AI Scholars 2019

 

A group of 11 juniors and seniors, teachers Michael D'Egidio and Kate Kilian and head of school Ralph Maurer are attending the seventh annual China (Shanghai) International Technology Fair from April 18-21. The students will learn about new AI technologies and products, attend global panels and tours Shanghai Jiao Ton University while in the country.

 

April 2019

April 25: Heading Home - Kate Maloney

Today marks the end of an amazing trip as we begin our long journey home. I took advantage of the hotel breakfast for the last time making sure to get my last taste of local Shanghai breakfast cuisine. After breakfast we loaded on the bus and left for the airport. We got our final glimpses of the city as we drove to the airport, and we even got a feel for the morning rush hour traffic in Shanghai. After checking in and moving through security we made it to the gates with extra time to shop for snacks and/ or any last gifts to bring home. 

For the most part, our flight from Shanghai to Atlanta went pretty smoothly with the exception of a couple hiccups. Someone on the plane had a medical emergency that required the use of a defibrillator. Due to Trevor’s prayers, the passenger was okay, and the pilot sped up the flight to get us to our destination even faster. Additionally, we experienced violent turbulence that shook the cabin. Fortunately, this did not last long and the rest of the flight was smooth sailing. 

We had a tight connection in Atlanta that many of us were worried about missing. Since our plane landed early, we made it through customs and to the gate with extra time to spare! 

Overall, the trip was one of the most fun and rewarding experiences of my life, and I believe I speak for all of the students that attended. I was fortunate enough to attend three international school trips throughout my time at Oxbridge, and I can confidently say that the bonds I created with my peers and teachers on this trip were unparalleled: navigating the complex streets of Shanghai and conquering unfamiliar meals is no task for the faint hearted. Did I mention we did this all without the ability to speak the native language? We all have our own ways of saying “thank you” in Chinese because let’s face it, none of us know how it’s actually pronounced. We are all very grateful for Dr. Maurer and everyone who helped make this trip possible, and, of course, for our teachers Mr. D’Egidio and Ms. Kilian whose patience and optimism never wavered throughout the trip, even when helping Trevor locate his unattended passport, phone, wallet, bag, etc. The purpose of this trip was to study artificial intelligence at one of the top STEM universities in the world, but I learned so much more than that. I made my first attempts at haggling in Chinese markets, I stepped outside my comfort zone by trying new foods that were foreign to me (not very similar to the PF Changs Chinese food we are used to in America), but most importantly, I learned that my calling in life is to move to China to become a model: in a country with so little diversity, Sophia, Ms. Kilian, and I quickly learned that blondes are of the rarity, and we were treated like celebrities as the locals followed us around with their cameras like paparazzi. If I return to China one day, I’m mentally prepared to see one of our faces plastered across a billboard or some other form of advertising. 

As my days at Oxbridge are limited, I am excited to return to school and share my stories from the trip with my fellow peers, teachers, mentors, and coaches. I am so honored to have been offered a spot on this trip and beyond thankful for the opportunity to spend quality time with people I love while immersing myself in a completely different culture.

April 24: Suzhou Garden - Colin Kramer

In accordance with my previous mornings, I awoke to the most annoying alarm noise I could find. After finishing our morning routines, I found myself in the hotel cafe for another authentic Shanghai breakfast consisting of French toast and deep fried dough. Now, earth’s mightiest students assembled in the lobby at boarded our bus for a long 2 hour drive to Suzhou, China. 

Eventually, we arrived at Suzhou garden. At the entrance is an ornate map of the 400 year old garden made from jade. From there, we quickly advanced to the main pond. While there, we were fortunate to catch a performance of a flutist on an old paddle boat on the water. Very soon, our group also got to watch a woman play on a traditional Chinese lute. We continued through the garden and admired the landscape and architecture. Most notably was the bonsai tree garden. The trees were used to create tiny landscapes for our giant bodies to look at. Some even has tiny structures that made us feel even bigger. After a few hours, we concluded our tour of the garden with the cherry on top, the gift shop.

