Exploring the World of AI and Autonomous Driving with DeepRacer: A Student’s Journey

Edison International is awarding Nicole Lee and high school seniors like her to help them follow their dreams in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) and empower them to change the world.

I want to Introduce an article written by my former student, Nicole Lee, whose commitment to learning during the pandemic is truly exceptional. Like many students around the world, Nicole was forced to learn from home as schools shut their doors. However, she did not let this setback hinder her passion for knowledge. In fact, she used this time to focus on artificial intelligence (AI) and sought out various learning resources to expand her knowledge on the topic. Nicole’s dedication to her studies and her community is commendable. She demonstrates curiosity, initiative, and excellent problem-solving skills, always following through and completing tasks to the best of her abilities. In this article, Nicole shares her insights on the impact of AI on the future of various industries and how individuals can prepare themselves for the inevitable changes that are to come.

Nicole Lee

During my sophomore year (2020-21), Mr. Fitzgerald introduced me to AWS DeepRacer which sparks my curiosity for artificial intelligence. When training my first autonomous car, the car knew to go around the track independently like it had a brain of its own. While evaluating, I noticed that the car was getting rewards while being on the track, but penalized when off-track, so the car tried something different to get better rewards. The first time it went around the track, it didn’t do so well, but it got better as it went around multiple times. I had fun competing against fellow classmates for the fastest lap around the track. I would experiment with different reward functions and training periods to see which one works the best.

I continued with AWS DeepRacer during my junior year (2021-22) where Mr. Fitzgerald presented an incredible opportunity which was the AWS DeepRacer Student League. I learned the fundamentals of machine learning and reinforcement learning and passed the quiz which qualified me for the AI & ML Scholarship! I ended up receiving the AI & ML Scholarship to Udacity’s AI Programming with Python Nanodegree where I got to go further in my education and learned skills to develop projects like using a Pre-trained Image Classifier to Identify Dog Breeds and creating my own image classifier. I also joined the community who also participated in AWS DeepRacer Student League where we actively work together to support each other on our ML projects.

AWS DeepRacer has taught me valuable skills which I’ll always carry with me into the future. When editing the reward function to get the fastest time possible, my peers and I would collaborate together to find the most efficient reward function. I enjoy collaborating because we got to combine our diverse backgrounds and experiences which provided additional insights. AWS DeepRacer also helped me develop AI skills which will help me become successful in the STEM field.

Currently, I’m a senior who’s planning to major in computer science. AWS DeepRacer played a huge role which is helping me find my passion for artificial intelligence. Competing in races also opened up opportunities where I can learn and succeed in the computer science field before I entered college. Learning how to code an AI can be difficult, but as long as I keep trying, I can get the code to work which is super satisfying. From competing in AWS DeepRacer competitions, I have received several awards, scholarships, and acceptances from multiple colleges like UC Berkeley, UCLA, and USC.

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