Last Day: Research Presentations, Poster Session, and Staying Involved in AI

After a quick breakfast, the girls jumped into their last research project session. They worked hard to put the finishing touches on their project boards and rehearse their upcoming presentations.IMG_4417

Much like last year, each project group had the chance to present everything they’d been working on for the past two weeks. Campers didn’t just explain the technical details of their work, they also viewed their AI research through the lens of social good. In particular, the four groups covered how to utilize natural language processing to aid disaster relief, using computer vision to make hospitals safer, writing machine learning algorithms to detect various cancers in the human genome, and programming autonomous cars to revolutionize transportation. We’re so proud of what everyone has learned and accomplished in just two weeks!

SAILORS students and staff took a camp photo at lunch, and then moved into the poster session portion of the afternoon. Members of the Stanford AI Laboratory were all invited to take a look at the four projects and ask questions.


Following the poster gallery walk was the very last personal growth session: staying involved in AI, and in computer science as a whole. Representatives from organizations like she++, Girls Teaching Girls to Code, and the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) came to speak to the girls about potential next steps they could take to expand their skill set and keep in touch with the community.

The day was concluded with an exit survey, which mirrored the questions in the survey the girls took on the first day of camp. As Profei-Fei Li had explained during orientation, rigorous and quantitative  evaluation is an integral part of SAILORS. Even though the official program has ended, the curriculum chairs will continue to work tirelessly to read through the girls’ feedback in order to continue improving this initiative for next year.feifei final

A giant thank you to everyone who made SAILORS 2016 the huge success that it was: professors, graduate students, guest speakers, project mentors, sponsors, last year’s alumni, and especially the students and their parents who made the effort to come out to Stanford every day for the past two weeks! It’s been a blast, but our hope is that this summer is only just the beginning. We’re beyond excited to add another 24 motivated girls to our alumni network and continue to champion diversity in the hugely promising field of artificial final


Day 8: Human Genomics, Stanford’s Autonomous Car, and Field Trip to Dropbox

The SAILORS arrived this morning excited for today’s field trip to the Dropbox office! But before that, they enjoyed a breakfast Q&A with Professor Gill Bejerano, who talked about how he ended up in the field of genomics despite starting college with little interest in either biology or computer science.


After breakfast, Prof. Bejerano went into more detail about how machine learning is critical for finding the “bugs” in people’s genomes that cause disease. As he explained, combing through a patient’s genome manually is too expensive and time-consuming to keep up with demand; researchers are therefore looking toward automation to solve this problem.


The girls then headed outside to see Stanford’s self-driving car in person! CS department member Dr. Brice Rebsamen explained how the car worked, but also talked about the problems that he and his colleagues encountered. From blind spots to bad weather, there are a lot of difficult issues that autonomous car researchers need to resolve in order for their vehicles to be safe and ready for the road.

Following the demo was this week’s field trip! The campers had the chance to tour the Dropbox office in San Francisco. They first met Justin Bethune, the company’s global diversity program manager. After a casual lunch, the girls split off into groups to tour the office, from the rooftop garden to the colorful working spaces.

The girls meet Judith Williams, global head of diversity at Dropbox

The day concluded with a panel featuring five female employees of Dropbox, who spoke about their background and life at the company. They also gave advice to the SAILORS girls about staying motivated while pursuing a STEM career.


We hope everyone had fun today, and we’re looking forward to the final two days of the program!

Day 7: Hexacopter Demo, Stereotype Threat, and Meeting Jackrabbot

The morning began with breakfast with Professor Mykel Kochenderfer, Assistant Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and director of Stanford Intelligent Systems Laboratory (SISL). Kochenderfer talked about everything from balancing work in academia and time spent with family to his interest in flying planes as a teenager, which ultimately influenced his work today.

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Prof. Kochenderfer shares a personal anecdote on college life at Stanford University.

Following breakfast, Prof. Kochenderfer led a lecture on intelligent decision making under uncertainty, particularly in the case of collision avoidance. Aware of the limitations within the current TCAS system, Kochenderfer’s research led to the creation of the Airborne Collision Avoidance System (ACAS X). Campers learned all about the models and algorithms powering ACAS X, such as Markov Decision Processes (MDP) and dynamic programming, which collectively make planes safer.kochenderfer lecture

Prof. Kochenderfer’s PhD students, Rachael Tompa and Louis Dressel, then led a tutorial on the effects of tweaking parameters on PID controllers, which regulate systems as simple as thermostats at home!

The campers then embarked on a trip to Lake Lagunita for a demo on hexacopters. The girls learned the effects of tweaking the proportional and derivative parameters on the stability of the drones.

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Campers tweaking parameters of the PID controller to smooth the sharp jolts and turns of the hexacopter.

