Artificial Intelligence is typically not taught in high school, but high school students across the nation are building the AI that you might end up using in your everyday life at AI Camp. These stunning AI products span everything from a live emotion detector for autism and an American Sign Language translator to an AI text engine that writes fantasy stories—all produced in just three weeks by middle and high school students. With the media filled with headlines of school closures, this is a welcoming and refreshing scene.
“AI is a technology that will impact everything we do,” Co-founder Michael Zhang says. “If we can educate the next generation about AI, we will not fear AI taking our jobs. Instead, we will collaborate with this amazing technology and prepare our kids for the future. ”
That urgency has fueled the rapid growth of AI Camp. To date, 5,000 middle and high schoolers have graduated from AI Camp from all over the US. The company is on track to reach $2M in revenue by the end of the year.
Zhang and his team started AI Camp in 2019, just a year before Covid-19 forced schools to shutter their doors. However, that didn’t stop him and his team from educating the US about AI. He decided to bring the camp online. Despite the pandemic, the virtual camp thrived, creating a learning environment that kept kids engaged – some so interested in AI they couldn’t be pried away from the content.
“We wanted to take a 6-hour driving trip one weekend, but Rohan didn’t want to come with us,” said Preeti Joshi, mother of Rohan, one of AI Camp’s first students.
“See, Michael had asked Rohan to look at AI transformers before the break. For fun. Though I got him into the car, he still spent the next 6 hours making a slideshow on a machine learning technique in the back seat. He didn’t stop thinking about AI that whole weekend.”
Rohan Joshi started with AI camp at age 13, finding the program when schools started transitioning to virtual classrooms during the pandemic. In the beginning, AI Camp was easy for him. He already had a background in the programming language Python, which is one of the main languages used for AI. Michael quickly sensed Rohan’s aptitude and curiosity and began challenging him more, giving him extensive feedback on projects and research, eventually even becoming a mentor. Today, Rohan is a high school freshman pursuing an AI Computer Science track at a New Jersey magnet school. Teachers have already skipped him ahead to some advanced classes with 11th graders.
Not only do AI Camp-goers walk away with a working and usable AI product, but they also get an opportunity to intern in the AI field straight out of high school. Some are even hired as tech professionals. Michael proudly touts that teenagers build the school’s technology. These 16, 17, and 18 year-olds work at AI Camp as software engineers, data scientists, designers, and marketers. One talented example is Jackson Choyce, a former student in Texas who manages more than 20 servers for the company. Michael says that AI Camp couldn’t function without Choyce. In addition, the AI Camp team is hoping to augment this career pathway by securing internships and interviews with big tech companies in the nation.
Professional job experience is crucial as many job pathways post-high school are increasingly absent, and millions of blue-collar jobs across the nation are already disappearing thanks to automation. Experts predict up to 800 million people worldwide will lose their jobs to emerging tech by 2030. Manufacturing, construction, and transportation will likely see the biggest hit. One example is truck drivers, a blue-collar mainstay threatened by startups like TuSimple, rolling out self-driving trucks that will put 3.5M drivers out of work [reference].
Michael and AI Camp are bridging a gap between the demand for AI literacy and the rate at which schools are meeting that demand. But he’s not alone in seeing the potential of high schoolers. Tech tycoon Elon Musk recently invested in Texas high schools, hoping to supply the much-needed workforce for his nearby Tesla Gigafactory and Starbase. He’s gone so far as not to require a high school diploma as long as applicants demonstrate a “deep understanding of AI” [reference].
Currently part of the AWS EdStart program and invested by domain experts such as Lambda School CEO Austen Allred, AI Camp is looking for its first round of funding to scale and properly ride the crest of the coming AI job tidal wave. Michael dreams of bringing AI education to the entire world in the long term now that his model has been proven to work online. He also wants to see what his students could accomplish with more curriculum and hopes to change education.
“Students stay with us for three weeks, and they end up creating an amazing AI product that people can actually use,” Michael says. “What if they stay with us for 4 years? We will blow traditional university graduates out of the water.”
AI Camp is built with this future in mind. Michael wants to make sure high schoolers get a foundation in AI and a solid idea of their career goals and what’s available to them. So he forms student groups to mimic the frenzy of a startup, having the kids perform different roles such as product management, marketing, website coding, and building machine learning models. Working hands-on and tasting different business flavors give students crucial experience and data about the prospective job market ahead of them. As Michael puts it, “learning about AI is about learning how to use data to make better decisions.”
Ultimately, he wants to see the camp influence the status quo and push higher education to take more ownership of where their graduates end up. As the camp scales, students will continue down the path of self-guided learning and hands-on training because learning by doing is fundamental to the camp’s values. Students and supporters sign on because they see that the future is bright for both AI and the camp itself.
“I hope that AI Camp transforms to a school focused on high school students learning ML/AI and going right into the workplace,” said John Danner, Managing Partner at Dunce Capital and one of the first investors of Lambda School. With thousands of students learning about AI and businesses starting to hire their graduates, AI Camp is inching towards its goals of educating the whole nation about AI and transforming higher education.
Company Name: AI Camp
Contact Person: Ana Alves
Email: Send Email
Address:2627 Hanover Street
City: Palo Alto
State: CA 94304
Country: United States