Omdena´s First Scholarship Recipient: AI Changemaker Madhu Charan from India

Apr 10, 2021
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Omdena scholarship

We are extremely happy to have selected our first recipient of the Omdena Scholarship Award. The selection is based on various factors including the effectiveness of the scholarship, the recipient´s story, and contribution to Omdena. The scholarship amount is equivalent to the Purchasing Power Parity of $1000 per month in the USA. It will be given for 3 months from April 2021 to June 2021 and can be spent on covering educational expenses.

Can you briefly introduce yourself, Madhu?

My name is Madhu Charan. I am an undergraduate junior year student at SASTRA University, India. I am an ML Engineer at Omdena. I am a Junior Coach at Unschool, where I mentor students in Artificial Intelligence and also a Project Manager at Kampus group with a mission to provide free consulting services to local businesses in the United States that have been affected by COVID-19. I am an open-source enthusiast and I regularly contribute to opensource. I love connecting with like-minded people to discuss and explore new Technology.

What change do you want to make in your career?

I am an undergraduate student currently and want to start research in AI and learn all technical advancements happening in the field and pursue my higher studies in the same. Above my education, I wanted to help my fellow students and others in learning AI practically by mentoring them as I believe having a mentor boosts our journey and reduces the chances of going in the wrong direction.

How did you end up in AI? What motivated you?

It all started with a hackathon where our team had to implement a solution for a problem India was facing for a long time i.e., “Malnutrition in children” challenge hosted by District Collector. We were instructed to provide a solution to this problem to help Government to take decisions and implement schemes according to the winning solution. We studied the causes and effects of malnutrition specifically in children and went through various research conducted by WHO and other organizations and approached doctors and developed our own formulae to determine the Malnutrition Index on a scale of 1-10 determining the severity level 0 being healthy to 10 being extremely unhealthy due to mal nutrition. We made an application to check the Malnutrition Index value by inputting required details. We made district wise, state wide and nationwide analysis reports to understand most affected regions in the country to take specific actions accordingly. 

Still, we needed something unique and more intelligent to help doctors, government and patients. After researching a bit, we came across two solutions – 1. A recommender system 2. An ML based prediction system not only based on the formulae but by observing other patients since the formulae has no details on how we had given preference and weightage for a particular symptom as it is all provided based on our own preference and symptom affect on children. So here we came to know about Machine Learning. We had struggled a lot as all our team members are new to this Machine learning and we had no time to prepare for that. We had taken “Machine Learning Course” on Coursera by Andrew Ng and quickly made a Machine Learning model with the data collected from online and WHO reports to predict the Malnutrition Index and made a Recommender System as well. We had secured an internship opportunity for the solution we provided and research we have done on implementing a formula and making an application out of it.

And from there, I started continuing my course on Coursera since I understood that data and machine learning can provide something what humans cannot simply do (like the above I explained on prediction of Malnutrition Index) and I wanted to learn it in-depth. Due to COVID-19, Colleges have been closed and government has been imposed lockdown. I realized this was an amazing opportunity to go deeper into Machine Learning and AI due to plenty of time.

“When opportunity presents itself, don’t be afraid to go after it.” – Eddie Kennison

I started completing courses on Coursera related to Deep learning and Machine Learning provided by DeepLearning.AI, IBM etc. to learn concepts and spent 10 hours a day on learning and completing the courses. I took the Udacity Deep learning Nano Degree and completed all the program within a month with all the projects. Now at least I understood how to implement a project and made my own basic to intermediate level projects from scratch.

But after four months I realized that learning is not enough since “if we just learn we are adsorbing it, we will absorb the concepts only if we do projects or work on the concepts practically”. I started looking for internships and came across “Omdena” and the concept of the organization attracted me. One of my College seniors was one of the collaborators at Omdena. She helped me to understand what Omdena actually looks in a person to onboard them for a project i.e., collaborative spirit, ability to help others, and the mindset to take initiatives. Not just their technical knowledge. I applied for the project and got a selection mail. 

From here my journey to practical implementation has been started. It was an amazing one since most of the knowledge I learned is not from the courses or anywhere but from the Omdena projects since every project has something new to learn and implement from. 

One lesson I learnt here is not to be afraid of asking for help. Most people are just a message away from helping them if we know how to approach them.

How did the Omdena experience help you in your career?

Omdena was the first platform that provided me practical experience in the real world. It was not just AI or technical experience, I have learnt how to take initiatives, how to lead people, overcoming the imposter syndrome, overcoming the fear of public speaking and most importantly understanding mentalities of people from all over the world which helps in managing people. I have started understanding accents of people across the world where Indian Students suffers the most and started speaking in English professionally. All these soft skills are definitely required to engage and grow in a professional world and Omdena helped me in developing them.

I started helping others which led me to help my fellow students in learning AI and I got an internship opportunity with the experience I got from Omdena. I also got a teaching/mentoring opportunity as well where I have enjoyed helping students not to do the mistakes I have done in my Journey and teaching difficult concepts in an easier way. 

I can say that my 9 months of Omdena Journey has helped me not only in improving my AI Skills, but also my soft skills as well. To everyone who wants to get into AI, I highly recommend to participate in Omdena Challenges to become industry ready technically as well as developing their personality and soft skills. It will be a memorable two months journey with people from All over the world.

We do not get unlimited chances to have the things we want. Nothing is worse than missing an opportunity that could have changed your life.”

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