Day 4: Computational Linguistics, Industry Panel, Keynote Speaker and Banquet!

While munching on breakfast, the girls engaged in the daily Q&A session, today with Christopher Manning, professor of computer science and linguistics at Stanford. Specialized in computational linguistics, Prof. Manning answered questions campers raised on the challenges natural language processing (NLP) faces when deciphering languages that are not nearly as explicit in meaning as is English.


manning_lecture2Professor Manning then led a lecture addressing the ambiguity of language and the problem with multiple interpretations. The girls learned why the ability for machines to really understand is critical to machine translation. Manning emphasizes, “viewing thought and reasoning like language leads to the symbolic view of classical AI.”

fisher exact test

Following the lecture was a tutorial led by Idit Kosti on the Fisher Exact test and using statistics in gene expression analysis.

Maria lunch

Lunch was exciting with Maria Klawe, first female president of Harvey Mudd College, joining in and really getting to know the girls.

lamberto research project

Despite the packed schedule, research project time was not neglected. In fact, campers managed to spend nearly three hours learning and coding for their respective projects projects.


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During today’s personal growth session, women in industry currently working for top companies like Google, Airbnb, Intel, and Baidu shared their experiences and gave advice to the girls on being female in computer science. When asked what the most important traits to have in order to be a successful engineer are, the panelists replied “communication” in consensus. One woman explained, “As women, we have tendency to hold back.” Others emphasized just how important it is to speak up to others and to fight the natural urge of women to dismiss their own individual thought. Another panelist from Airbnb explained, “I think the perception is changing…a lot of people are now more encouraged to pursue other passions other than what they are expected to.” Adding on to that thought, a woman from Google encouraged having other interests related to computer science too that can help girls identify with and understand the coding work they do even more.

Keynote Speaker: Maria Klawe

Maria Klawe delivered an influential talk on diversity in schools, both in gender and in race. Maria Klawe’s philosophy on a healthy learning environment is helping and learning from peers and faculty of diverse backgrounds and gender, a culture she has successfully ingrained into Harvey Mudd College. She has brought both males and females to equal proportions at Mudd, and has risen the percentage of minorities such as African Americans or Hispanic people. A firm believer that change is possible, she’s now with SAILORS in asking the world: What’s stopping institutions elsewhere from doing the same?

Reception Dinner

While SAILORS campers, parents, mentors and friends from industry seated in the patio just outside the Gates Computer Science building, Professor Fei-Fei Li, Iro Armeni, and Olga Russakovsky delivered welcome and closing speeches, and discussed just how important it is for girls in their early years of high school to start getting exposed to AI and computer science. Because these are the girls that are going to be the leaders of tomorrow in changing AI and the revolutionaries pushing for humanity.

Then came what everyone was waiting for: the exciting presentations on the four research projects by the girls themselves! The girls explained each of their projects, from assisting with disaster relief using natural language processing to making hospitals safer with computer vision, and from decoding DNA to find meaning in the genome to predicting the future of personal transportation with self-driving cars. Each girl had the opportunity to speak on what the project means to them personally to an audience seating over a hundred people. The girls came out confident and absolutely showed their eagerness and enthusiasm!

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Reception during sunset, with Gates building to the left
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Olga Russakovsky cheering SAILORS girls on!

What a long and exciting day! We hope the girls get well rested for another day of AI and fun!




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!


Last Day: Research Presentations, Poster Session, and More!

The last day of SAILORS kicked off with a breakfast followed by a rehearsal/preparation session with the research projects. Students spent the last session with their research projects finishing up their posters and perfecting their upcoming presentation.

Campers then presented about their research projects. All of the four groups had the opportunity to talk about both the societal impact and the technical aspect of their project. Many projects featured skits or videos that demonstrated how the project worked or how the project could solve a problem in the real world. The four research projects included self-driving cars and their impact on personal transportation, computer vision and hospital safety, natural language processing and disaster relief, and decoding the genome.

PicMonkey Collage

After lunch, campers answered questions about their research projects in a poster session. Various members from the AI community learned about all four different projects and asked questions that allowed the campers to demonstrate the knowledge they’ve gained from their projects.

