Coding the future: AI Club introducing students to world of machine learning

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Olivia Cooper

Coppell High School junior Hari Srikanth delivers lectures at Artificial Intelligence Club meetings on Monday afternoons via Zoom. The AI Club has been making strides in the past two years to introduce students to coding through workshops, open discussions and guest speakers.

Trisha Atluri, Advertising/Circulation Manager

Fingers fly across the keyboard as lines of code appear on the screen in Python, a programming language incomprehensible to most of the population. Yet, it is perfectly understandable to the Coppell High School Artificial Intelligence Club.

The AI Club was founded in 2018 by 2020 CHS graduate and former Sidekick staff writer Akif Abidi to encourage discussion about artificial intelligence and machine learning. CHS senior co-presidents Zach Vazhekatt and Aarian Ahsan joined the club at its inception.

“When I was first introduced to the club, I thought AI was a super complex and hard to reach topic that [was] too much to grasp,” Vazhekatt said. “Once you get into AI, you realize how simple and elegant it is, especially if you’re interested in technology.”

Once you get into AI, you realize how simple and elegant it is, especially if you’re interested in technology.”

— AI Club co-president Zach Vazhekatt

Every Monday at 4:45 p.m., the AI Club meets via Zoom. At the beginning of each meeting cycle, lecturers teach the club about the basics of AI. These instructional meetings lay the foundation for the projects that follow. CHS computer science teacher Michael Finnegan is the club sponsor.

“We’ve talked about the subcategories of artificial intelligence, including machine learning and deep learning,” CHS junior lecturer Hari Srikanth said. “We also delve into machine learning libraries, such as TensorFlow and scikit-learn.”

In December, the club began the stocks project, its most recent and ambitious venture. The project involves training a machine learning model to analyze past data of a certain company’s stocks and using it to predict the company’s future stock prices. 

“[The model] is very accurate,” Ahsan said, “We lined up the actual stock data with the predicted data and the trends are very similar. Looking forward, we can use that for simple investing.”

Last year, the AI Club sold T-shirts in order to fund another project: programming the Jetson Nano, a small yet powerful computer. After the club-wide fundraising effort, the Jetson Nano was purchased and members programmed the computer to scan and identify various objects. The computer accurately recognized classroom targets, such as chairs, desks and the students themselves.

From clacking away on campus desktop keyboards to integrating a more accessible interface, Kaggle, on school iPads, the AI Club has come a long way.

“The problem with the [school computers] was we weren’t able to share code,” Vazhekatt said. “It wasn’t always accessible for people who missed the meetings and it wasn’t friendly for new time users. We slowly evolved, and last year we started using Kaggle.”

Another change that has marked the evolution of the club was the shift in focus from theory-based discussions to coding lessons where members dive into the practical applications of AI.

“The first year, we mainly went over theory,” Vazhekatt said. “The classic question we discussed was, ‘is AI going to take over the world?’ This year, due to the online format and because we really wanted to get into projects, we went into coding straightaway.”

In addition to philosophical discussions, coding lessons and projects, the AI Club hosts speaking events with experts in the field. Past guest speakers include University of Texas at Dallas professor Gordon Arnold and data scientist Shouvik Pradhan. Unlike club meetings, the speaking events are open to all CHS students.

According to a study by the Brookings Institution, around 25% of jobs in the United States will have a high exposure to AI by 2030. The AI Club serves as a vehicle of knowledge for students interested in taking part in the growing world of machine learning. Any CHS or New Tech High @ Coppell student can join the club by emailing the co-presidents at [email protected] and [email protected]

“AI is already a pretty big facet of our lives,” Srikanth said. “We have new phones with AI embedded in them. AI is going to play a big role in our future, and understanding how it works can be useful.”

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