Benjamin Lee

Grade 8 student wins UBC Computer Science award for using AI to grow plants

The UBC Department of Computer Science showed its commitment to nurturing young minds and innovation by sponsoring the 2023 Greater Vancouver Regional Science Fair (GVRSF) in April.

Two awards were given out by the department to students at the GVRSF who demonstrated the most outstanding applications of computer science principles to real-world problems. This year, Benjamin Lee, a Grade 8 student from David Thompson Secondary School's Odyssey/AP Mini School Program, took first prize.

Benjamin's project was titled "AI-Powered Smart Plant Lighting." The judges were impressed with his creative approach to optimize indoor plant growth using AI. Benjamin drew his inspiration from his mother's struggles with keeping their indoor plants healthy and alive. He developed an AI system that controls individual plant lighting based on each plant's light profile. By utilizing a combination of computer vision, artificial intelligence, and smart lighting technology, Benjamin aimed to provide the ideal lighting conditions for different stages of plant growth and according to the plant’s needs. His equipment consisted of a computer, camera, and Wi-Fi light bulb, and he used tomato plants for his proof of concept.

The heart of Benjamin's system was an AI model which was trained using a popular Machine Learning framework called TensorFlow. This model could accurately recognize and classify various growth stages of the tomato plants (seedling, vegetative, flowering, early fruiting, and mature fruiting). By analyzing images of the tomatoes captured by a camera, the program automatically adjusted the Wi-Fi light's on-off state, color, and brightness to suit the specific light requirements of the plants at each stage. Through rigorous testing, Benjamin demonstrated that his AI-powered system led to measurable improvements in indoor plant growth.

Watch Benjamin’s proof of concept.

Benjamin expressed his gratitude to the UBC Department of Computer Science for sponsoring the award, stating, "I feel humbled to be the first-prize recipient of the award this year. The money will help finance my future science explorations." Alongside the recognition from UBC, Benjamin also received a Bronze Medal in the grade 7-8 excellence category from GVRSF organizers.

The second place winner of the UBC Computer Science Award was Reine Huang from Collingwood School. Reine's project, titled "Detecting and Preventing Human Falling with Lateral Stability,” earned her not only the gold medal and grand award from the GVRSF, but also a bronze medal and the Actuarial Foundation of Canada Award at the national level.

Reine Huang
Reine Huang

Both Benjamin and Reine are a testament to the potential of young minds when given the opportunity and resources to explore their creativity and scientific interests. The UBC Department of Computer Science is thrilled to sponsor the GVRSF and continue to help fostering innovation and supporting the next generation of scientists and engineers.

Congratulations to Benjamin Lee, Reine Huang, and all the participants of the 2023 Greater Vancouver Regional Science Fair for their remarkable achievements and contributions to the field of science. Their passionate agile minds will help shape the future of computer science.