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Cool 8th Graders, Computers & Games!

I am volunteering for the 3rd year in a row at Lamar Middle School (Lewisville ISD), a nearby school to our house in Texas. I kept accepting the volunteering task of presenting at its career fair even after my son moved on to high school because I felt a purpose of encouraging new generations in computer science. I estimated to have presented to around 150 8th graders in total between all three times combined. I would first talk about my past and what I do with Thomson Reuters, and then my passion for technologies. Below are some slides that I presented between 2017 and 2018.

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Two years ago, I brought various gadgets to school, including a Raspberry Pi, a maker robot, an Arduino, and multiple devices to showcase what one can do with technology. A year later, I focused on AI and began showcasing what artificial intelligence can do through videos.

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I showed YouTube videos of the MIT cheetah robot, an Audi self-driving car, and a chatbot interaction between Alexa and Siri

After that I felt that I am lecturing the students by describing how to become a great computer scientist

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This year, I made things more interactive by showcasing actual implementations and making the topic more aligned to their age of playing games! Hence, I focused on how gaming and artificial intelligence align together and how it can be cool to be the next programmer of such algorithms rather than simply playing Fortnite, League of Legends, Dota 2, and more.

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I focused on the topic of leveraging cameras to let computers learn from players or people. Showed Chintan from DeepGamingAI video “creating custom Fortnite dances with webcam and Deep Learning.”

and went over the videos from Farza “DeepLeague: leveraging computer vision and deep learning on the League of Legends mini map + giving away a dataset of over 100,000 labeled images to further esports analytics research” and explained how machines can learn through cameras

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From website: “DeepLeague at work. All I input is a VOD of an LCS Game, and by analyzing just the pixels of the VOD, DeepLeague can tell us how every champion moves around the map.”

image 10 From website “Check out the bounding boxes around the blue players that our program that “watches” the video produces.”

After that, I brought out Amazon AWS Deep Lens that I had set up for the event previously by deploying the object recognition model that recognizes 20 objects: airplane, bicycle, bird, boat, bottle, bus, car, cat, chair, cow, dining table, dog, horse, motorbike, person, potted plant, sheep, sofa, train, and TV monitor. I projected the camera at my audience and began explaining the process of neural networks, object detection, object classification, and reinforcement learning if we expanded the project.

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After that, I brought out my Google AIY Vision kit and explained how it works. I could not get the device to do more than beeping when it saw a face. Its code should make different colors when I make a happy face or a frown face. I had it working all along in the past, but I realized that I brought the wrong lens with me this time. Nevertheless, I explained how students could build such kits by showing them what’s in them.

Overall, there were 45 students this year that came to my all-day demo. They would come in groups of 5 to 7, coming every 20 or 25 minutes. I would answer questions about my career and what I do at Thomson Reuters. Some asked me about my day-to-day work at Thomson Reuters, my challenges, and what makes me interested at work. My answers were honestly genuine and straightforward: I love taking challenging projects and focusing on solving them with the team just like we would playing the next adventure game and solving its puzzles.

My key take from the whole experience is that most of the students love games and that I used to make my point that they can leverage computers in whatever they love to do. Some said they want to do something in law enforcement, law, media, medicine, and not necessarily games or computer science. Even that, I felt that I had an answer: computer programming and artificial intelligence are helpful in whatever career they wish to do. Hopefully, the students left my sessions with more interest in computers and programming. That’s the goal. I hope it worked for them just like computers worked for me in my entire life and continue to do so through innovation and problem-solving.

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This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.