A year 12 student at Dubai College and an aspiring computer scientist with an interest in philosophy, Raghav Awasthi has fine-tuned the art of balancing academics with working on research papers with university professors. Currently working on three papers, he has also organised multiple hackathons to encourage young students to pursue the field of computer science.
One of the heads of the Dubai Computing Community, he plans on double majoring– in Computer Science and Philosophy at University. ‘‘These two subjects are usually thought of as anti-disciplinary. I disagree with this sentiment,’’ he says. ‘‘For one, both subjects are grounded in the roots of logic. I also think that it is important for everyone intending to deal with AI to have a strong understanding of ethics.’’
Excerpts from an interview:
When did you develop a passion for AI and coding?
I was around 9 years old when I tried to see how many errors I could get to pop up on various software on my father’s iPad. About a year later, I got one of my father’s old laptops and found out about the seemingly endless world of computers. One of the first programs I wrote was a Python script that could draw a square on the screen – something akin to Kazimir Malevich’s “Black Square”. That was probably the moment I fell in love with coding. My passion for AI stems from the first time that I discovered Siri; wondering how a machine could dynamically and “intelligently” respond to commands led me down the rabbit hole of AI.
What were some of the early projects you did?
One which included AI was to create a simulator for a self-driving car, where the user could draw any sort of road on the screen, and the AI would eventually learn to take the most optimal route to get from Point A to Point B. I also created a Chip-8 emulator and a GameBoy Advanced emulator as a web and desktop application. One of the more advanced AI projects I did was to create and train an AI that can beat the game “Doom 3”.
Who were your mentors and what advice did they give you?
My father has always supported me and backed me. He’s given me the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the industry, as well as learn from and share ideas with other colleagues, which really is an invaluable experience. At school, my CS teacher has constantly encouraged me to improve. Whenever he thought that something seemed too easy for me, he would give me harder challenges. The best piece of advice that they’ve given me is to never let my curiosity die.
Tell us about the web extension project that you are working on.
It analyzes the credibility of a source. By using Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing, the extension can compute a score between 0 and 100 to determine how reliable a source is, where 100 means extremely reliable. The extension not only considers the previous scores and the reputation of a source, but it also bases the scores off the current article and whether there is any biased language in it.
What led you to create this extension and how did you go about it?
During the Covid pandemic, I noticed that there was a large increase in the spread of fake news and misinformation. I wondered if there was some sort of way to verify the credibility and reliability of a source, whether it’s a news article or a post by someone on any sort of social media. However, as I researched about it, I realized that there was no tool that did what I was hoping for. Therefore, I decided to create this extension, with the main objectives being to prevent people from spreading fake news, making users aware of how prevalent the problem of misinformation is, and aiding users in determining how credible a source is.
What advice can you give students who are hoping to create projects like the one you did?
Listen to the people around you and note down any problems that seem to be common.
Identifying a problem that needs to be solved is probably the hardest part. Researching, coming up with a solution, and creating it are all relatively simple tasks compared to finding a problem worth solving. If you stay curious with your eyes, mind, and ears open, creating a project like this one should not be as daunting as it may seem.
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Anand Raj OK