Independent study dedicated to AI, Pokémon


Nicky Edwards-Levin

TAG TEAMING. Junior Ben Cifu and senior Campbell Phalen work together on a problem in their independent study with com- puter science teacher Daniel Wheadon. They are creating a pro- gram that will play Pokémon autonomously.

Nikhil Patel, Web Manager

Working to create a program that can play the hit game, “Pokémon,” autonomously, junior Ben Cifu and senior Campbell Phalen are in an independent study on artificial intelligence taught by computer science teacher Daniel Wheadon.

This independent study is a continuation of one Campbell began in spring 2018. He was first interested when Andrew Heyman, then a senior, told him about machine learning and artificial intelligence in his AP Computer Science class in 2017. From there, Campbell worked with Mr. Wheadon to focus his independent study.

“Computer science is all about solving problems, and AI allows you to write solutions to a whole new variety of problems,” Campbell said. “I think Mr. Wheadon and I both thought that was super cool so we just kinda dove into it.” 

At Lab, the field of artificial intelligence is becoming a more popular area of study. As programs such as mobile fraud detection to Google Maps begin to focus on refining artificial intelligence to be more efficient, AI research is beginning to permeate through all levels of education. A new computer science course dedicated to the field debuts in the fall.

“Many people are seeing that it has a practical effect on their life,” Mr. Wheadon said. “We’re seeing it in games and more intelligent computer opponents, but we’re also seeing it in just everyday life, financial applications and self-driving cars. It’s having a tangible impact on everyone’s life.”

Ben said he and Campbell are studying machine learning and artificial intelligence to create an artificial intelligence that plays the “Pokémon” game efficiently and without error.

“We’re trying to make a neural network that will learn from playing against itself to become a really strong ‘Pokémon’ player,” Ben said.

The neural network, a group of algorithms dedicated to processing information in the same way as the human mind, is part of Ben and Campbell’s larger study of machine learning and artificial intelligence.

“Artificial intelligence is quickly becoming very important in many software and research applications.” Ben said. “It is simple to get started with, but then there is so much complexity, details and additional things you can learn about and accomplish.”