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When computer science major Kausthub Raj Jadhav initially started working with artificial intelligence two years ago, he felt a bit unsure of himself. “I accidentally discovered AI when I was trying to build a more ‘intelligent’ chess program my sophomore year at UCI,” he says. “I found it very intimidating at first.” So, he decided to reach out to other students for help.

“I thought it would be fun to create an environment where we could all learn together,” explains Jadhav. He officially created that environment in October 2017, with fellow UCI student Ahmed Gorashi, launching the AI@UCI club.

Today, the nonprofit, student-run club has 70 active undergraduate and graduate members, with Jadhav, now a senior specializing in intelligent systems, serving as club president. “My goal is to introduce more people to the amazing world of AI,” he says, “and to use this technology for social good.”

Kausthub Raj Jadhav (center) with executive members of the AI@UCI club

Toward that effort, the club strives to reflect the multidisciplinary nature of AI. “We hold events aimed at students with diverse backgrounds,” says Jadhav. “We encourage students with majors in philosophy, economics, biology and so on to attend our meetings.” To accommodate these students, the club often covers non-technical topics at its meetings, with members or guest speakers giving talks such as “Introduction to AI” or “Careers in AI.” Jadhav is currently working to schedule talks for later this year, including “The Future of AI” and “Ethics in AI.”

Yet the club covers technical topics as well. “We teach our members advanced concepts such as neural networks, deep learning and transfer learning.” The concepts are taught at workshops where participants learn to build games such as Pong AI, Chess AI and Flappy Birds AI. “We also like to focus on industry-standard platforms such as Tensorflow and CUDA,” says Jadhav.

Club members attend a Q&A session on AI with Google software engineer David Newman and UCI professors Alex Ihler and Stephan Mandt (previously a senior research scientist at Disney Research).

In addition, the club hosts Q&A sessions on AI and machine learning with experts from companies such as Google, Disney, Nvidia and Microsoft. Moving forward, Jadhav says the club is looking to host an AI conference as well as machine learning competitions and hackathons. He also hopes to start a competitive self-driving car team. “I’m excited to see how autonomous vehicles turn out. They’re the future.”

Visit the AI@UCI YouTube channel for videos of past events and the club’s events page on Facebook to learn about upcoming meetings and workshops.

Shani Murray