Equitech Futures launches inaugural “IRL” retreat in New Delhi for alumni from India and Nepal

On the 19th and 20th of August 2022, Equitech Futures held its first in-real-life (IRL) meet-up in New Delhi, India. The event brought together the founder, the four core faculty members, and Equitech Futures alumni and staff from India and Nepal at the Andaz Delhi hotel. The weekend featured incredible panels, spontaneous AI challenges, and newfound friendships.

As the alumni from the 2021 and 2022 Equitech Scholars Programs, and the 2021 Applied Data Institute poured in on the 19th, founder Abhilash Mishra kicked off the evening by addressing the gathering. “As this is the first in-person meet-up of our EquiTech Futures community, I’m excited to see the connections that you make this weekend, which I hope will lead to collaborations in the future,” he said, encouraging the alumni to get to know each other across cohorts.

What followed was a lively dinner with alumni engaging with each other, despite the differences in age, fields of study, and cohort affiliation. Conversations about technology, education, and innovation were a few highlights of this evening, where faces who had only met on Zoom screens got to interact in real life with each other. Chief Community Officer Thomas Murray noted that by the end of the evening, “everyone had pulled their chairs together into a circle, wanting to be close to each other.”

The next day kicked off with a keynote speech by founder Abhilash Mishra, who spoke of the advantages and risks associated with Artificial Intelligence and the need for further research and innovation in the field. This was followed by a Teachable Machine Challenge, where alumni were divided into groups with faculty and staff and had to come up with an artificial intelligence model within 30 minutes.

In true Equitech Futures fashion, the challenge raised interesting results as the alumni applied their creativity and humor alongside their knowledge of AI models. From creating an app that recognizes filters in photographs to one that differentiates between different textures in the meeting space, our alumni demonstrated their prowess for technical innovation. The day also featured short presentations by resident researchers Yash Gorana and Raunaq Jain, as well as a talk by faculty Bhasi Nair on ‘Decolonizing Data Science’.

A panel discussion with Priyank Hirani of, Shivi Sharma of Career Nub, and Utsav Shah of Cruise showcased different career pathways in data science and innovation. Moderated by Abhilash Mishra, the panelists shared interesting details of their career trajectories and the many options available to our young innovators at Equitech Futures. We capped the day's events off with a Computational Creativity Lab, where our alumni explored AI software such as DALL-E and discussed the challenges and opportunities of these digital image creation models.

As invigorating and interesting as these events were, the true heart of the IRL lay in the spontaneous conversations that erupted during the coffee breaks, at lunch tables, and over after-hours drinks. Throughout the weekend, alumni from these countries and three different cohorts discussed, debated, collaborated, and created together – solidifying the Equitech Futures community network beyond the virtual. Each alum brought their experiences from fields as diverse as law, journalism, and economics, alongside their passion as future innovators. While some made plans over the course of the weekend to work together on future research projects, others sought each other’s mentorship in their individual career paths. They all had the willingness to learn from each other and their mentors, wholeheartedly contributing to the success of the first Equitech Futures IRL.

“To be able to build relationships with people you’ve met only on the internet, and then feel like you’ve known each other for years when you finally meet in person – it is a feat only Equitech Futures could accomplish,'“ said Raunaq Jain, an Indian alumnus of the Applied Data Institute.

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