Ernie Parke’s Senior Capstone

Ernie Parke is a senior attending Hilliard Darby High School who finds immense interest in artificial intelligence, referred to as AI. An AI is a computer system that learns how to do a task that would normally require human intelligence. Examples of these tasks can vary from learning how to drive a car, to playing chess, or even holding a conversation. For his senior capstone experience, Ernie attempted to see if he could train an AI to play a simple platformer game.

Ernie’s interest in AIs sparked when he stumbled across an uncomplicated tutorial on how to create an AI. After pursuing this topic, Ernie then came across a video of an AI learning to play Mario Kart in 24 hours. In the video description, there was a link to an MIT research paper on how to make the AI that they titled “NEAT AI”. This stimulated the inspiration behind Ernie’s capstone to replicate the NEAT AI and program it to play the video game.

Ernie worked for about three months when creating the NEAT AI by following the general outline the MIT paper provided and using prior knowledge of computer technology. Despite informational challenges, he completed his task and taught his self-made AI to engage in a platformer game. Ernie states that, “building my senior capstone taught me several things. It showed to me that I have the skills and ability to make complex computer programs, like this NEAT AI.”

Not only was creating this complex, intelligent, and evolving computer program highly enjoyable for Ernie, but he also used it as inspiration to take his knowledge on the topic a step further and become involved with several other projects after completing his senior capstone. He adds, “The possibilities are really amazing, and being able to Scratch the surface, is awe amazing in of itself. By knowing something about AI, hopefully I’ll be able to apply it in the future to some important challenge.



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