Second, we shuttled over the Suzhou silk factory. The factory was constructed way back in 1926. The tour was much shorter than the garden. However, during that time we learned a brief history of silk making in China and then we were exposed to the actual process of extracting the silk. To summarize the process, worked would take the cocoons of the silk worms, pull off all the silk created when they created their cocoon, they would eventually take the cocoon and wet it and then stretch it. Finally the silk was let to dry. Some of us even joined in to help carefully spread a cocoon to help in making a comfy blanket. Sadly, each silk worm is killed in this process. And on that terrible note, we again made our way to the gift shop where we picked up some last minutes gifts. 

We gathered all of our belongings and got back onto the bus for the last 2 hours back the the hotel. We arrived to the hotel, which has become a proper home for us, and we packed up our things to ship out in the morning. Our dinner was spent eating take out from the restaurant across the street on the secret(ish) third floor terrace of the hotel. I finished the day practically crying myself to sleep because I knew it was time to leave in the morning. 

April 23: Educational Tourism - Alex Boren

Today we visited the headquarters of DeepBlue, a Chinese AI company that has plans to implement their technology in China to improve the efficiency of the country and to adapt more of the world to service robots. We learned about robots that are already in use in some Shanghai hotels that are capable of bringing room service food to you. We also were shown impressive technology that allows people to register their palm as a way to pay for things such as bus transportation and vending machines. According to DeepBlue, palm scans are much more secure than face or fingerprint scans. 

Shortly after our meeting we had lunch at a traditional Chinese restaurant where we ate pork, chicken, and, noodles. Next, we toured a very famous high school in Shanghai and gave the students of the school small gifts such as water bottles and Oxbridge notebooks. We also sat in on two classes: a computer class and a robotics class. We had the opportunity to speak to the students about their experiences in school and their projects.

Next, we drove to a mall and got time to walk around and shop for an hour. Most of us decided to buy Dairy Queen for desert after lunch however, it was a bit of a struggle as the Dairy Queen employee did not speak any English and Tracy, our translator, was not with us because she was elsewhere shopping. Once we all had our ice cream, we got back on the bus and headed back to the hotel early for pizza so that we could do a bunch of homework because some people where still behind on the homework they had to do.

April 22: From the Modern World to the Old World: Jacob Green

My day started off as usual, being woken up by Zac at 6:30 a.m. who insists on waking up at 5:30 every morning, going to the gym and then comes back to the room after breakfast to shower. I stayed in bed for about an hour while I tried to adjust to my surroundings, then I slid into the most comfortable hotel slippers and made my way down to breakfast. After eating a breakfast that was definitely not kosher for Passover, I headed back up to my room to get ready for the day.

After a short bus ride, we arrived at our first stop: the headquarters of a company called PinLan. At PinLan, we met with CTO Jason Li who told us about how the company is using AI to analyze the placements of products on grocery store shelves and confirm whether or not correct products are placed on correct shelves because some companies pay more to be placed on certain shelves. A riveting concept truly! We discussed some of the problems the company has run into while developing this AI, and Jason gave us a glimpse into a potential future where entire grocery stores are stocked and managed by robots equipped with AI.

After our meeting with Jason, we went to a restaurant across the street for an authentic Chinese lunch. Compared to the food from the first few days, this meal was outstanding, and we all filled up as we had a lot of activities before our next meal. After lunch and tea, we hopped back on the bus for a short ride to the Jing’an Temple. 

When we stepped through the gates of the temple, we were immediately immersed in the culture by the monks walking around on their iPhones. Next, we saw a structure that people were trying to throw coins into, so we all attempted the same (some of us had more difficulty doing this than others). After giving up on throwing a coin into this giant donation tower, I ventured off to explore the beautiful temple. I walked up the steps into the main temple area where I was met by a group of monks preforming a ritualistic chant under a giant gold statue of Buddha. I then explored the rest of the temple, the whole time being amazed by the impressive architecture, the beautiful marble engravings, and the extravagant statues. Before I knew it, the hour was up and it was time to leave, but I still had not thrown a coin into the donation tower. So, as we were waiting for Mr. D'Egidio to finish up in the gift shop, I successfully threw my coin into the donation tower!  

