Student of the Week

This week’s student was nominated for his tireless efforts to provide the city of Montreal with free Wi-Fi

Q: If you could change one thing about Montreal, what would it be and why?

A: [I would want to] make it friendlier for bikes, and make it easier in the winter. Some cities in Denmark and Norway are very friendly for bikes, and it’s just a normal thing to ride your bike in the winter. Here, car drivers are very aggressive, and [a cyclist is seen as] a weird guy.

Q: What kind of work do you do with the robotics research lab at McGill?

A: It’s called the Reasoning and Learning lab. So we don’t actually do robotics directly, but the stuff we develop can be applied to robotics. In my case, that’s my primary interest, but I work from more of a theoretical point of view.

Q: Where did you do your undergrad, and why did you decide to pursue your master’s degree at McGill?

A: I did my undergrad at McGill … because to me, they had the best computer science program. I wanted to focus more on the theoretical aspects of computer science rather than the practical side.

 Q: You work with a company called Ile Sans Fil; what is its main goal?

A: Really what we want to do is make the internet more accessible to people in the public space. We see Wi-Fi as a way of bringing people together as well, and even as a vector for art.

Q: What’s the nature of your involvement with the organization?

A: I’ve been the president [of Ile Sans Fil] since last April. It’s been in Montreal since 2003. The goal [is] basically to spread free Wi-Fi over the city. And initially, in 2003 up until 2010, it [was] entirely volunteer-based. The service grew quite quickly, up to a point where it was completely unmanageable for volunteers to provide support for [users]; so in 2010, we hired a director, and from that point, the organization changed quite a lot. And we’ve hired two more people, so now it’s a three person, non-profit company. We have pretty cool projects actually, that we’re going to announce. [Last October] we announced a partnership with the city to install WiFi hotspots in cultural places [like] museums and theatres.

Q: What kinds of places use Ile Sans Fil?

A: Ile Sans Fil is not in all the cafés, but I can say for sure that because Ile Sans Fil was there so early, it kind of made it the norm to provide free WiFi in Montreal. I think it’s because of Ile Sans Fil that now, you can get free WiFi. If you go to other cities in the world, most of the time, you have to pay crazy fees just to get basic internet access. Right now [in Montreal], it’d be impossible, I think, for a café to ask the users to pay for [internet], because of Ile Sans Fil.

Q: So Ile Sans Fil was basically the first organization to do this in Montreal?

A: Yes. Ile Sans Fil [also] developed our own technologies, and that set of technologies [is used] by other cities in the world. It was pretty early technological stuff; [in] 2003, WiFi was just starting.

Q: When did you get involved in the organization?

A: During my first year at McGill, in 2008. I became Secretary in 2010, and President in 2012.

Q: What’s your secret talent?

A: I’m very good at making circuit boards spark fire.

Q: Name one book you think everyone should read.

A: I think everybody should read “Le Monde du Sophie.” I think people tend to think that philosophy is not very useful. It’s a good book to make you realize that philosophy’s something you kind of need for everyday life.

Q: What’s your least favourite sound in the world?

 A: I hate the sound of cars. That’s an easy answer. I bike a lot, and I guess I kind of hate cars. I think that we should have fewer cars, especially in cities like Montreal. It’s a very bike friendly city, but it could get better.

Q: What’s your biggest pet peeve?

A: I don’t like the Bixis in the streets. They’re very unpredictable. I think it’s a nice project, but there are a lot of people that use those bikes who aren’t very careful about [other] people.

Q: What’s your go-to way to warm up on cold days like the ones we’ve had this week?

A: Just jump on my bike.

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