Sumedha Kanthamneni | My First Quarter as an AI Outreach Officer

When I came to UCLA, I wasn’t a computer science major. In fact, my entire computer science experience could be attributed to a single semester high school class, and I definitely didn’t know a thing about machine learning. Deciding to switch into the major for me felt like joining a race an hour after everyone else had already left the starting line. I felt lacking – both in my knowledge and confidence. But I had the support of my friends and the culture of inclusion among the people I have met, and that gave me a lot of courage. I am so incredibly grateful for that and that’s why I decided to join ACM AI Outreach.

What I love most about ACM AI is their value for diversity and inclusion in computer science and machine learning. Arjun and Maya and all of the officers in the Outreach and Event Committee are so passionate about introducing young people in both the UCLA and the larger LA community to the world of AI. To achieve our mission, we challenge ourselves to create accessible and inclusive content, including our You Belong in AI podcasts (which you should definitely check out), learning labs, and machine learning slides and homeworks for the NHHS course taught by TeachLA. This past quarter, we were also able to put together an amazing panel of researchers, scientists, and engineers who use AI for social impact. Although we had a bit of a rough start, it went really well, and I’m excited for us to host more panels like it in the future.

Looking to the next school year, I am looking forward to the events we’re planning, including a research panel and our annual Demystifying AI. Through our events, we’re hoping to discuss the impact and ethics of machine learning in all areas from medicine to politics and deepfakes to racist AIs. In light of the pandemic, we will be working to create and present content and host events in a virtual environment. I suspect that we will face many challenges and limitations due to the online setting, but I also think it will give us an opportunity to reach more people.

Written on July 18, 2020 by Sumedha Kanthamneni