Essay by Erel Ozen

Erel Ozen won the $3500 Art Mattson Memorial Scholarship in 2023.

Whether it’s leading calculus cram sessions, assisting in a physics class, or cofounding a tutoring business, I’ve always found true exhilaration in positively impacting others. I was particularly interested in an educational phenomenon that links 1-on-1 tutoring to higher academic achievement–Bloom’s 2 Sigma Problem. I pondered this problem until the release of OpenAI’s GPT-3 (a groundbreaking speech bot) in 2020, which exposed me to the infinite possibilities of artificial intelligence. I was starstruck. These experiences have since inspired my dream: using artificial intelligence to optimize education. To achieve my goal, I equipped myself with the necessary knowledge. Through countless hours of work in the Irvine CubeSat STEM Program, I gained a wealth of programming and circuitry skills as I implemented Kalman filters, soldered GPS wiring, and debugged star-tracking algorithms. As the current team leader, I manage over 20 people and collaborate with the Ecuadorian Space Agency to build our nanosatellite. I continued this passion with research under Professor Joshua Garcia (University of California, Irvine) where I compared the machine learning models of autonomous vehicle simulators. Recently, I worked with a team of peers to tackle a pervasive schooling issue: Reducing the stress of AP and honors students caused by overlapping projects, exams, and assignments. We created an app–LiteWork. Through tireless efforts and latenight meetings, we programmed it from scratch using Flutter, an app-building toolkit. Our specialty feature was a custom algorithm that visualized student workloads. Students could input their academic schedules to create an interactive graph that teachers could use to schedule diffused workloads. I’ve successfully pitched the app to my school’s administration and will begin beta-testing in classrooms district-wide by February 2023. That was just the start. LiteWork is just one of the countless innovative ideas I have to transform the education system. With technologies like artificial intelligence, far more becomes possible. Intelligent systems can create tailored teaching methods to fit each student best, instantly grade hours’ worth of work, and provide studying suggestions based on weak points. In my day-to-day life, I envision applications of these technologies. In the AP Physics class I assist, I’ve observed polar opposite natures of learning. On the one hand, there are students with learning disabilities that necessitate more thorough explanations of concepts. But there are also students who have previously studied the material and don’t require as much aid. Yet, there’s only one teacher, and one pace the class moves at. After reaching out to current students at a few of the universities I applied to, I was intrigued by the wealth of opportunities provided to them, allowing them to pursue their dreams. By furthering my education and studying computer science, I will gain access to platforms to brainstorm novel applications of artificial intelligence and the know-how to realize my ideas and democratize my solutions.

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