Every Monday from July 9 through July 30, Professors Aruna and Niranjan Balasubramanian, from the Department of Computer Science in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, held a machine learning workshop for children at Comsewogue Public Library. Each session lasted two hours and provided a fun learning experience for kids during their summer break.
Guided by the professors, students learned about the inner workings of computer science through hands-on activities. They worked with software on computers that helped them understand Optical Character Recognition, digital creation and various other computer-related tools. They had the opportunity to ask and answer questions as they explored the functions of a computer.
“The reason I wanted to introduce computer science to local children is because I think it is critical to engage with the community, let the members of the community know what computer Science is about, and get students interested in computer science from an early age,” said Professor Aruna.
For their last session, students created a “chatbot” that took the form of a digitally-created owl. They successfully met the challenge of programming the owl to respond to certain questions by strategically developing and organizing key words in the software.
At the same library, Professor Aruna previously held a one-year class called Girls Who Code. She decided to offer this smaller-scale course and partnered with Niranjan to help brainstorm ideas for the class. Nine students participated in the workshop that was open to children entering grades six through twelve.
Aruna is an assistant professor and Niranjan is a research assistant professor. Both joined the Department of Computer Science at Stony Brook in Spring 2015.