This summer, students from around the world took on Microsoft’s Discover AI Upskilling Journey to learn about AI across several industries and themes. In collaboration with Agorize, Microsoft provided over 500 participants from 39 countries with the opportunity to use the Microsoft Learn platform to improve their AI skills and apply them to creative technical and business-case projects. Ultimately, the challenge highlighted both the immense passion and potential of young innovators in the world of AI.
MONTREAL, Dec. 07, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — As a leader in new technologies, Microsoft has long encouraged innovation and learning of youth in the field. Through its latest challenge: the Discover AI Upskilling Journey, Microsoft hoped to democratize the use of AI and provide participants, regardless of academic background and technical skills, the tools to discover AI their own way.
Previously, Microsoft partnered with Agorize for the Discover AI: Smarter and Sustainable Economies Challenge in early 2020. The Upskilling Journey was the logical next step, one which further opened AI for all students and young professionals around the world.
In early May, as Microsoft opened the challenge and participants began to register, neither side knew of the incredible innovations and success the opportunity would bring.
A Learning Journey Like No Other
The Microsoft Discover AI Upskilling Journey, launched in May 2020, was designed to be just that: a multi-step journey through which young participants could expand their knowledge of AI and gain hands-on experience in applying what they learned.
The challenge, which consisted of six themed “mini-sprints” and a final Cloud Skills Challenge, contained two tracks for competitors to choose from: a technical track focused on AI tools and a business track highlighting new business models to harness AI’s potential.
Participants earned Experience Points (XPs) by completing Microsoft Learn modules and were given the opportunity to showcase the new skills they gained through that round during the mini-sprints’ final events. Top performing participants were invited to present their learnings at the Cloud Skills Challenge Final in August to a panel of expert judges from Microsoft and Agorize.
By designing the challenge in this multifaceted way, Microsoft aimed to give participants the freedom to leverage AI solutions in a way that was fun and meaningful to them.
“Each participant came to the journey with a unique perspective and interest in AI,” said Sarah Muma, a Cloud Solution Architect at Microsoft and judge of the mini-sprints, of the event. “Whether it was someone’s first experience with AI, or they were just looking to apply it in a different way, there was something for everyone.”
The success of this approach was reflected in the varied formats, styles and tones of submissions that highlighted the creativity, ambitions and personalities of each team. Final projects ranged from traditional presentations to animated videos, songs, commercials and skits.
“I was always blown away by the creativity of the participants and how they applied the AI concepts for the week to various industries,” Muma noted.
An opportunity for impact in a time of global crisis
In a world placed on stand-by due to COVID-19 related restrictions, the Upskilling Journey was especially valuable. It provided students with a unique opportunity to stay engaged in meaningful work, connect with peers around the globe and partake in hands-on learning, all while staying safe at home.
“The Upskilling Journey is an amazing opportunity for people and young professionals to gain new skills during this challenging time,” remarked Wemba Opota, Artificial Intelligence Enterprise Solutions Lead at Microsoft. “Participants could learn more or deepen their knowledge of AI-enabled solutions and have some fun while learning and creating concrete, real-world projects and meeting new people from around the world.”
Winning Teams and Takeaways
With the high quality and vast creativity of projects, selecting winners was no easy task. Finalists and winning teams were selected based on their project’s creativity, innovativeness, presentation, practical application and learning outcomes (XPs):
SPRINT 1: Microsoft and AI / Introduction to AI
- AInnovators – An educational song about key functions and applications of AI.
- Boro – Increasing efficiency of a civil engineer’s use of various platforms.
SPRINT 2: AI in Healthcare / Azure and Earth Wildlife
- Spicy Water – Using AI to decrease patient risk of surgical site infections (SSIs).
- Juliette – Differentiating animal and human images with AI for ecological studies.
SPRINT 3: AI for Social Good and Sustainability
- Waste Wise – Decreasing food waste through AI predicting consumer food habits.
- Jul-AI – A web app including a chat bot for accessible mental health resources.
SPRINT 4: AI in Finance / Machine Learning
- Double Trouble – A conversational AI system for financial traders.
- Goblet of AI – Using AI to detect toxic comments in online conversation
SPRINT 5: AI in Electric Mobility / Language and Speech in AI
- Aidzy – AI-enabled emergency response using satellite data and electric mobility.
- Jul-AI – An interactive AI chat bot to facilitate online classrooms.
SPRINT 6: AI in Manufacturing, Retail and Education / Responsible AI
- Chi-Hong (With ASL Demo) – an AI system to gather retail insights from video data.
- Team Lopez AI – Using Microsoft cognitive services to alleviate traffic in Colombia.
Based on final XP counts and after much deliberation, winners of the final Cloud Skills Challenge were announced:
- Chi-Hong (with ASL Demo) (Chi-Hong Cheung) – Shared key takeaways and demonstrated an AI system that understands American Sign Language (ASL).
- Priyanshu (Priyanshu Mahey and Larina Chen) – Presented her key learnings and AI applications in fields of wildlife, mental health, pet care and space exploration.
Despite their vast geographic, time and cultural differences, participants left the challenge having advanced their skills and learned something new.
While all participants walked away with valuable experience and new knowledge of AI, winners were also awarded Microsoft Surface Go and Surface Pro tablets as well as vouchers for Microsoft Learn certifications and other Microsoft accessories.
The challenge was a big hit not only for participants, but for the judges, mentors and speakers at Microsoft.
“I had a blast these past few months,” said Muma. “Gathering with the participants to see how they were applying their learnings were highlights of my week!” To participants, she added: “Your participation, your energy, and your collaboration with each other inspired me and taught me new ways of seeing things.”
Hubert Duan, a Cloud Solution Architect at Microsoft and a second judge and mentor throughout the event, echoed her conviction.
“It has been such a pleasure to see the amazing achievements and demonstrations by the participants. As a practitioner of technology for many years, I most certainly see the promising, bright future ahead as this new generation solves the world’s most challenging problems.”
Like Muma, he thanked everyone who made the event so rewarding.
“A special thank you to the participants, volunteers, and Agorize for making this Discover AI challenge an incredible success.”
As our world shifts and evolves, so too do the applications of AI. Based on the Microsoft AI Upskilling Journey’s success, one thing is clear: the possibilities and passion of the next generation of innovators, when enabled with the right tools, are limitless.
The learning continues with the Upskilling Journey #2
Building upon the success of the first edition, Microsoft will launch the Upskilling Journey #2 in January 2021 to continue its mission to democratize the use of AI solutions among students, young professionals and the general public.
More than developing insightful projects and having access to numerous workshops held in the scope of the initiative, participants will have the opportunity to obtain industry-recognized Microsoft certifications, so click here to find more information and stay tuned as the learning journey undoubtedly continues!”
A photo accompanying this announcement is available at https://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/269e8aea-4842-441e-8b89-8b9697dbe2d0
A video accompanying this announcement is available at https://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/5fe8652a-5dfb-423c-9e29-d35610542dbb