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Computers Are For Girls, Too

Huffington Post - Tech news and opinion

First, since girls aren't supposed to be into computers, they aren't exposed to computer science when they're young, and even if they are, they often aren't encouraged to pursue their interests in the field. That helps explain why only 22 percent of the high school students who take the AP computer science exam today are girls. Kayla didn't know she wanted to be a computer scientist until she'd already started a totally different career, in library science. It was only when she started training staff to use the library's software that she realized she might be interested in making software herself, so she went back to college for a second time to be a computer scientist. Kimberly had never heard of computer science until she saw it was one of the classes she could take at her local community college.


L.A. Olympic bid group seeks input from young computer programmers

Los Angeles Times

For the last few years, an event called LA Hacks has attracted thousands of college students who -- over the course of 35 largely sleepless hours -- collaborate on new computer hardware and software to solve various technical and social problems. When the hackathon returns to UCLA this weekend, the Olympic movement will have a place at the table. LA 2024 has signed on as a sponsor and will present two of the many challenges. Students will be asked to create apps that promote fitness and enhance the fan experience at live sporting events. "You get the juices flowing," said Jeff Millman, an LA 2024 spokesman.


Self-learning computer tackles problems beyond the reach of previous systems

#artificialintelligence

Experimental tests have shown that the new system, which is based on the artificial intelligence algorithm known as "reservoir computing," not only performs better at solving difficult computing tasks than experimental reservoir computers that do not use the new algorithm, but it can also tackle tasks that are so challenging that they are considered beyond the reach of traditional reservoir computing. The results highlight the potential advantages of self-learning hardware for performing complex tasks, and also support the possibility that self-learning systems--with their potential for high energy-efficiency and ultrafast speeds--may provide an extension to the anticipated end of Moore's law. The researchers, Michiel Hermans, Piotr Antonik, Marc Haelterman, and Serge Massar at the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Brussels, Belgium, have published a paper on the self-learning hardware in a recent issue of Physical Review Letters. "On the one hand, over the past decade there has been remarkable progress in artificial intelligence, such as spectacular advances in image recognition, and a computer beating the human Go world champion for the first time, and this progress is largely based on the use of error backpropagation," Antonik told Phys.org. "On the other hand, there is growing interest, both in academia and industry (for example, by IBM and Hewlett Packard) in analog, brain-inspired computing as a possible route to circumvent the end of Moore's law.


Microsoft opens dataset for teaching computers to talk

PCWorld

Microsoft is trying to help create machines that can have conversations by releasing a new set of data for free. The data, called the Microsoft Machine Reading Comprehension dataset (MS MARCO) is a bundle of 100,000 English queries along with corresponding answers. It's supposed to help people build artificial intelligence systems that can understand human written language. The company is opening up its dataset in the hope that Microsoft can work with other organizations on making machines better at reading comprehension, said Rangan Majumder, program manager for the Microsoft Partner Group, in a blog post on Friday. The queries in MS MARCO are based on anonymized questions that were submitted to Microsoft's Bing search engine and Cortana virtual assistant.


Bootcamps Are Refactoring Computer Science Education

Huffington Post - Tech news and opinion

The idea that university CS programs are taking bright young minds and fashioning them into algorithm and data structure whiz-kids defies the observations of almost any incoming CS student or their instructor. Many CS freshmen enter college already having a passion for computers and likely a privileged amount of access to technology and mentorship. Like myself, they were given computers as children by parents who were themselves close to technology. They have computer usage skills (how to configure your machine, how to fix basic computer problems) and have parents (or tutors) who introduced them to programming. For those without that background, freshman CS can prove very challenging.