Amazon Scholarship Recipient Discovers the Power of Artificial Intelligence

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José “Pepe” Tapia, a senior, future artificial intelligence professional about to graduate, had a 2.0 GPA in high school and had no sense of direction.

After graduating, he attended a community college, but dropped out soon after. He couldn’t afford higher education and didn’t know how to apply for financial aid.

“It was a barrier to getting into college for a student like me because there was no one to help make the transition to college smooth,” says Tapia.

Tapia is the son of immigrants from Mexico, where his father worked as a landscaper and his mother as a housekeeper, but instead worked in retail.

“Then I made some bad decisions and got into trouble with the law,” he said.

Tapia fell into depression. His future course was uncertain.

Nearly a decade after his girlfriend graduated from UCLA, he believed in himself and rekindled his dream of pursuing a higher education.

“My girlfriend was the light I needed to believe in myself again,” said Tapia, who has four siblings and grew up in Escondido.

In 2019, he enrolled at Palomar College in San Diego County with an associate’s degree in Computer Science and Mathematics. He was the first in his family to graduate from college.

Tapia transferred to CSUF in Fall 2021, majoring in Computer Science. In May, he will be the first in his family to receive a bachelor’s degree.

“The older I got, the easier it became to understand and appreciate the value of a college degree,” he said.

At CSUF, Tapia’s doors were wide open and he seized every opportunity.

Tapia found a sense of belonging when she joined the Abrego Future Scholars program for first-generation college students.

Computer Science Major José “Pepe” Tapia

Last summer, he was introduced to artificial intelligence and machine learning research through ASSURE-US. ASSURE-US is his $1.5 million grant program funded by the National Science Foundation to boost the number of Hispanic students in STEM careers. Sudarshan Kurwadkar Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering directs ASSURE-US (Building Capacity: Advancing Student Success in Undergraduate Engineering and Computer Science). Since 2018, the grant program has served more than 1,000 of his Engineering and Computer Science students from minority backgrounds.

Tapia’s participation in the ASSURE-US Summer Program is what led him to his current research project.

“Being involved in computer science research has allowed me to take responsibility for everything I do,” he said. “Owning the product gives us some understanding and appreciation of the team’s success.”

Amazon Project Brings Families Together

To further support hands-on learning, Tapia received an AWS Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) Scholarship from Amazon and a California State University Edison STEM-NET Student Research Fellowship.

Through Amazon’s scholarship program to prepare minority students for careers in AI and machine learning, Tapia is working on a project to develop a low-cost recording software device. The “EPAL Project” will live stream video to the cloud so families can gather to watch sports games live or after the game.

Tapia came up with the idea of ​​using technology to “remotely” watch his brother play high school basketball, who had to miss a game while in college.

“This live-streaming device connects underserved families by allowing parents and children to connect through games,” he said.

AI Coach in League of Legends

This spring semester, he’s working on the project “AI Coach for Video Games” with mentor Doina Bein, a professor of computer science and co-director of the grant program. This project uses artificial intelligence and machine learning. This is a subset of AI where algorithms prioritize data to perform specific tasks or actions.

The purpose of this research is to create a full fledged web application for creating personal coaches for users playing the competitive video game “League of Legends”. Popular multiplayer online battle arena video game developed by Riot Games.

José “Pepe” Tapia and his supervisor, Professor of Computer Science Doina Bein.

This project uses publicly available data to develop an AI model that can provide actionable feedback to Legend players. The game has a steep learning curve, so it gives users an interactive AI coach that can answer questions, offer suggestions, and communicate data visually and textually, Bein said. .

“AI coaches allow players to spend less time studying the game and more time playing the game,” added Tapia, an esports player.

Team-based Legends games attract all types of players, from casual players to competitive players to even professionals.

“Even though the players are in the background, they all share the same common goal: to play the game with the goal of winning and improving,” says Bein. “Players may not have the tools they need to stay competitive. is intended to provide players with

Being involved in research not only prepares Tapia for a future career, but it is also rewarding to take an idea from concept to finished product, said Tapia, who plans to seek a job in the AI ​​industry after graduation. It’s a schedule.

“My passion is using AI and machine learning to help people improve their quality of life and build stronger bonds between people,” he said. “It turns out that we can achieve this with the power of artificial intelligence technology.”

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