7. December 2021 | Press releases:

Manipulated deepfakes, learning algorithms for robots and curiosity for better AI TECHTIDE Conference: Three awards for AI and robotics talents from TU Braunschweig

At the Lower Saxony digital conference TECHTIDE in Hanover on 2 December 2021, three young scientists from Technische Universität Braunschweig were honoured for their final theses. Vera Wesselkamp received an “AI Talent” award for her Bachelor’s thesis. Firas Al-Hafez received the new awards in the field of robotics for his master’s thesis and Dr. Rania Rayyes for her doctoral dissertation.

AI talent Vera Wesselkamp

Vera Wesselkamp received the “AI Talent” award of 1,000 euros for her bachelor’s thesis in computer science. In her thesis, she looked at how procedures can be circumvented that recognise so-called “deepfakes”, artificially generated images, on the basis of recurring patterns in the images. “I have tried in various ways to manipulate deepfakes in such a way that detection methods falsely classify the images as genuine. The fact that some of my ‘attacks’ were successful has made it clear that detection methods need to be made even more robust in order to continue to be able to verify the authenticity of images,” explains Wesselkamp.

Vera Wesselkamp, who is now studying computer science in the Master’s programme at the TU Munich, is very pleased about the award and the great recognition of her work that comes with it: “This spurs me on to tackle challenging projects in the future as well. I am very grateful to my supervisors Professor Konrad Rieck, Dr. Erwin Quiring and Dr. Daniel Arp from the Institute of System Security for supporting me in writing my Bachelor’s thesis on such a current and exciting topic. I am currently working with them to publish the results.”

Robotics talent Firas Al-Hafez

Firas Al-Hafez received prize money of 1,250 euros as a “robotics talent” for his Master’s thesis in the Electronic Automotive and Aerospace Systems degree programme. He shares the award with a student from Leibniz University Hannover. “I wrote my master’s thesis in the field of artificial intelligence for robotic manipulation tasks. In it, I investigated and compared two types of learning algorithms: On the one hand, algorithms that are supposed to mimic the learning behaviour of single individuals and are based on the principle of reinforcement learning, and on the other hand, those that are supposed to mimic the learning behaviour of populations and are based on the principle of evolution.”

Firas Al-Hafez thanks Professor Jochen Steil from the Institute of Robotics and Process Control (IRP) for the outstanding supervision and the pleasant working atmosphere. “I am very honoured to receive the Robotics Talent Award from robotics experts,” emphasises Al-Hafez, who has been continuing his work in the form of a doctoral dissertation at the Institute for Intelligent Autonomous Systems at TU Darmstadt since November. “The award encourages and motivates me to continue doing challenging research in the future,” says Firas Al-Hafez.

Robotics talent Dr. Rania Rayyes

Dr. Rania Rayyes was also awarded “Robotics Talent” for her doctoral dissertation at TECHTIDE in Hanover and received prize money of 3,000 euros. “As part of my doctorate, I worked on the development of new AI methods and learning architectures for developmental robots, with which the robots can learn in a controlled manner through their ‘curiosity’. The learning process can thus be accelerated,” Rayyes explains. In addition, as part of a research internship at the Sony Computer Science Laboratories in Tokyo, she has developed a new learning method in which humans support and further accelerate the autonomous learning of the robots.

The award winner thanks her doctoral supervisor Professor Jochen Steil from the Institute of Robotics and Process Control (IRP) for his continuous support, his valuable advice and the family-like working atmosphere. She is very happy and grateful about the Robotics Talent Award, says Dr. Rania Rayyes: “It is a great feeling to see my research being recognised and appreciated. Robotics and AI will play a significant role in the future and have great and promising impact in both academia and industry.” Rayyes is now continuing her research as a postdoc at IRP.


The third edition of Lower Saxony’s digital conference TECHTIDE took place on 1 and 2 December 2021 in Hanover. The congress of the Lower Saxony Ministry of Economics, Labour, Transport and Digitalisation revolves around the digital transformation in business and society.

This year, the focus was on the human being. It was about fundamental rights, social participation and inclusion, self-determination, innovative technologies as well as digital competence and sovereignty up to a resilient and sustainable digital society. There were presentations, best practices, discussions and interviews with experts on five stages. In addition, the Digital Landmarks of Lower Saxony, AI talents and several start-ups presented themselves.