In the afternoon, the campers engaged in a personal growth session on combating stereotype threat with Gregg Muragishi, a PhD student at the Department of Psychology of Stanford University. Muragishi emphasized the importance of developing a growth mindset, especially in times of overcoming the “culture of genius” surrounding workplaces and institutions alike.

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Activity: Campers pouring their frustration with challenges onto a piece of paper.

After the personal growth activities, the campers were met with a surprise visit from Jackrabbot, a new-generation social robot. Created in the Computational Vision and Geometry Lab at Stanford University, Jackrabbot was designed to learn how to mingle among humans in crowded spaces while following proper etiquette. When asked about the possible applications social robots like Jackrabbot could have on society, the girls mentioned everything from making traffic more efficient at train stations to assisting the blind!

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Campers volunteer to demonstrate the instinctive social behaviors that Jackrabbot observes and learns.
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Campers follow the gaze of Jackrabbot, which has its eye on the moving chair and maneuvers accordingly.

The day concluded with campers continuing their research in their respective projects, which include assisting with disaster relief using natural language processing, decoding DNA to find meaning in the genome, making hospitals safer with computer vision, and predicting the future of personal transportation with self-driving cars. As the days count down to final presentation day, some campers have already started making plans for creating poster boards and discussing the skeleton of their talk!

Day 5: Computation, Cognition, 3D Reconstruction, and more!

The first week of SAILORS ended with yet another exciting day! As usual, the morning started off with a casual breakfast Q&A with a professor. Today, the principal investigator of Stanford’s Computation & Cognition Lab, Noah Goodman, came and introduced the girls to how he applies computational models to cognitive science.


During his lecture, Prof. Goodman went into further detail about his research area. He described several of his experiments in which a probabilistic model could predict the thought patterns of people with near-perfect accuracy. These models were even capable of accounting for nonliteral language such as hyperbole!


One of Prof. Goodman’s graduate students, Erin Bennett, and PhD student Rachel Luo then led a tutorial on inductive reasoning. The SAILORS girls first played several engaging games that required considering what other people might be thinking, such as the well-known prisoner’s dilemma. Using what they learned from these games, they programmed their own probabilistic algorithm to represent such “reasoning about reasoning” situations.

Playing a cooperation reasoning game

Friday afternoon was just as action-packed as the first half of the day! After lunch, this year’s campers had a Q&A session with current college students and SAILORS alumni from last year. The panel talked about their experiences both in SAILORS and in school, giving advice to the girls about getting involved in and navigating the world of computer science as women. Throughout the conversation, the panelists emphasized the importance of not being afraid to ask questions, and having self-confidence when reaching out for research and internship opportunities.

Following the personal growth session, computer graphics PhD student Angela Dai came in to lead a demo of 3D reconstruction. She took a scan of the room using depth-sensing technology, explaining that she and the 2016 program director Iro Armeni were working on installing that system onto a robot. The girls also learned about some of the challenges that the field faces currently, such as scanning reflective surfaces or having the computer actually recognize what object it just scanned.


The day ended with group research sessions. With half the program now over, the teams’ projects are really starting to take shape. We hope the campers have enjoyed this past week as much as we have, and we’re looking forward to coming back on Monday!

Day 3: Field Trip to the Computer Science History Museum with Edward Feigenbaum, Biomedical Informatics, and more!

Day 3 kicked off with a casual breakfast Q and A session with Assistant Professor at UCSF School of Medicine Marina Sirota. Marina talked about everything from her experience in high school to why she decided to pursue biomedical informatics.


After the Q and A session, the students learned about biomedical informatics from a presentation Prof. Sirota gave. Campers were introduced to how biomedical data, when used hand in hand with AI, can be utilized to improve the problem solving process in human health. Marina also discussed how existing drugs could help cure other diseases.

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The campers then met with their research groups and continued learning and working on their projects.

The day concluded with a fun and educational field trip to the Computer Science History Museum in Mountain View. Prof. Edward Feigenbaum, often called the “father of expert systems,” and Sue Mickel led the campers on guided tours around the museum. The students learned about everything from the origins of the first computer to the development of robotics to the evolution of artificial intelligence. We hope the campers are just as excited as we are for day 4 of SAILORS!

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Day 2: Computational Biology, Nearest Neighbors, and a Haptics Demo

Day 2 of SAILORS 2016 was action-packed! The morning started off with a Q&A and discussion with Olga Russakovsky, one of the masterminds behind this outreach program and a current postdoctoral research fellow at Carnegie Mellon University.

Olga shares her experience of being a woman in STEM during breakfast.

After breakfast with Olga, the girls learned about computational biology from Professor Anshul Kundaje. The lecture covered various topics in the field, including how machine learning can be utilized to recognize patterns in the DNA variations of patients afflicted with certain diseases. Prof. Kundaje also explained how such AI systems will be key for personalized predictive diagnoses and treatment regimens in the future.

