“University of Maryland AI4ALL widened my view of how AI can be used to benefit the world and what fields it can benefit.” — Adepoju A., UMD AI4ALL 2019 alum
“This program has opened up a whole new world of STEM to me.” — Lucy C., UMD AI4ALL 2019 alum
Can robots learn to recognize sign language? Can artificial intelligence be used to generate completely new images? Can we create an AI-powered magic wand that understands how it is being moved? Can computers learn to “see” images? A group of 21 Washington, DC area high school students now know that the answer to all of these questions is “yes!”. These students — who had no experience with AI just a few weeks ago — participated in the inaugural year of University of Maryland AI4ALL (UMD AI4ALL), where they worked with AI researchers and graduate students on hands-on AI research projects. They explored topics like gesture recognition using computer vision and image creation using generative adversarial networks (GANs), a type of machine learning system.
UMD AI4ALL is a 3-week summer residential program that introduces underrepresented 9th-11th graders to AI through approachable, project-based AI curriculum presented in an engaging classroom setting, mentorship by AI researchers, hands-on career exploration, and community building. The program aims to increase diversity and inclusion in AI. This work is crucial: a 2018 report estimates that only 12% of AI researchers globally are women; another report estimates Black and Hispanic men and women make up under 11% of people employed in science and engineering jobs in the US. This lack of diversity can result in biased AI products that can actively harm and further exclude underrepresented groups.
UMD AI4ALL is one of 11 AI4ALL summer programs for high school students at universities across the US and Canada, and one of 5 new AI4ALL sites that launched in 2019. AI4ALL programs have empowered over 6,500 people globally with AI education.
“I decided to enter UMD AI4ALL because I thought it would be a great experience, even though I wasn’t necessarily interested in AI. This program has influenced me to dive deeper into AI and it has opened my eyes up to more career paths,” UMD AI4ALL 2019 alum Jalen T. shared. “During the program, I learned that I have the ability to hold my own in the world of AI. This was an amazing experience and I’m proud to have been a part of it.” Jalen was a member of the “Triwizard Competition” AI research group, which equipped a “magic wand” with AI sensors, allowing researchers to test out unsupervised machine learning classifiers through a wizard-inspired “duel”.
AI4ALL summer program graduates like Jalen have lifetime access to Changemakers in AI, AI4ALL’s global alumni community, a network that offers experiential learning, research, and mentorship opportunities within the AI industry. After completing an AI4ALL summer program, 77% of students report wanting to pursue a career in AI, and 61% go on to start their own AI or computer science projects within two years of completing the program. Many of these projects, like the projects students work on at the summer programs, have a focus on social good.
Dr. Jandelyn Plane co-directed the UMD AI4ALL program along with Kate Atchison. “The University of Maryland and the new Iribe Initiative for Inclusion and Diversity in Computing are excited to be partnering with AI4ALL to host this summer camp and expose more students to the world of artificial intelligence,” shared Dr. Plane, who, in addition to co-directing UMD AI4ALL, is Director of the Maryland Center for Women in Computing and Director of the Iribe Initiative for Inclusion and Diversity in Computing. “With a specific focus on our surrounding community and our passion for inclusion and diversity in computing, we are aiming to make computing and artificial intelligence accessible for all.”
AI4ALL programs like UMD AI4ALL offer students the unique experience of a project-based curriculum hosted by researchers in leading university AI labs around North America combined with hands-on mentorship and insights about the career paths available in both academia and the corporate world. By collaborating with corporations, we ensure that we can give students up-to-date information about the skills that employers are looking for while giving them exposure to a variety of AI career paths.
“The panel where people from big companies came in to explain their profession and how they contributed to the modern world was a particular session where I found myself growing more and more interested in computer science and other computer-based majors and jobs,” shared Karina U., UMD AI4ALL 2019 alum. During the UMD AI4ALL 2019 program, students learned from AI professionals from AWS, SAS, Nielsen, Accenture, and Coppin State University at a career roundtable; students also had the opportunity to learn about AI and the financial industry during a field trip to Capital One.
AWS We Power Tech provided sponsorship to AI4ALL that helped make UMD AI4ALL possible. We Power Tech is an initiative within AWS that is building a future of technology that is diverse, inclusive, and accessible. They work with underrepresented technologists through training and platforms to be seen and heard. In addition to providing a speaker for the career roundtable session at UMD AI4ALL, We Power Tech provided financial sponsorship and other support for the program.
“The mission and goals of AI4ALL aligned with the goals of our We Power Tech program committed to building a more inclusive future of technology. The more people of diverse backgrounds are involved in building AI, the more promising our future will be,” said Sacha Thompson, Inclusion Marketing Lead for Amazon Web Services.
Sponsors like We Power Tech make it possible for AI4ALL to create a positive future for AI by training the future leaders and changemakers in AI.