Overnight, they developed MineTorch. MineTorch is an easy-to-access, interactive user interface designed for children who want to explore machine learning. The drag-and-drop program helps users figure out how to explore and use data to build code on open source platforms. (MineTorch is available on GitHub here.)
“We couldn’t believe it!” Song says. “We wanted to create a product that anyone can use, because not every child has affluent parents or computer science parents. Every child, though, should have this accessibility and understand machine learning for the future.”
Song says she would have loved to have had access to MineTorch herself last spring. She was teaching math and science to her students of all ages, and thinking about how to better educate them and her son about future careers. She started reading articles about machine learning, but she didn’t really understand how it worked or how to even practically begin experimenting with it. Then she heard about the three-month PyTorch Scholarship Challenge from Facebook on Udacity. She applied and was one of several thousand applicants worldwide chosen for the program. For three months over the summer, Song studied the basics of developing deep learning models using PyTorch. During the program, she founded #sg_mom-is-wow, a Udacity study group where her peers, including machine learning newbie and future hackathon teammates Unger, could discuss parenthood, the challenges of being a mother who works in tech, and the role technology plays in their children’s futures.
“I was genuinely curious about how technology and AI is disrupting and changing the way we live and our children’s careers,” Song says. For her, just reading about machine learning didn’t cut it — she needed to experience it herself through practice, and Udacity taught her the ropes. What she didn’t realize was that the online class would also broaden her community. She says she met many people in her class from all over the world, and she says it struck her for the first time how lucky she was to be able to pursue learning and make a difference not only in her own career but also for kids who are just getting started. All her learning pointed her toward developing an educational tool for children who have the curiosity and desire to create.
And there are plenty of them. Millions of kids are already coding; in fact, Song and her team built MineTorch for children who want to participate in Hour of Code. By adding PyTorch to their coding, they have access to an open library of data to help them design games, code creative solutions for such things as setting a daily alarm, and even work together to brainstorm solutions to some of the world’s largest problems, such as climate change. “I think children are able to solve real-world problems,” Song says. “Adults get caught up in the bureaucracy, but children are so honest and have a very low tolerance for shams. I have more faith in children than in adults.”