Science outreach and general computer science literacy is a keen interest of mine. Computers affect every aspect of our lives, and I feel strongly that everyone should have a basic understanding of various CS subdomains.

People have a right to know that machine learning is just a bunch of weighted values in a matrix. Practitioners of artificial intelligence aren’t wizards creating ineffable magical contraptions that can identify faces, or whatever. Rather, the “magical contraption” is just a giant pile of linear algebra underpinned by advanced statistics. To some people, the distinction may seem somewhat arbitrary. With the latter understanding, however, the errant nature of these previously ineffable machines becomes easier to identify and understand. It is hard to discern why a magic box fails to correctly identify people of color, but it is easy to see how a biased data set skews the weights of a facial recognition program.

Regarding another area of computer science, the average individual doesn’t need to understand the nuances of the Completely Fair Scheduler to know why installing software that affects the kernel should merit extra caution. However, a surface level understanding of hierarchical protection domains would improve a person’s ability to make smart and safe decisions with their devices.

Outreach History

To try and improve computer science literacy, I run summer – and occasionally school year – CS courses in partnership with University of Chicago’s Office of Civic Engagement. These programs are tailored for high school students, with a particular focus on schools with limited resources.

Previously, I have given invited computer science topics to elementary school students, middle school students, and senior citizens at various community-based events in the Greater Philadelphia Area. Topics I have previously presented on include:

  • Artificial Intelligence
    • GOFAI
    • Machine Learning
  • Cybersecurity and Systems
    • External Devices and Storage
    • Malware
    • Operating Systems
  • Natural Language Processing
    • Automatic Speech Recognition
    • Chatbots
    • Text Categorization
  • Misc. Internet related topics
    • Bitcoin & The Blockchain
    • Internet Infrastructure
    • The “Cloud”
  • 3D printing