Paarth Aggarwal is among just ten global winners of the Microsoft Imagine Junior Cup after dazzling judges with his AI-powered application to reduce food waste.
The competition, which challenged participants to submit creative ideas to solve some of the planet’s biggest issues using the power of artificial intelligence (AI), attracted thousands of entries from around the world.
Year 8 pupil Paarth was the only winner from the UK, with the judges praising the detailed analysis he provided of how ‘deep learning’ was leveraged in the design of his app.
Headmaster Neil Enright said: “I congratulate Paarth on this impressive achievement, especially as he was one of the younger entrants in a competition open to 13–18 year-olds. Whilst many of the other participants entered as teams, Paarth took part as an individual, making this success all the more remarkable.”
Paarth entered under the ‘team’ name Earthatarian and conceptualised an AI-powered app that would reduce food waste by predicting the actual expiry of stocked food items and monitoring food consumption. As required by the competition, he used Microsoft APIs. (Application programming interfaces [APIs] enable computer programs to communicate with each other.)
“I was exultant to win, especially as it was the first time I have entered such a competition,” he said.
He explained why he chose food waste as the issue he wanted to tackle.
“I was very annoyed – and intrigued – about food waste. Lots of the food we buy we never eat. In many countries, there are lots of people who don’t have much to eat, whilst we do in the West,” said Paarth. “The aim is all about efficiency. Food waste plagues the world – it is not talked about enough.”
His app-based solution to this problem was to utilise cameras and sensors in people’s fridges and rubbish bins to see how much they are wasting. The app would use machine-learning to tell people the actual expiry date of food – judging freshness to predict when it would be at a point that it would no longer be safe to eat.
“This is to tackle consumer confusion around ‘use by’ and ‘best before dates’,” added Paarth. “The app would also look at patterns of consumption and recommend recipes based on this. It could also calculate calories using Bing API [using Microsoft’s search engine technology] and then recommend what people should buy.”
The judges said that with “so many amazing projects” they had a difficult task on their hands picking the top ten. They chose winners from countries as far apart as Nepal, Australia and the USA.
As well as receiving a trophy and a certificate, Parth won a prize worth $300.
In addition to being impressed by the Earthatarian project as a whole, they specifically praised Paarth’s thoughtful approach in using an AI-powered application to predict the ‘actual expiry’ of stocked food items and monitor food consumption, the presentation of his entry (which included a ten-slide electronic presentation and a video), and the thoroughness of his research.
Paarth says he’s “a believer in AI” and can see its potential to help tackle major problems. He plans to enter this competition again next year and then get involved with similar initiatives when older (the Apple and Google equivalents being open to those aged 16 and over).
His next project is to work on Amazon’s AWS DeepRacer – a machine-learning model aiming to get round a track as fast as possible.