Following the lecture, PhD students Abigail See and Rachel Luo led a tutorial on the nearest neighbors algorithm. Using Python, the girls coded their own movie recommender, playing with different features like genre and rating to try to create an accurate system.


After lunch, the students continued to work on their research projects with their graduate mentors. The research groups are preparing for short presentations that will take place during Thursday evening’s banquet; students also improved their coding abilities and recognized the potential for great humanistic impact in the field of AI.

Campers working on using computer vision to improve hospital safety.

In the Stanford robotics lab, the girls had the chance to listen to Professor Oussama Khatib talk about his breathtaking experience working with OceanOne, “a humanoid diving robot outfitted with human vision, haptic force feedback and an artificial brain” as described by Bjorn Carey for Stanford News. Earlier this year, OceanOne recovered artifacts that had been untouched for centuries in the sunken wreck of King Louis XIV’s flagship, La Lune. They were even able to test out the advanced haptic technology firsthand!


This busy day was topped off with this summer’s first personal growth session. Co-founder of Embrace Linus Liang came to teach the girls about the design thinking process. In the personal growth session, they worked both individually and with their peers to try to come up with an optimal design for a book bag.


We hope the students are starting to get familiar with one another and with the SAILORS environment as the second day of the program comes to an end!

Day 1: Kickoff! Computer Vision, Scavenger Hunt, and more!

As SAILORS returns for the second summer, the new campers are giddy with excitement. After grabbing breakfast and getting to know one another, the girls situate themselves in a lecture room in the Gates Computer Science building at Stanford University. Professor Fei-Fei Li, director of the SAILORS program and the AI Lab as a whole, warmly welcomes the campers to the summer program, imparting the grounds on which the idea of an all-girls, two-week research-intensive program came about just two years ago. Though Professor Li acknowledges the recent talk of the possibility of AI becoming the “terminator next door” that some critics of the field fear, that was exactly what swayed her, along with co-director Olga Russakovsky, to feel the desperate need of bringing more females into the field of AI. Because, as Prof. Li puts it, when we have women who gravitate AI towards humanity–women who are compassionate, who care about AI safety–the potential benefits from the societal impact far outweigh the prospect of AI coming to dominate the world.

Professor Fei-Fei Li on the rationale behind SAILORS

The attention turns to Iro Armeni, a PhD student and the program director of SAILORS, who introduces the entire SAILORS team–a handful of Stanford AI lab researchers, professors, TAs, and junior counselors–and concludes with numbers showing the vast diversity amongst the campers this summer.

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Iro Armeni welcoming campers

Following orientation, the girls are challenged with their first task: to complete a survey as honestly as one can, which truly challenges the girls to deeply reflect on topics ranging from the obstacles they face being female and pursuing STEM to the individualistic and innovative applications they see AI having on society at present and in the future. These surveys are used throughout the program, as SAILORS is constantly under rigorous evaluation that aims to “quantitatively measure”, as Prof. Li jokes, the efficacy of the program and its curriculum, as well as the ultimate impact the program places on the girls going forward.

A camper thoughtfully completes the survey

Professor Fei-Fei Li then leads an engaging talk on computer vision, her field of expertise, introducing ImageNet, the first big data site born right here in the Stanford AI Lab, which had completely transformed the frontier of computer vision research for scientists around the world. The students are fascinated by Prof. Li’s astounding idea of treating computer vision analogously to a newborn seeing and feeling and, ultimately learning, about its surroundings. It’s no surprise that the girls begin to flood the room with grins and questions.

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Professor Fei-Fei Li on computer vision and its applications

Completely AI-unrelated, the campers, who come from all over the country and abroad, embark on a campus tour of Stanford University in the form of a Scavenger Hunt. Students are split into groups and receive clues and riddles hinting towards famous landmarks and buildings on campus. And boy do the girls bond quickly! As a team, the girls struggle through together in solving the riddles, racing to be the first team back.

The girls bonding so effortlessly during the scavenger hunt

After the long walk, the girls rush to the food and have lunch out in the patio behind Gates. With the sunny day out, the girls settle under the picnic umbrellas and get to know one another even more.

Following lunch, the girls begin a Python tutorial with Alisha Adam, a lecturer for Stanford’s Intro to CS class, and the girls, in groups, demonstrate their brilliant minds when they create multiple creative algorithms to solve simple tasks.

The four individual research projects that follow is perhaps the meat of it all, where campers get to experience firsthand working with real data and AI algorithms, each geared toward specific societal benefits for humans. Research projects include assisting with disaster relief using natural language processing, decoding DNA to find meaning in the genome, making hospitals safer with computer vision, and predicting the future of personal transportation with self-driving cars.

Campers in the division for disaster relief using natural language processing 

The girls, mentors, and professors can all agree: day one has been an absolute blast and we certainly can’t wait for more!