After we left the temple, we took the bus to the famous Nanjing road, a famous street filled with a blend of overpriced, fancy stores and shops where bartering the price as low as possible is the goal. We split into groups and walked around the street for a while where many people came up to us offering to sell us a wide variety of products and services. Then we walked back to where we started and spent our last 10 minutes or so in a Marvel themed clothing store. We then reconnected with the rest of our group and made our way to dinner for possibly the best meal of the trip.

At our restaurant, which was on the far side of Nanjing road, we sat down and were told that food had already been ordered for us. First a few appetizers came out, but then the main course arrived. The restaurant we were at specialized in dumplings, but not just any type of dumplings, instead, these were Xiao Long Bao or dumplings filled with soup and pork. While we waited for the dumplings to cool, we listened to our trip organizer, Tracy, who told us we had to eat the dumplings all in one bite or the soup would spill out. The dumplings were amazing, by far the best meal of the trip. When we walked out of the restaurant, we were greeted by the store logo M&M. We ran across the pedestrian walk way and sprinted up the steps into the store, where we were greeted by all of the M&M merch we could want. We all bought some M&Ms and then we walked outside and saw another store that sparked the inner kid in all of us, the Lego store. We explored the store, letting our little kids run free before we had to leave and walk back to the bus. 

During the 10-minute walk to the bus, our group was split in two. Most of us, who walk at normal speed, stayed together while a select few—Finch, Tracy, Luke, and Will—walked ahead at blistering speeds, frightening the rest of group making us think they got lost. When we reconciled at the bus, we were all relieved that no one was lost, and we headed back to the hotel. When we arrived at the hotel Zac, Trevor, and I hit the gym where we all killed our legs. Then we went to sleep and regenerated our energy for our next busy day.

April 21: One Chinese Hour - Henriete Purina

Today was probably the most exhausting day we’ve had so far. It all started with a light gym session with the regular crew until my stomach decided it was time to eat. Although I consider myself somewhat literate in sports, I could not keep up with Dr. Maurer and Zac during breakfast when they were exchanging their top draft picks for the NBA. Or was it the NFL? Later, when walking downstairs to meet for the bus, a half a dozen tiny bunnies in a playpen intercepted us, all dashing and bouncing around. It made the start to our Easter Day extra special!

Our first stop was the Shanghai Pearl Tower, standing 1,535 feet tall and scoring the rank of the fifth largest tower in the world. It was quite intimidating from below as the top half wasn’t even visible through the thick clouds (or smog?). It was supposedly a one-hour wait, but it felt like we were standing there for days. I jokingly commented that “we didn’t consider that it would take one Chinese hour instead of an American hour,” to which a fellow student replied with “oh really? how are they different?” Needless to say, it brought us to tears laughing and made the line go by much, much faster. As we reached the elevator, all of us packed into a small metal box like sardines and shot upwards at a speed of 5 meters per second. Once we reached the top, we were absolutely amazed by the view: alluring, yet intimidating. We captured more photos than we needed and then went down a level to the invisible floor. The perspective we had from above was stunning as we could see a great portion of Shanghai, all from a birds-eye view. On our way out, we strolled through the Shanghai history museum and learned about the city’s impressive history.

Our next destination was the eye-catching Yu Garden, just a walk away from the place where we had a tasty authentic Shanghai-style lunch. At the garden, Mr. D'Egidio, a self-proclaimed photographer, took ample pictures with his “wide-screen” phone camera while the rest of us cowered under umbrellas to protect us from the pouring rain. On the way back, we stopped at a few booths for some rice balls filled with meat floss (it was better than it sounds) and boba tea. We briefly took a break before leaving on foot for the pier.

By this point, we were all exhausted and impatiently waiting for one of the trips’ biggest highlights: the nighttime boat cruise around the Shanghai river. On it, we saw the grand Bund and its surrounding bright skyscrapers. The Bund is quite an unexpected sight for those who aren’t aware of the city’s British influence. I promised to keep my time outside of the boat and in the rain to a minimum (there was no way I was going to get sick on this trip), but the beautiful view was too hard to resist. The ride wasn’t particularly long, and it was just the right length for all of us to experience the city from a different perspective and still have the energy to walk back to the bus.

