By Stephanie Braid (PredictEco Earth)
This weekend I had an opportunity to participate in SpaceApps Challenge hosted by Teens in AI at Onfido. SpaceApps Challenge takes place annually across many countries with over 28,000 thousand people taking part this year. Teens in AI are one of the few locations across the world which hosts this competition for teenagers like me.
When I arrived at the Onfido offices on a particularly cold Saturday morning, I had no clue what I would be programming, who I would be working with, or how many opportunities would open up in those two days. I quickly became acquainted with my team, and we, even though we had different things we wanted to get out of this event, all had the same passion for coding. We began to talk about what issues we really wanted to tackle, and we eventually settled on something environmental, but we had no clue what!
After design thinking workshop run by Tanya Ahmed and Mary Hayes, a talk on AI and AI ethics by Pouria Mortazavian, and tech workshops to improve our skills in data science, Python and Neural Networks, we began by trying to narrow down our ideas. It was a long process, but eventually we decided we wanted to decrease greenhouse gas emissions in response to the “Warming Planet, Cool Ideas” challenge. Then, using the skills we learnt in the design thinking talk, we attempted to come up with a solution to the problem we chose. It took lots of votes (and a lot of guidance from our amazing mentor, Jessica Hainey of Morgan Stanley), but we eventually came up with PredictEco Earth — An AI-based application that can predict the percentage change of greenhouse gas emissions based on a given change in transport usage.
The next day we went straight into development. William started learning how to use Marvel to make our user interface, Artemis researched and found the data we needed using a combination of NASA data and externally sourced data, Ahana made our slideshow and planned our pitch, and I attempted to get our code working. 7 hours of stress, hysterical laughter, and workshops later, we had an almost functioning prototype, a full pitch and business plan, and an interface.
We nervously pitched to an array of judges (which included Gillian Lamela and Mohan Mahadevan, Matt Scott, of SpaceApps Challenge Competition, Tanya Ahmed, Devika Wood and Claudia Mendzil) from various tech backgrounds, and also watched other teams give their amazing pitches.
We were shocked when we won the opportunity to visit Seraphim Space Camp on Tuesday!
Fast forward to Tuesday morning, and after half our team got lost in central London (we have lost all faith in Google Maps), we were welcomed into the Space Camp with warmth and pastries. After a few brief introductions, we went into the auditorium with the space tech founders attending the camp, and were given a presentation on the differences between convergent and divergent thinking and how to use it to optimise workflow, and the importance of a company why, with lots of activities. This helped us to learn how, if we wanted to, to continue to develop and sell our product. We also learnt about some of the start-ups that were attending the camp, and we pitched to the founders and the wonderful Rafferty Jackson who was presenting that day, and obtained lots of useful feedback.
We gained lots of insight into the world of business, tech, and company leadership, and I believe our entire team concluded that we would all attend another hackathon, and possibly attempt to make our small project into a reality.
We are grateful to Teens in AI, Space Apps Challenge, Onfido and all mentors, speakers, and organisers who offered us this unique opportunity to learn about AI for Good, and most importantly, build AI-based technology that we know can change the world.