An Inside Look at Canadian Undergrad AI Conference

Photo Courtesy of Hale Mahon

Over 300 students from a wide range of universities gathered in Kingston, Ont. during Mar. 4 and Mar. 5 for the Canadian Undergraduate Conference on Artificial Intelligence (CUCAI). The conference, hosted at Queen’s University, “brings together a diverse set of perspectives, thoughts, and insights” about artificial intelligence (AI), according to its website.

Events included keynote speeches, interactive workshops, networking opportunities, a project showcase, and a gala dinner.

“It’s been an amazing experience to host everyone, including our student partners making the trip from all across Canada to attend CUCAI 2023,” the organization stated via a post on its LinkedIn page. “Our organizing team put in a ton of effort to make this year’s CUCAI a success, spending several months planning, aggregating, and executing all events.”

One element of the conference that drew massive appeal was the several keynote speeches and fireside chats delivered by prominent companies in the AI scene. These included Raymond Lo of Intel, Ti Guo of IBM, Wemba Opota of Microsoft, Ivan Zhang of Cohere, Allison Cohen of the Mila Institute, and Isla Bashir and Nicole Lytle of Craftly.AI. At these sessions, attendees learned about the speakers’ personal journeys in the industry, innovative new products and technology, and how the companies are becoming industry leaders.

A research and project showcase also took place on Saturday. Those presenting their ideas included student teams from universities like Queen’s, Western, Waterloo, University of Victoria in BC, Université de Montréal, and McGill.

Students also attended a gala dinner on Saturday night, wherein awards were presented to some of the teams taking part in that showcase.

A case-based workshop, hosted by tech consultants with a large professional services firm, presented students with a hypothetical business problem and gave the opportunity to act as consultants and address the problem using an AI approach. Excalibur spoke to Ian Ho, Rachel Bouwer, and Travis Cossarini, three of the consultants hosting the workshop.

Bouwer was also the previous co-chair of CUCAI. “Having been a part of organizing this conference in the past, I thought it was really interesting and beneficial to see the people across different universities connect with each other,” she said.

Ho says CUCAI is “a great opportunity for students to show off their skills to industry leaders.” 

“I think it’s a great opportunity to get visibility and recognition for the work [students are doing],” Cossarini adds. 

It’s been widely reported that AI is changing how people live and work. Ho explains that “I have noticed that there is a lot more interest in AI recently. Many people seem to be more interested in learning about AI and how it is applied”.

Meanwhile, many people are cognizant about the potential risks of the technology. Bouwer is “interested to hear the depth of the conversations happening surrounding the ethics of AI.” Like many others at the conference, she is optimistic about the future of the industry.

About the Author

By Hale Mahon

Health Editor

Hale is a third year student in Public Administration with a Minor in Psychology. He loves politics and sits on a few boards and committees at York, including the Student Centre Board of Directors, the Student Council for LA&PS, and the university’s academic senate. As health editor, he wants to see how medical and scientific research can inform political and organizational decisions, and believes that well-communicated science can improve outcomes for everyone. Outside of work, he enjoys cooking, traveling, hiking, camping, photography, and watching 90’s sitcoms.


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