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Green IT: five EPITA students win the Design4Green 2017 challenge

The “Compiler c’est 12” team, with Jean T., Lucas M., Thomas D., Théodore W. and Denis D., five 3rd year EPITA students in the Expert cycle , won first place in the new edition of Design4Green, a 48-hour challenge dedicated to Green IT, which is simultaneously organized in 5 countries from Wednesday November 22 to Friday November 24. Lucas and Théodore talk about their performance which not only won them first place from among nearly one hundred competitor teams, but also a trip to Amsterdam.

Can you tell us about the Design4green concept?
Théodore: It is a Green IT challenge, in other words, it is based on ecological concepts linked to technologies. This year, the goal was to create a search engine for a website dedicated to dentists. We had a database of dentists with a certain amount of information available and we then had to design the most effective and ecological search engine possible in 48 hours.

How can a website developer create an ecological search engine? What exactly do you need to develop it?
Théodore: Technically speaking, there are quite a few resources available. However, on a more global note, developing this type of search engine requires a certain number of optimizations made to the server as well as the Front end. This include optimization of bandwidth, creation of a generated code, the choice of using JavaScript or not and even the minification of files in order to send only the minimal amount of data necessary to the search engine user, based on his/her request. As for the Back End, the choice of language is also important: once it has been decided, the framework must be selected and implemented, as this is essential to ensuring that the solution is rapid and light in terms of server load. Other elements must also be taken into account, such as caching or preparing a proxy server – which we did not do because, in our minds, setting up a proxy went against the initial idea.
Lucas: My role consisted in running the database by generating the entity that we created. I also managed the Front end and its optimization on the majority of the pages. In addition, I wrote optimization scripts for the Back End.

Why did you choose to participate in this challenge?
Théodore: When the school enrolled us in the challenge, we didn’t really know what to expect, so we went there with no preconceived notions. However, once we saw the subject, we were immediately thrilled! We realized that this was a great opportunity to implement the technologies we work with in companies, in the framework of our work-study contracts, but using an ecological approach.
Lucas: Green IT is a very interesting subject that we don’t necessarily have the opportunity to use on a daily basis. Of course, I sometimes use it at work, but rarely on this level. It was really interesting to successfully create extremely light pages and optimized Front and Back Ends, without forgetting what happens between the two. This allowed us to discover and learn new things about this subject.

Do you think that Green IT will become more important in companies?
Lucas: Today, ecology and sustainable development are key issues in society. Companies will also have to take these subjects seriously. Above and beyond the ecological aspect, firms have everything to win by embracing Green IT which will involve a lower consumption rate of resources. This will lead to faster, cheaper and more efficient websites!

What was the biggest challenge?
Théodore: Once we received the subject, we had to quickly choose our topic in order to advance as rapidly as possible. We then decided to use a specific technology that four of us were quite familiar with, allowing us to work more effectively: the Symfony framework. The fifth member of our team then focused on optimizing the Front end. In my opinion, the biggest challenge, in addition to the short time frame, was to ensure that the team remained tight-knit, in spite of the few drawbacks we encountered – which are not only common in this type of exercise, but are also often helpful.
Lucas: We had to start with something more basic, doing a lot of things by hand rather than using the more traditional tools. We had to avoid taking shortcuts, which we were able to do.

Did you think you would win the contest?
Théodore: We thought we would do well, but didn’t expect to win first place. In truth, we hoped to be ranked among the top five. We were ecstatic when we saw the final results!
Lucas: We were confident that we would do well, given the amount of work we put into it. Nonetheless, it was a great surprise!
Théodore: The winning team was announced in English on Skype. We didn’t immediately realize that we had won as the connection was not great and the announcer didn’t accurately pronounce the name of our team!

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