When everyone stepped on the bus, it suddenly became very serene as people were starting to fall asleep. I, for one, was out cold up until I was woken up by the bus upon our arrival at the hotel. A tiresome day for sure, but given the opportunity, I would do it all over again!

April 20: That's a Wrap on the Conference - Trevor Honeycutt

Today was the final day of CSITF. Despite this being the third day of the convention, I still found some new cool things to check out. One company that peaked my interest was Monglia. This company was showcasing a device that allowed a normal person to lift construction materials as heavy as 400 kg. This device would improve construction safety and efficiency. 

At around noon, we ate a traditional Chinese meal—KFC. The KFC was delivered by a 快递员, someone who delivers food by bicycle. Then Dr. Maurer met with three perspective students and their parents. It was cool getting to meet with the future student of Oxbridge.

The fair ended around 3 p.m. and we packed up, said goodbye to the booth, and waited at a pizza restaurant for an hour while our bus was stuck in traffic.

For dinner we continued our exotic meals with Dairy Queen and spaghetti. Our dinner today was especially “Americanize” because we wanted to get back to the hotel quickly in order to catch up on homework. Now, I’m only three days behind on homework!

April 19: Oxbridge at CSTIF - Zachary Webel

Day four was an eventful and unforgettable experience. Although it was our longest and most energy consuming day, the memories we created brought out a sense of emotion and passion in my peers that I have not observed in them in the past. 

To begin the day after waking up at six, my friend Henriete and I met some of our fellow early risers in the lobby for a quick meal before we had to depart the hotel for the technology fair. Although I am a very picky eater, especially at breakfast, the hotel food has been outstanding. Throughout our short time here in Shanghai, my breakfast has been very consistent: chocolate croissants, Xiaolongbao (soup filled dumplings), an egg, and a bottled water.

Following our quick meal and several “oh how American of you to get chocolate croissants” comments from my peers, we boarded the bus and drove about 15 minutes to the convention center. Although I could only observe the surroundings from a blurry bus window, the Old City looked magnificent in the morning sky. Considering how breathtaking the view of the high rises in the Old City were, I was amazed at the fact that it was not the coolest site we had seen that day. 

Jumping straight off of the bus at the entrance of the convention center and chasing down Finch, who has a habit of walking at a pace equivalent to the speed of light, we were amazed at the size of the building and the ascetics of the CSTIF advertisements. 

After a miniature photo shoot outside the convention center, we made our way through security and to our booth. Surrounded by self-driving cars, large scale 3D printers and located near the entrance of the convention center, our booth was decorated with lovely posters and promotional “Shwag” (as Dr. Mauer calls it) put together by Ms. Killian and Peili. Although our booth did not have extravagant LED displays or loud speakers like the adjacent booth representing a private satellite and aquatic drone, it represented the school well and provided an insight to onlookers as to what an American college preparatory school looks like. 

The first half of the day spent at CSTIF was exciting and by far the coolest experience I have had this year. Starting off in the back left corner and observing science fair style projects, we came across a company that created the 骨质疏松自疗仪- Osteoporosis Self-Therapy Instrument. This machine was great for Jacob and I because although we don’t have osteoporosis, we had worked out the day before and our legs were sore; therefore, the vibrations crawling up our legs and to our spine calmed our hamstrings and alleviated the pain.  

Following this encounter, our group split up and went our separate ways. Luke and I were quickly drawn into two exhibits: Elkem and the DC-10. To start, Elkem 3D prints silicone to use for countless medical issues. The DC-10 is an Unmanned Arial Vehicle that has numerous uses: science, land making, reconnaissance, engineering, law enforcement, disaster reduction/relief, maritime supervision, and many more. This exhibit caught our eyes because of my fascination in self driving vehicles and Luke’s interest in airplanes/drones. 

April 18: Haggling Hayday - William Boynton

The day started out as normal: The select few hit the gym while the rest of us took our sweet time sleeping in before sleepwalking to breakfast. After another filling buffet, the group excitedly strolled off to the bus for our second Chinese shopping experience.

Not long after we stepped on the bus and were off to our destination, Trevor tried his best to trick the back half of the bus into believing that the text on his phone was randomly switched to Chinese. Luke quickly saw through his guise, but deviously let it play out.

