By Komron ARIPOV
Hackathon: an event, typically lasting several days, in which a large number of people meet to engage in collaborative computer programming.
Since the start of 9th grade, I was interested to learn more about Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. The articles written on this website were not only articles, but also an initiative I’ve taken to learn more about this field. As it happened, Python, the programming language of my choice, has an enormous community of users interested in this exact same field.
So in an adventure to learn something I couldn’t find courses for at CDL, nor any institution nearby (or so I thought), my eyes have turned towards Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). While they offered very good material, they were best suited for the more older students who had a strong background in statistics, calculus and linear algebra. The thought of having to also learn all of the previously mentioned mathematics sounded interesting, yet would take the effort I never had.
That is until I stumbled upon courses offered by the EPFL Extension School, owned by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. The courses were opened for people from any age group to sign up, and the platform allowed the ability to talk to teachers when dealing with a problem and still be have most of the material online. It was also self-paced, and very flexible, so I sent them an email showing my interest in the course.
After about a week, I got a reply from Laura Downhower, the executive director of the EPFL Extension School, inviting me to join them at an SRG hosted hackathon with a topic: “Media and Artificial Intelligence”. I was thrilled! The absences board gave the permission to be absent from school for two days, and the ticket was sitting in my backpack.
So, on a Thursday morning, when a snowstorm hit Geneva, I came 20 minutes late to the event, but still made it on time as others were even more late. There were croissants and drinks, while everyone in the room were introducing themselves. At that point, I was more than sure that I was the youngest participant and gave the room a quick glance to find the Extension School. They were sitting at one table, to which I walked and introduced myself.
At 10:00 the ideas for projects were pitched by a couple of volunteers and half an hour was given so others join the people with the pitches to form teams. Unsurprisingly, I joined the team with two teachers from the Extension School who taught Applied Machine Learning. The rest of the afternoon was spent working on our pitch: “Understanding Switzerland through its news”. We toyed around with the SRG database of news articles and videos, and found some very interesting patterns and structures.
The next morning, on 2nd of March we finished off with a machine learning algorithm and made nice graphs of the data that we explored. We were the first team to present our idea in Geneva, following a transmission of the same exact event from Zurich.
Sadly, our team didn’t win, but the experience, the people I’ve met and the knowledge I’ve gained will forever stay with me.
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