Adventuring and Presenting in Deutschland

Last week, Team Conduit traveled to Munich to present at the BMW offices in Ulm and Munich and to learn more about smart energy efforts at BMW. This is a blog post about that experience!

Prepping for the presentation

There were two key ideas we wanted to convey in our presentation. First, we wanted to emphasize our needfinding efforts and the identification of a real, necessary problem to solve. Second, we wanted to showcase the work that we had done so far on a prototype of our idea.

Originally, we planned to present a chronological narrative of our winter quarter in CS210, describing the steps that we had taken to get where we are today. However, after talking with Jay and the teaching team, we realized that the best way to achieve our presentation goals would be to focus on those parts of the process in particular, and emphasize our findings and motivations while focusing less on methods. We ended up creating a presentation in five parts: 1) background on EVs in silicon valley, 2) EV owners’ needs, 3) the problem that we intended to solve, 4) our solution, and 5) next steps and takeaways.

We then decided to take this presentation to the BMW tech office in Mountain View to get preliminary feedback on both our presentation content and execution. Julia and Sebastian, two of our contacts, helped us improve our presentation clarity and context for a German audience, and helped us refine our presentation structure and trim away some of the less important aspects. Thank you to both of them for their feedback, and to Michael for organizing the practice presentation!

Munich/Ulm experiences

After a brief hiatus from CS210 for final exams, it was time for us to head to Germany to present our project! We arrived in Munich at various points on Saturday and Sunday, spent the intervening time between our arrival and the presentations practicing and sightseeing, then headed to Ulm on Monday for our first presentation. Ulm is about an hour and a half outside of Munich, and the BMW tech office there is home to the majority of BMW’s software developers. Along with three other teams, we presented to an audience of about 60 engineers. We were also lucky enough to take a tour around the office and we had the opportunity to see some of the new technologies that the office was working on. Some key takeaways from this first presentation:

  • We did a good job of addressing privacy concerns. The audience didn’t have a lot of questions about privacy and security, and they seemed satisfied with our answers to the questions that they did have.
  • One engineer suggested the idea of having conversations contain multiple cars - i.e. send one message to the owners of all cars at the charging stations. This is definitely something for us to consider in the future.
  • We probably could have made our presentation more technical - we had focused on the product side in our presentation, but the audience we had was very technical.

The next day, we also gave a presentation to the BMW tech office in Munich. This office was much smaller, so we only presented to about 10 engineers. Their feedback and questions were consistent with the feedback and questions that we got in Ulm. Additional takeaways included:

  • The differences between European and American charging stations do present a challenge for our app. Figuring out how to make our model work for European charging stations may require extra leg work (i.e. seeing if we can integrate with charging station networks to unlock charging cables on the charging station end).
  • One engineer seemed particularly curious about our user acquisition strategy, which makes sense given that our product relies on the network effect to function. Our answer didn’t seem wholly satisfying, indicating that we probably need to spend even more time thinking about this issue.

Overall, presenting in Ulm and Munich was a very valuable experience for us, and we learned a lot about BMW’s focuses and goals. We are excited to integrate the feedback that we received into our product, and as we develop, we will continue to reflect upon this experience.