After arriving at the shops at around 9:45 a.m., we were told we had approximately two hours to roam the mall in our groups and buy whatever caught our eye. The one catch, however, was that we would have to haggle the initial prices thrown out by shopkeepers down to reasonable values.

We were set loose and immediately began zipping in and out of stores, searching for little trinkets and objects we could bring home as gifts and keepsakes. Some of us were not too great at haggling, but others, like Henriete and Zac, were surprisingly good at it. The shopping experience eventually led to us trying dragonfruit and to all of us buying at least one item each.

After regrouping just outside of the mall, we rode off to spend the second half of the day at the trade fair to watch Dr. Maurer speak. Beforehand, we ate at a small restaurant called Gustos. I believe they were surprised when we ordered seven pizzas and finished every one of them.

After lunch, we walked over to the round table event that Dr. Maurer was participating in a panel discussion. Each person was asked three questions like why they were here, what they saw for the future of what they were doing, and what projects they had brought to show the people at the convention. Dr. Maurer spoke about Oxbridge, how it was developing its STEM-based community, and how he believed that there was a grand future ahead for the school. Another person from Germany spoke about a different topic entirely and told of a garage solution that could fit five times more cars per parking garage and reduce emissions on a city-wide scale.

After listening to the discussion, everyone regrouped at the Oxbridge booth to announce the plans for the rest of the day. Shortly after, Luke decided to buy .001 percent of Trevor’s company (Vullio) for one yuan (0.15 USD). Trevor accepted and raised the “stock prices” of his company to be .00001 percent for one yuan, of which Sophia and I each bought one share. However, he then lost five yuan to Luke because he had to repay Luke for a previously bought soda.

After this short ordeal, it was time to haggle our way through another mall, this one with a very cool pearl market. Almost immediately after splitting off into our safely sized groups again, we followed the same shopping protocol as in the morning. 

After meeting back with the other group, Trevor told the story of how he brought an 800 yuan counterfeit model Boeing 777 down to 80 yuan and became a scammer’s nightmare.

Eventually, we made our way to the pearl shop and walked through it for a time before walking out. In this time, Trevor and Jacob were able to each buy red “silk” Chinese patterned robes and proudly wore them out to the streets like the tourists they are.

Finally, we drove off to an amazing dinner of dumplings and pork, which we ravenously ate as we watched Trevor clumsily spill more soda. Dinner passed by in a blur and, soon enough, everyone had collapsed onto their beds and fell asleep.

April 17: Shanghai, the New Chapter - Luke Weisberg

Today was a busy day.  We got up bright and early and started our day off with a fantastic buffet breakfast. By 8:30 a.m., we were on our way to our last day of class.  After a short walk through the city, we arrived and met up with our lovely teacher, 刘老师 (pronounced “Jim”).  We started our class off with a quick review of the material we had learned over the past two days. After our brief review, we jumped right into a new topic: ensemble techniques and strategies. An understandable introduction quickly turned into a complicated lesson, but we soon got the hang of it. Just in case you were wondering, in machine learning, the ensemble techniques and strategies we were learning about consisted of multiple learning algorithms that are used to make more accurate data predictions than predictions made from one algorithm alone. I won’t bore you with a summarized version of our lesson, so I’ll move on.

At around noon, we went to get lunch. We walked for about ten minutes until we reach the main campus of Shanghai Jiao Tong University and ate at the university cafeteria. After lunch, Mr. D’Egidio wanted to make a quick stop to get a coffee. Of course, everyone decided they wanted to get a drink from the cafe as well. While we were waiting on our orders, we took a little walk around the campus, with a police officer following us and staring us down the whole time. Once we reentered the main building, our new friend left us and we picked up our drinks. After that, we got a proper tour of the university.  

As we were heading to the heart of the campus, we walked passed a statue that we thought would make for a good photo opportunity. We stopped to take a photo, and just in front of us, about 50 middle schoolers from a local school were rounding the corner. We line up to take a photo, and then all of the middle schoolers joined us for another photo. It was truly a fantastic moment. We officially started our tour with an 100+ year old building that was around when the school first opened. This building acted as a museum for the school itself, displaying graduating classes, notable alumni, and achievements from students. We then went to the school’s maritime museum, as the school is heavily involved in maritime and oceanic studies. As a sailor, I had a field day in this museum.  We got to learn about the entirety of Chinese maritime history, from bamboo boats to the largest tanker ever built, the Seawise Giant, and everything in between. 

