Stevie Rudak | January 29, 2024

Solving Daily Problems with AI

Annual competition challenges students to implement artificial intelligence into real world applications.

Six years ago, Dr. Ning Yu, an Associate Professor in the Department of Computing Sciences, took on instructing an Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning course (CSC 434). To demonstrate the real-world impact of AI, Yu created an annual classroom competition for his students.

“I thought, ‘These students have such creative ideas, why not encourage them to demonstrate them?’ This is a cutting-edge course, and they all impress me.”
Dr. Ning Yu

Yu secured an internal grant to launch the yearly classroom competition, providing his students with the ongoing ability to explore this project through necessary AI platforms and individual recognitions upon the project’s completion.

Computer science major, Ephrem Kassahun

Ephrem Kassahun

“Professor Yu gave us the freedom to choose whatever topic we wanted to, said computer science major, Ephrem Kassahun. “It was about creativity and adding our own ‘spice’ into what we learned. It was a small project, but it can be scaled up.”

Kassahun and his group developed a software that enables users to sign the American Sign Language (ASL) alphabet in front of a camera that translates these gestures into corresponding letters.

“This year, there was a group working on license plate reader technology to detect plate numbers,” said Yu. “Another student demoed an application on their mobile device that identifies specific dog breeds.”

Transfer students and computer science majors Laura Fonseca-Llorca and Mary Kochmanski achieved first place in the Fifth Annual AI Competition. The pair built an AI model and website, which predicted if commuter students should bring umbrellas along with them on their commutes to campus.

Laura Fonseca-Llorca showing her team's AI model. Laura Fonseca-Llorca showing her team's AI model.

“Developing an AI model was new to us,” Fonseca-Llorca said. “We made an hourly model that analyzed datasets like dew point, humidity, sea level pressure, temperature, and wind speed to best-predict the weather. Our model had 0.08% error.”

During finals week, students are required to present and demonstrate their projects to their classmates, which involves showcasing programs, applications, software, and more.

“Going into the field of computing sciences, learning how to work in a team is really important,” Kochmanski said. “This project gave us the opportunity to build teamwork skills.”

“This competition gave me confidence. I truly feel like this is just the beginning, and I can create more models.”
Laura Fonseca-Llorca

The competition is judged by faculty members from different fields including mathematics, physics, earth sciences, and research methods. They assess each group’s project, offer feedback, and rank the groups. Additionally, students in the class receive an evaluation form to judge their peers when the competition is in session.

“Other academic departments show their passion for our computer science students, and they volunteer to judge the annual competition,” Yu said. “One alum even emailed me a photo of his certificate from the competition mounted next to his Brockport diploma.”

The real-world application required by Yu’s contest serves to motivate and encourage students that participate in the course.

“Even though it was stressful, it really challenged me,” Fonseca-Llorca said. “This competition gave me confidence. I truly feel like this is just the beginning, and I can create more models.”