PicMonkey Collagel

Right before the personal growth session began, Prof. Fei Fei Li signed SAILORS program director Olga Russakovsky’s thesis! This was an exciting and inspirational moment that we all got to watch.


A personal growth session on how to stay involved in artificial intelligence and computer science followed the poster session. Representatives from various organizations, such as she++, Stanford Online High School, and many others, presented about what they are and how the students could become involved.


The day concluded with a quick survey followed by a Q/A session with Olga, who gave useful bits of advice and told her life story with the campers.

Thank you to everybody, the project mentors, professors, guest speakers, PhD students, sponsors, parents, and students, who dedicated their time and effort into making SAILORS a huge success.

We hope that all the campers had fun learning about all the different aspects of artificial intelligence. As the 24 SAILORS campers become SAILORS alumnae, we hope that they have not only become more exposed to artificial intelligence but also have found a community of friends that will support them in their current and future endeavors.

Day 5: Social and Information Networks, Industry Panelist Session, and Banquet

Day 5 of SAILORS kicked off with a breakfast with PhD student Bob West. After the breakfast, West delivered a presentation on informational networks and how everything in the modern world is interconnected. The presentation also mentioned how researchers can utilize data gathered from websites like and to refine tools like speech-recognition devices.


A tutorial led by Dr. Lamberto Ballan on the nearest neighbor algorithm followed West’s lecture. Students learned how the nearest neighbor algorithm can help in image recognition and classification.

After that, the students had a lunch with AI PhD students and continued working on their research projects.

Campers in the self driving cars research project work on the board as they try to map out a path for their line following robot.

Students then had the opportunity to conduct a panelist discussion with industry professionals. All types of questions were asked, ranging from what hobbies the panelists enjoyed in high school to what work life is like.

The day concluded with a reception, which featured a keynote from Dr. Ruzena Bajcsy, EE and CS professor from Berkeley and one of the first women in robotics. In addition to explaining to us what she is currently working on, Prof. Bajcsy also shared her inspirational life story.

DSC_5212The banquet continued with presentations by program directors Fei Fei Li and Olga Russakovsky, who talked about the vision of SAILORS and plans for next year. After that, the program evaluation team presented about the specific goals of SAILORS and the financial team discussed what it took to bring a program like SAILORS to life.

PicMonkey Collage

SAILORS campers also had the opportunity to present about their research projects. These projects included making hospitals safer with computer vision, assisting disasters with natural language processing, decoding DNA and finding the meaning of the genome, and evaluating and creating self driving cars.


We cannot thank enough all the people — the sponsors, mentors, teachers, PhD students, parents, professors, industry professionals, and campers — who have helped bring SAILORS to life.

With the conclusion of week 1, we are excited for week 2 and we hope the campers are too!

Day 1: Computer Vision, Icebreakers, and more!

Although we have only had one day at SAILORS, the campers have already learned a little about computer vision, dived into their research projects, and acquainted themselves with AI PhD students, professors, and their fellow peers.

The day kicked off with a breakfast and a warm welcome from the AI community. After that, Olga Russakovsky, program director and PhD student, led an engaging discussion exploring the importance of computer vision. Campers were exposed to the techniques robots used to differentiate objects from one another as well as the impact that computer vision could have in the real world.


After the lecture, students embarked upon a tour of the Stanford campus and the engineering buildings. SAILORS staff members delivered entertaining descriptions that were dotted with personal experiences during the tour.


Campers then enjoyed a relaxing lunch outside on the grass, where they had the opportunity not only to get to know each other better but also to converse with AI lab members.


After lunch and the icebreakers, students had their first session of their research projects. These projects aimed to implement AI into real world situations in order to help humans. Research project topics include making hospitals safer with computer vision, assisting disaster relief with natural language processing, decoding DNA and finding meaning in the genome, and predicting the future of personal transportation with self driving cars.

With the conclusion of day one, the mentors and teachers of SAILORS hope that the campers are as excited as they are for day two and the rest of the week!