Saving a Staple Crop
Aaron Lin interned at Makerere University's Artificial Intelligence Research lab (AIR). He wrote software to assist farmers and researchers in assessing the severity of root necrosis, a disease affecting one of Uganda's staple crops the cassava plant. Users take photos of cassava roots, and the software aims to compare the area of necrotized regions of the root (brown) to healthy parts of the root, as shown in the image below. Aaron broke this problem into two parts: (1) detecting the boundary of cassava root and (2) properly classifying pixels (healthy, unhealthy, neither) given a boundary. With a couple of assumptions, the code detects the root quite successfully in some test images, but not all. Within these detected regions, the current version is quite successful in classifying pixels into a given number of clusters, but is lacking in labeling these clusters as well as determining the appropriate number of clusters.
Prior to his internship, Aaron prepared side projects for himself (reading, practicing a second language, etc.) to keep him entertained in his new city. Soon, though, Aaron realized those projects were unnecessary. “Even though I didn't get around to many of these ‘concrete’ goals,” he says, “I learned a tremendous amount about myself and the Ugandan culture. [It] made me reflect on my life; for example, about the pace of daily life, general thoughts about travelling to new places, learning to live without commodities at home I have grown up with (ex: Internet, electric stoves), and so on.”
Additionally, prior to the trip, Aaron was very concerned that he would be too scared to meet new people and/or not know what to do in a new country.
I LEARNED A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT ABOUT MYSELF AND THE UGANDAN CULTURE. UGANDA MADE ME REFLECT ON MY LIFE – THE PACE OF DAILY LIFE, TRAVELLING TO NEW PLACES, LEARNING TO LIVE WITHOUT COMMODITIES I HAVE GROWN UP WITH AND SO ON.
He says, “I learned that a good way to feel comfortable outside of my comfort zone was to find a middle ground, which, in my case, was making friends through the lab I worked in and the Kampala Ultimate Frisbee group.”