From the maritime museum, we headed back to our class to gather our supplies, and then we were off to the next destination. After yet another short walk, we found ourselves at the Qian Xuesen Library and Museum. This museum focused on China’s national achievements.  We found exhibits that discussed innovation in computer science, aerospace engineering, space exploration, and last but not least, weapons of mass destruction. Even with that last part, it was fascinating to see how quickly China advanced technologically and what they have achieved in short periods of time. 

To wrap up a tiring day of studying, walking, and sightseeing, we had dinner at cozy little cafe right down the block from the hotel called Waggas. When we were done with dinner, we started to turn in for the night, as tomorrow we have to be up at the crack of dawn for the first day of the tech fair, a three day long event that we are all looking forward to. 

April 16: A Jar of Straight Student - Finch Davis

Why does every single blog post I have need to be about Sophia [Lloyd George] getting weird food? She ate ostrich burgers in Cambridge, and now this. But I didn’t expect it to happen this soon into the trip. I’m calling it right now: The overall consensus on the trip will be that the food is one of the top three best things. Maybe even number one. This day really drove it home. In my memory, this day was all about the food. 

Right after breakfast, we visited a small supermarket on our way to our lessons, filled to the brim with both sweets we recognized from home and sweets we were eager to try. As if those wouldn’t be enough to keep us satisfied during our lesson, where we worked with algorithms for processing handwritten letters and numbers into compacted images and then classifying them, we were also treated with what I might essentially describe as a Chinese cannoli. I, for one, enjoyed having a ton of buttercream wrapped up in a flaky dough crust, but as soon as one person said “it’s basically eating a stick of butter,” everyone else chickened out.

I was wondering if anyone on this trip would heed Mr. D’Egidio’s suggestion from dinner the night before and actually try out the local food, but my hopes were dashed when the group (thankfully, narrowly) voted to get pizza for lunch. Surprisingly, the group that wanted to try new food didn’t get completely overlooked, and one of the pizzas was a pretty unique flavor: cheese, topped with potato wedges and what I think may have been sweet mayonnaise. It was surprisingly popular, so score one for the gastronomically adventurous students.

After some more coding and a story from Ms. Killian about her hatred of mobile Star Wars games, we got the unique opportunity to meet with four Chinese students and talk about what sorts of projects we were doing, ranging from an interactive aquarium game to a robot that can dance along to Gangnam Style. It was a really cool cultural and educational experience, and it’s safe to say that it definitely raised my expectations for what we’ll get to see and what we’ll get to display at the tech fair. My only regret was that we didn’t get to do it for long enough. I sincerely hope we get more opportunities like that on this trip.

Once we were done with our lessons and work for the day, we walked down to a shopping mall for dinner at a family-run Vietnamese restaurant, which may be my favorite meal of the trip so far. I tried the lemongrass chicken with vermicelli noodles, but when the food arrived I think it was pretty obvious that I was completely clueless on how to do it. The waitress noticed and tried to help me out by gesturing that I should add the broth and mix the chicken and veggies together, but by the time she had to bring me a fork, I think she gave up on me. I eventually figured it out. I also ended up eating three of the spicy peppers at the same time and I still don’t think my mouth has completely recovered. 

The meal left us wanting even more. Two other students and myself decided that Olé, a grocery store, was the best use of our 30 minutes in the mall. After only a few minutes of looking around, we were all offered free samples of a breakfast cereal mix called Straight Student, a mix of ground nuts and other dried starches that can be mixed with hot milk. It was a little earthy and had a weird texture but was actually pretty good. Unfortunately, the woman offering the samples only spoke Mandarin, which none of us speak. Sophia attempted to ask which flavor of mix was the best, but unfortunately things got lost in translation and the attendant started mixing a full jar for her on the spot and none of us wanted to go through the trouble of asking her to stop. So while Sophia awkwardly waited by the stand, Henriete [Purina] and I passed the time by finding other humorous mis-translations on the grocery store labels, such as “Functional Drink”, “She Is Installed”, “Egg Chocolate (Boy)”, and my personal favorite “peipsi”. 

