Inspirit AI on the SHC Campus

Sacred Heart Cathedral students presented work from their intensive Inspirit AI Program on Friday, June 14 in the DePaul Chorus room. Durga Ganesh of Stanford was their instructor, supported by new Assistant Librarian Karim Quesada-Khoury. 


The Inspirit AI program itself started with ethical and personal moral discussions about artificial intelligence (AI) and led right into a hands-on exploration of the application of this new technology to existing questions. 


Two student groups presented their work, each with concrete findings and explanation of coding choices and consideration of the viability of outcomes they perceived.


The first group “Moneyball” followed the famed story of player recruitment for the 2002 Oakland A’s season, which based draft picks and free agency signings for the Major League team on underappreciated player data. Students worked with existing information on current players and established prediction models for player performance. During their presentation, students explained their use of statistics, probability and calculus in working with the information. They spoke about experimenting with training and testing their AI models and the ability of AI to quickly evaluate larger data sets, potentially exposing new connections.


The second group, named “Planet Hunters,” used NASA data to build models to identify exoplanets—planets that orbit stars—outside of our solar system. They explained the practice of identifying exoplanets based on light curve graphs of possible orbits. By experimenting with self-built models and existing data, they better understood the importance of data management between training and application, the need for diversity in data sets, as well as data augmentation and application of different types of models, including neural networks, to achieve higher accuracy. 


Both groups left time for Q&As. The excitement they experienced was evident in the way they jumped to answer questions, supporting each other and their projects. The audience, composed of parents and SHC faculty and staff, asked difficult questions, but the students took it in stride and responded eloquently and passionately. As an educator, it was a thrill to see.


Students in both groups spoke about appreciating the experience. They noted that learning the math behind making models was fun, that their people skills had improved due to team efforts and they appreciated the opportunity to build a technical presentation. Some students came in with no coding experience, and some had worked a fair amount building programs. They were all impressed and intrigued by the way AI can fit into their interests, be they sports or space. 


After the presentation was over, Ganesh led students in a last discussion around AI. She called back to an earlier question they had addressed at the beginning of the program: “What is intelligence?” Students discussed whether humans and machines have the same intelligence, how a desire to question and learn fits in and how AI learning parallels human learning. They left considering not only what they could do with this understanding of a powerful tool, but also what they could do to build systems that could be used ethically. Ganesh did a wonderful job of asking questions and encouraging answers from a group of bright students, making the point that the answers are up to them to develop and explore. 

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