We have reached the mid-way point of our camp and our teams are making phenomenal progress on their solutions as well as fully embracing the spirit of the program. The atmosphere is full of energy and excitement as our teams continue to collaborate and mingle.
This morning we opened with Karolyn Gainfort, Digital Risk Mitigator and Principal Consultant at KJR. Karolyn is a veteran mentor in our camp (and one of the main reasons why I am so passionate about this program). Karolyn discussed the role bias and ethics play in AI. The emphasis on diverse teams is one factor we can control to help mitigate risks of unconscious bias. To put into context, Karolyn took us through an article on ‘How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did’. I highly recommend this as a must-read, as it showcases how the best intentions can go awry when diverse input to a development team is missing. From this, the teams were given an AI Ethics Canvas to help evaluate their solution and start thinking about the stakeholders, risks and mitigating measures they can take for their solution. After evaluating their solutions, the teams each presented a quick showcase on the considerations they have made based on their AI Ethics canvas.
After the break we got a crash course on Neural Networks from Ruth Pearson at Silverpond (also a veteran mentor of the program and thanks to our meeting at 2018 is the source of my passion for connecting girls in stem, she worked at NASA and you can’t get much cooler than that). Ruth took us through a simple example of a fully connected neural network and explained the process on a whiteboard. This analogue approach dispelled so many mental barriers I had around attempting to understand neural networks. Ruth has a powerful presence and a real knack for making the content she delivers relatable. At the end of this amazing session, we had a cool ‘tinker’ with Tensorflow playground (http://playground.tensorflow.org) and learning the different mechanisms that go into the hidden layers of our algorithms.
Before ending the day with more group work, we wrapped up with some stories from some of our attendees. We heard from Serena Mou I(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2n8DSDZoxo ) who shared her experience with work, study and life in an often male dominated industry. She told a very relatable story about the shock/surprise strangers get when she tells them her profession and the (I’m terming it man-splaining) she has received in her labs from people (males) assuming her knowledge. This is not uncommon and I don’t feel that these reactions are intentional or come from a bad place, its just the lack of ‘normalisation’ of women’s presence in these fields. She spoke about that girls often get told, no that can’t do that, however, her message is ‘you know what…yes!’.
We also heard from some special attendees at our camp, we have 2 young girls, aged only 9 and 14 from Tech Girls Movement. These astounding girls are actively engaged in our program and have contributed so much that even women twice their age may find daring. Chaperoned by their very involved and supportive mother (Angie, women I will definitely be taking parenting tips from). I speak for the whole cohort that we have been lucky enough to see both girls in action and fills me with so much hope for the future generation of empowered girls in STEM. They shared with us their journey which has taken them all the way to Silicon Valley in the US and has already produced some amazing applications to help support members of our community.