We stopped on the way back to take photos of a light display on a globe at another mall and for Mr. D’Egidio to get his coffee at Starbucks, which I suspect is the only thing holding him together as he struggles to manage us insolent ruffians for two weeks. I may or may not be directly contributing to that by walking slightly faster than everyone else, just like in Cambridge or anywhere else. Not on purpose or anything. I just walk really fast. At least I know where I’m going, as I was able to lead everyone else back to the hotel. I just have a sort of knack for navigation. But right before we got back, we stopped into yet another supermarket for even more snacks, including Pokémon branded sodas or kawaii Pringles cans. Don’t even ask.

That evening, when I finally realized just how quickly all those calories were adding up, I took a trip down to the hotel fitness room with some friends. Although the nightly curfew cut my workout a tad short, it did manage to tire myself out by the time I returned to my room. Both literally and figuratively, I went to sleep that night hungry for more.

April 15: First Impressions in Shanghai - Sophia Lloyd George

早上好美国I hope you all are having a wonderful day! As is said in China, 祝你过一个好天!

Following 16 hours of flying, we were all incredibly excited to land in Shanghai. Upon arrival, we boarded the Maglev train, the fastest train in China, to our hotel. Traveling at a speed of 300 km per hour, the train provided a beautiful view of the city, allowing us to wonder at the illuminated billboards and towering skyscrapers distinguishing the landscape. After receiving a warm welcome from our tour guides, who thoughtfully greeted us with a variety of Chinese juices and sandwiches, we discussed our anticipation for the following day and checked into our rooms.

With the exception of Luke, who had taken 20 milligrams of melatonin on the plane, we had not been able to sleep very well on the flight; thus, we quickly fell asleep after briefly unpacking. Although we had been informed that the hotel served a continental breakfast, we were amazed to wake up to an incredible display of both Chinese and American cuisine, ranging from lychee to dim sum.

Following our delicious breakfast, we walked 20 minutes to Shanghai Jiao Tong University, the site at which our classes would be held for the initial three days. Our teacher, 刘老师, began our first lecture by prompting us to consider the implications of artificial intelligence; she then instructed us in its programming application, using the decision tree model. It was absolutely fascinating to understand more about not only the coding aspect of AI, which was amazing in of itself, but also its capacity to resolve pertinent issues and be employed for social good, including for image recognition analysis in cancer research. We also realized how well the Oxbridge computer science classes had prepared us, as we were able to comprehend and apply the concepts we were taught.

Completing our coding exercises, we took a break for lunch, which was McDonald's. After Will tried the spicy chicken sandwich and taro pie, we realized that there was a conspicuous difference between Chinese and American McDonald's, which was an interesting cultural experience. On the way back from our classes, we decided to stop in a grocery store to purchase beverages. As we explored the different aisles, a kind lady offered me a sample of a hot nut mixture. It was amazing to be able to use my Chinese speaking skills to converse with her, and I learned so much about her life and perception of Shanghai during our conversation. After seeing many adorable dogs on our walk, we arrived at dinner at an authentic Shanghainese restaurant, during which we sampled numerous Chinese dishes.

During dinner, Mr. D’Egidio and Ms. Kilian shared their traveling experiences with us as well and taught some of us to learn to use chopsticks. We then dedicated two hours to completing our homework and coding assignments for the next day, and although we originally planned to go swimming afterward, we decided to go to sleep instead, as the jet lag was beginning to affect us!

Although we have only experienced one day in Shanghai thus far, I think that all of us agree that it is truly a remarkable opportunity and amazing in its entirety, from the cultural exchange to the AI instruction. We are all looking forward to attending the International Technology Fair, continuing to expand our AI knowledge, and growing closer as a group during the remainder of our trip. I would like to express our appreciation and gratitude for everyone who organized the AI-Shanghai experience, especially our wonderful chaperones, Mr. D’Egidio and Ms. Kilian! 晚上好from Shanghai!