Gurnirmal Kaur, a Grade 12 student at North Park Collegiate and Vocational School, received multiple honours at the local and national level this spring for a science project based in artificial Intelligence technology, with an aim of improving mental health outcomes for
young people online.
“I’d noticed that some people, especially people around my age, tend to express the pressures of the real world through online platforms with the purpose of seeking help,” said Kaur on the inspiration behind the project for which she programmed and tested an intelligent chatbot that uses a neural network to detect instances of emotional distress within online platforms. “The issue with this approach is that an online user may not receive relevant resources or any at all, so this project aims at finding a solution by making sure that a user feels validated and receives the help they need.”
The result was a project titled EzerBot: Detecting Phrases Indicative of Emotional Distress Within Online Platforms, and a goal of establishing the chatbot as a functional tool and preventative online measure for reducing self-harm and suicide. To achieve these aims, Kaur’s chatbot was trained with data samples from Reddit and Twitter, and programmed to engage online users in conversation before offering relevant mental health and well-being resources in the user’s area.
“Gurnirmal is the epitome of what it means to learn, lead, and inspire,” said JoAnna Roberto, Director of Education, who presented Kaur with a Learn Lead Inspire award, a recognition bestowed on students, staff or volunteers who have made outstanding contributions to their school communities, during last Monday’s Regular Board meeting. “Her ability to identify an issue then connect her vast knowledge and scientific process to help solve a real-world problem is an inspiration to all of us in Grand Erie.”
Kaur presented the project at the Bay Area Science and Engineering Fair earlier this spring, returning with eight awards including a silver medal, the McMaster University Faculty of Engineering Entrance Award and the Dr. Nicola Simmons Award in Cognition Studies,
$4,000 in cash prizes, and earned a spot in the Canada Wide Science Fair. At the national level of competition in May, Kaur was honoured with a Senior Gold Medal Excellence Award and a Senior Challenge Award for Health and Wellness. She was also one of eight gold medalists to be given the Youth Can Innovate award with a cash prize of $1000, and further selected as one of four senior gold medalists to be awarded a cash prize of $7,000.
This September, Kaur will be attending the University of Waterloo’s Systems Design Engineering program.
“I look forward to participating in as many opportunities as I can to continue innovating, particularly in the fields of mental health, and machine learning and artificial Intelligence, two fields I’m very passionate about,” said Kaur.