Microsoft Discover AI Upskilling Journey 2021: Democratizing access and use of AI solutions among students and young professionals

From January to June 2021, students and young professionals from around the world took on Microsoft’s Discover AI Upskilling Journey to acquire or improve their AI skills.
The bottom line? No technical skills needed, the Journey is open to everyone!
By registering in the Mini-Sprints or the Discover AI Challenge, participants had the opportunity to learn more about AI and concretely apply their knowledge through the development of innovative projects. Ultimately, the challenge resulted in an enriching and fun experience and clearly highlighted the creativity of young innovators in the world of AI.


The Newest Step Of An Ongoing Journey

Known as one of the most innovative companies worldwide, Microsoft systematically strives to make the newest technologies accessible to everyone. The Microsoft Learn platform is a perfect illustration of this will to democratize the use of digital solutions and provide the general public with an opportunity to acquire new valuable skills.

Being one of the trendiest and most promising technologies in the market, AI has logically been one of the focus points of Microsoft over the past years and the group has undertaken numerous successful initiatives to foster public understanding and utilization of this technology.

With the first edition of the Discover AI Upskilling Journey launched in May 2020, Microsoft hoped to democratize the use of AI and provide participants, regardless of academic background and technical skills, with the tools to discover AI their own way.

The competition attracted more than 600 students and both juries and mentors were dazzled by the quality and ingenuity of submitted projects. “I was always blown away by the creativity of the participants and how they applied the AI concepts to various industries,” recalls Sarah Muma, a Cloud Solution Architect at Microsoft and judge of the event.

Faced with such great results and enthusiasm from students, it was no surprise when Microsoft announced it would build upon this success and launch the 2nd edition of the Discover AI Upskilling Journey.

The Discover AI Upskilling Journey #2

Quite like the first edition, the Upskilling Journey #2 was designed to be a multi-step competition through which young participants could expand their knowledge of AI and gain hands-on experience in applying what they learned.

The challenge consisted of three parts:

  • four themed “Mini-Sprints” lasting a month each, in the scope of which participants had to complete specific Microsoft Learn modules before developing short projects showcasing their learnings.
  • the Discover AI Challenge, where participants had to create teams of up to four people and develop a project idea integrating AI falling under one of four categories: Education, Healthcare, Banking & Finance and Sustainability. Teams were also asked to build a prototype with the help of their Microsoft coach.
  • the Cloud Skills Challenge, whose goal was to reward participants who obtained the greatest number of Experience Points (XPs) through the completion of Microsoft modules.

To go even further than last year and increase participation and involvement of the student community in Canada, each Mini-Sprint was organized in collaboration with a dedicated student group. “We had a wonderful time working with Microsoft and Agorize and are glad that we had a chance to support some of the amazing initiatives their teams are leading,” said Cassi-Ann Hutchinson, President of the UW FinTech Club, which was deeply involved in the scope of the fourth Mini-Sprint.

More than having access to numerous resources on the platform, all participants of the Journey benefited from active support from Microsoft coaches throughout the competition and had the opportunity to ask their questions during dedicated office hours.

They also received industry-recognized Microsoft Pearson certifications, providing them with tangible proof to showcase their achievements and help them kickstart and/or boost their career.

The Mini-Sprints

Numerous innovative projects were received in the scope of each Mini-Sprint, making it challenging for judges to pick the winning ones. The four main evaluation criteria were quality of presentation, quality of content, practical implications and engagement of audience during the live presentation.

As an illustration of the creativeness of solutions developed by participating teams, the project winning first place in the fourth Mini-Sprint about Ethics in AI & Interpretability was AI Credo – an iterative process to ensure that an AI solution makes only ethical decisions through the creation of a feedback response system helping the AI take ethical decisions right from the very start of the development cycle. In simpler words, an ingenuous AI system to manage AI ethics.

“Although each Mini-Sprint final event was unique insofar as the themes addressed were never the same, the common thread was a fun atmosphere and the cleverness of projects presented,” remarked Wemba Opota, Artificial Intelligence Enterprise Solutions Lead at Microsoft. “Far from reducing participating teams’ engagement, having a gamified and friendly competition approach resulted in the creation of concrete AI-enabled solutions tackling real world problems.”

While all participants walked away with valuable experience and new knowledge of AI, winners were also awarded Microsoft Surface Go and Surface Pro tablets as well as vouchers for Microsoft Learn certifications and other Microsoft accessories.

Discover AI Challenge Final Event

During the Discover AI Challenge Grand Finale that happened on June 30, 5 finalist teams had the opportunity to pitch their projects falling under one of the four aforementioned categories and answer related questions in front of a jury panel composed of Microsoft and Agorize experts. They also had a chance to showcase their prototypes and provide attendees with a concrete visualization of their idea.

Because of the outstanding quality of projects presented, juries had a tough time deciding between teams but they eventually reached a decision and elected Dice AI – an AI algorithm that predicts the final image quality of prostate cancer MRI scans – as the winner of the 2021 Discover AI Challenge.

“A special thank you to the participants, mentors, judges and Agorize for making this Discover AI challenge an incredible success,” said Wemba Opota at the end of the event. “Once again, the creativity, ingenuity and technical relevance of projects presented clearly highlights the possibilities and the promise of the upcoming generation of innovators. I cannot wait to see what’s coming next!”

The learning journey continues!

A photo accompanying this announcement is available at

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