five months later, I actually managed to do all three of those things.

The flight simulator I developed is now free and completely open source. You can download it on my GitHub Here. To my amazement, thousands of people have downloaded it. At the moment I am writing a publication for the 2016 Mediterranean Conference on Control and Automation in Athens, Greece about the simulator.

I managed to accomplish our goals mostly through a lot of independent research and personal tutoring from my professors. I shared an office with some PhD candidates, and usually I saw my superiors for about two or three hours per week. This is typical in research, but it was not the easiest work environment to adapt to. Moving to a foreign country with a different culture can be hard, especially when you're going alone and you have to live with strangers, make new friends, get a new bank account, find food, etc. Culture shock is very real, and I'd just like to advise anyone considering an international co-op to take it seriously and be prepared for it.

My last co-op was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The skills I learned at L2S will help me throughout my career. My last bit of advice for other engineering students is to take risks and to get in over your head once in a while. I spent the first few weeks in France thinking there was no way I could get the job done. But, if you're driven to succeed, you'll always find a way to meet the challenges ahead!