The Artificial Intelligence Student Society is a University of Pretoria-based society. They are passionate about AI as our world continues to change and opens up a lot of opportunities for AI to dominate. PDBY spoke to the chairpersons, Llewellyn Hattingh and Derrick Beckendahl, about their new competition which is open to all UP students.

The competition requires the applicant to create a ‘chatbot’ in teams of 1 to 3. Read more about the competition and the AI Society below:

 Tell us a bit more about the competition you are running

With the 4th Industrial Revolution upon us, the University of Pretoria is looking into the use of chatbots for a variety of facets within its infrastructure. With this in mind, the AISS felt that chatbots from UP students would be more effective than commercial ones (the idea of “for students, by students”).  The topics that we have offered for the competition, a few of which have been provided by various departments within the university and one of which is open-ended, are all centred around the idea of improving the quality of education and life for students and staff.

What do you stand for as a society as a whole?

With the increasing adoption of AI systems in our everyday lives, it is becoming more imperative that society as a whole becomes more AI literate, and that the doomsday stigma that Hollywood has built up around AI is broken down. The way in which we are achieving this is by providing AI literacy for both our members and the general public. The first of our many courses has already been uploaded to our YouTube channel, titled An Introduction to Artificial Intelligence (presented by Prof. N. Pillay, the head of department Computer Science). For those members who are more practically inclined we have development projects where members can put theory into practice. One such project which we currently have running is digitising and streamlining the process that student societies have to follow in order to be officially recognised by UP. We also provide our members with a platform for idea generation, development and debate.

What are you hoping to achieve with this competition as a society?

The topics were all chosen using the central theme of improving both student life and university life in general (both on campus and virtually). As an AI society we aim to increase students’ awareness of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence so that they may have a competitive edge in the 4th Industrial Revolution. By participating in this competition students will be putting theory into practice, which will further their knowledge and understanding of AI. We are also hoping to make the University of Pretoria competitive with both local and international universities by helping them in their efforts to further embrace the 4th Industrial Revolution.

The list of possible topics for this competition are centred around the theme of improving students’ university life, both on campus and online. With all courses being moved to online platforms chatbots will be particularly beneficial because they work in real time.

How difficult would you say it is to create a chatbot?

Creating a chatbot is very easy because there are numerous free or opensource tools and software available that eliminate the need for prior knowledge in computer science or artificial intelligence. The experience of creating a chatbot can be a very exciting and rewarding one.

Why did you decide on a competition in teams instead of a solo competition?

 The vast majority of our entrants are solo entries. We decided to allow team sizes of 1 to 3 members in order to cater for students who prefer to work on their own as well as those who like to work with others (e.g.: their friends).

Follow the competition and keep up to date with the AI Student Society on Instagram @tuks_aiss.

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