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High School students learn about data science, AI, at UGA Wells Fargo summer camp

Katie Cowart

In a demonstration of the eagerness to learn at the high school level meeting the willingness to share expertise by industry, the University of Georgia department of statistics partnered with data scientists at Wells Fargo to offer the 2021 Data Science & Artificial Intelligence Camp. The camp was held virtually across two weeks during July, at no cost to participants. 

"This two-week hands-on learning program was developed and taught by experienced faculty members from the department of statistics and data scientists from Wells Fargo with a passion for inspiring high school students," said T.N. Sriram, professor and department head of statistics. "The camp was and will continue to be a fun and creative way to gain exposure for data science and AI."

From a pool of about 60 applicants, co-organizers Abhyuday Mandal and Sriram selected a diverse set of 23 high school students to participate in the camp. Of the 23 participants, 16 were from Georgia, 3 from Massachusetts, one each from California, Louisiana, and North Carolina, and one from New Delhi, India. 

"The participants were really impressed with the depth and the diversity of the topics covered. This camp paved many new avenues for several of them," said Mandal, professor and undergraduate coordinator in the department of statistics.  

Wells Fargo data scientists have been involved in various academic activities such as Georgia Statistics Day and Industry Day with the department of statistics for more than five years.

"Data scientists from Wells Fargo have been volunteering in similar camps each summer since 2018, when Charlotte Latin School hosted a similar camp," said Joel Vaughan, a quantitative analytics specialist with Wells Fargo. "The idea for the camps came from head of model risk Agus Sudjianto, who wanted to share the exciting ideas of data science with high school students, while providing hands-on experience with popular software used in the industry."

The summer camp introduced students to a wide variety of topics in data science and AI, such as python programming, data exploration & visualization, statistical modeling, machine learning, neural networks, and natural language processing. The camp culminated in a capstone project.

"The students participating in the UGA camp were a pleasure to work with. They asked insightful questions throughout the camp, and their final projects were creative applications of modeling techniques to address important problems," Vaughan said. "The camp was a great experience for the industry Data Scientists, who enjoyed the students’ enthusiasm and their interesting ideas about AI."

For the capstone project, the students were divided into five teams to give presentations using the knowledge they gained during the camp. Each team gave two presentations: one over neural network models for object recognition in low-resolution images and one over an AI based start-up company applying AI techniques discussed during the camp to a novel application. 

The second set of presentations were conducted in a "Shark Tank" style with each group presenting their start-up ideas and a group of potential ‘investors,’ made up of data scientists from Wells Fargo and faculty from UGA, asking questions. Start-up ideas ranged from ideas for solving traffic congestion to screening MRIs for tumors to get more accurate results.

"It was an incredible experience to be a part of the organizing committee for the UGA data science camp. The event was successful and there are talks to extend it to next year. The level of the participating teams was high, and everybody was involved in the project," said Rahul Singh, another quantitative analytics specialist with Wells Fargo. "They showed great enthusiasm and desire to learn more from their mentors. Personally, it is always a learning and beneficial experience for us to be part of such events. The teams that participated were able to complete a high-quality project. It is good to see growing knowledge of data science and machine learning among young people."

Image: Style Transfer' images using Convolutional Neural Networks (CNN) from the first day of the camp.

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