Arjun Subramonian | To My Outreach Bayes - My First Year in AI Outreach

Aaaah it’s been a whole year since Outreach started, and I’m still shocked by how large it has grown in such a short time! All of this started in Summer 2019 with just Sharvani and I really trying to shoot for the moon. We were both passionate about making an AI education accessible to everyone, i.e. non-CS majors, youth in the Greater LA area, etc. We met multiple times a week that summer, making as much content as possible for the NHHS AI/ML course and Demystifying AI course. But, we were just two people… Organizing and sustaining the high school course began devouring our time, which led to a subpar, yet respectable, Demystifying AI on the ethics and AI behind self-driving car. We found ourselves unable to achieve all our ideas.

Enter the interns! We are so fortunate to have met each and every one of them. They are all so passionate about outreach, equity, and inclusion. We couldn’t have asked for better people to help us with the high school course! Right off the bat, they were making slides for the course on AI concepts they had previously never heard of. Their dedication and passion helped them go from a shaky understanding of what AI is to the theory and implementation of convolutional neural networks within a quarter! I loved giving lectures and holding office hours on AI concepts, and answering all their questions. I think my favorite part of Outreach has been watching their growth; I continue to be so impressed by all of them.

Another favorite is how, during Spring 2020, the interns revised all the content (slides + homeworks) for the course. This was a monstruous task, but they accomplished it, importantly, with minimal guidance from me! On my end, I learned a lot about effective leadership. It’s important to give everyone trust and ownership over their project, so I took a step back and watched the interns absolutely crush revisions. They worked so well with each other, scheduling meetings, staying on track, giving each other constructive criticism, constantly encouraging and praising one another’s work, etc. And, they were so confident in their AI knowledge :) Couple of shoutouts, Maya’s Animal Crossing slides and Mat’s supervised learning slides; they really raise the bar for AI educational materials everywhere.

Completely switching gears, I am so proud of the “You Belong in AI!” podcast. It was a logistical nightmare, but I loved the enthusiasm the interns had regarding the project; it just goes to show again how much they care about including underrepresented groups in AI! Ultimately, the podcast came together really well and received so many more listens than I ever expected. I was touched by how many individuals agreed to be interviewed. And, another shoutout, this time to Jason Jewik, for excellent editing skills! Hope to make many more episodes next year :)

I’m so excited to see how the NHHS course grows and changes next year, with everything being virtual. There are so many unknown pedagogical challenges that we may face. But, I hope everything being virtual allows us to engage with more LAUSD students! I would like to hold one-off events at various underserved LA schools to expose all students to an AI education. Furthermore, I would like to produce a video series that explores AI on a conceptual level. Without delving into the math, the series would explore AI through the context of fairness, bias, and ethics, and the role it plays into society. We intend to make this AI education as accessible as possible, so it can reach underserved and underrepresented students: the very same students who are most susceptible to being adversely affected by bias in AI systems (e.g. facial recognition technology). We want to empower these students with a solid understanding of fairness and bias in AI so that they can call out societal injustices in AI, and look to fix them themselves.

Lastly, I just wanted to say that I’m so proud of Maya for leading Events! She did a great job with the AI + Social Impact panel, and with her intense planning for Fall 2020 events already under way, I can’t wait to see all the great things she achieves :D aaah, Outreach + Events is going to be AMAZING next year, I feel it already!

Written on July 18, 2020 by Arjun Subramonian