When I first heard about an accelerator about AI for teens, I was sceptical. Nevertheless, I opened the website to see what I should expect. The speakers looked great, and the programme was appealing. So I opened the registration form and I thought to myself whether the pain of four essays and a few hard maths problems were worth going to this accelerator.
I never regretted it.
Throughout the course, I learnt not only the skills that make a good software developer or an AI researcher, but also the soft skills that make a person good at networking or being able to pitch in front of a room of people. In my opinion, both are equally important, although it may not seem that way at first. On the AI side of things, the speakers who come in are experts in their field, and the maths and coding sessions tackle difficult problems that we would never be able to cover in school. On the other hand, there were also sessions about how to pitch, how to build a business and how to be investable, where the speakers were equally as knowledgeable within these skills. We should also not forget the endless reminders to network with all the people that we meet!
The first three days were spent going through design thinking and how to find a problem that was worth solving. Each team got together with their own passions and argued about things they wanted to solve, but most teams did not stick with the original problem that they decided on. From then on, we tackled increasingly complex problems regarding our solutions to our problems, and this is where we learnt how to use AI as we incorporated it into our solutions. As the days passed, we all realised the enormity of the problem that we were trying to solve, and we worked throughout the days (and some nights) to make as much progress as we could on our own solutions. As demo day fever neared, the solutions were put to bay as the talks increasingly focused on public speaking and making connections, which served us well as we pitched our ideas in front of an incredible panel of judges.
The skills I developed over these sessions will definitely be things that I will not forget. I learnt the importance of talking to and meeting people, a skill that may just save you and your company in the future, as was constantly alluded to, or having learnt that teamwork when working in a team is just as important as the work that we do individually. I also learnt invaluable knowledge in coding and maths, with tutoring that would be hard to find from online courses.
However, arguably the most important thing that I took away from this course is something that we are still working on: our start-up. As a team, we have battled the time restraints to create something that we think can actually change the world for good. Although it has not been easy, and it will continue to be very difficult as we build our business in the future, we all know that if we can do something that will benefit the world, then it is worth doing. I am really looking forward to seeing where our team will go in the future, and I will know that this programme made it happen.
By Rohan Battula