TechAid 2023 advances AI for positive change

Hundreds of AI researchers, students, enthusiasts and industry leaders gathered this past weekend to celebrate TechAid. The two-day event offered a glimpse into the groundbreaking work in artificial intelligence and machine learning while supporting local charitable partners.

"[TechAid is] about sharing leading AI research and ideas that address some of the world's most pressing challenges. It's about strengthening our local AI talent pool so students feel confident as they head out into an evolved AI-powered workforce. It's about inspiring the next generation of AI researchers to think beyond what is possible and to advance the field of AI further," Cam Linke, Amii CEO, said while opening the event.

All proceeds from the events went to support the work of TechAid's two charitable partners: Boyle Street Community Services and the Stollery Children's Hospital Foundation. More than 520 people registered for this year's events, supported by 391 Talent Bursaries for Devcon attendees and 41 bursaries for TechSupport.

This year's TechAid event featured three major sections: a lecture series, a student-developer conference and a collaborative problem-solving session to support Boyle Street Community Services.


This year's TechTalks series, hosted by Amii Scientific Director Adam White, featured six Amii Fellows & Canada CIFAR AI Chairs sharing their leading-edge research into artificial intelligence, with a focus on the real-world impact of the technology. The talks included:

  • Levi Lelis, who shared his work on self-programming agents capable of encoding their actions as programming to be used later in different tasks.
  • Matthew Guzdail, advocating a human-centered approach to AI tool design.
  • Martha White's exploration of effectively using offline learning for reinforcement learning.
  • Insights from Adam White on researching reinforcement learning in the context of a real-world water treatment plant.
  • J. Ross Mitchell's experience building a healthcare models using Large Language Models.
  • Xingyu Li's work on using visual-language models to detect and localize visual anomalies.


A new addition to TechAid this year, TechSupport invited students to collaborate with Amii researchers to brainstorm solutions for Boyle Street Community Services.

Teams of high school and postsecondary students worked hand-in-hand with researchers to generate innovative AI solutions for the organization.

Members of Boyle Street Community Services moved among the teams, answering questions and identifying some of the challenges the organisation faces. Boyle Street's Manager of Development, Kass Greene, says that social issues like poverty and homelessness are uncomfortable topics and can be ignored in places like the tech industry.

"I think now we are seeing more open-mindedness and willingness to contribute to something because we're seeing poverty and homelessness as a community issue rather than an issue for someone else to deal with," she said.

She says that events like TechSupport are essential for organizations like Boyle Street, which see data becoming a vital part of their work.

The evening was capped off with a presentation of selected ideas the teams generated, including using machine learning to locate unhoused individuals during emergencies, developing apps to connect people with support resources, and leveraging computer vision to prevent drug poisoning.


Saturday saw hundreds of student developers head to downtown's JW Marriott for DevCon, a full-day developer conference.

The morning began with a fireside chat hosted by Adam Danyleyko, Product Owner of Amii's Startups Team, featuring Ruchita Robert Rozario of EZOps. Ruchita shared her insights working in the tech industry, including advice to early-career developers and her experiences as a woman working in the field.

Breakout sessions throughout the day covered various topics, such as human-centred design, AI in digital pathology, guidance for early-career developers and more. This year’s sessions were made possible by support from DevCon’s track sponsors: Inflexion Games, Dev Edmonton Society, Product Edmonton and MacEwan University.

The afternoon sessions continued with a keynote from Amii Fellow Bailey Kacsmar, who urged a more holistic approach to data privacy in artificial intelligence and the broader tech sector.

"A wider view of technical privacy allows us to provide better protection," she told the crowd.

The conference was capped off by a final keynote featuring Keyfer Mathewson, VP of Engineering at Goody. Mathewson outlined his thoughts on how to find the proper balance for the "career triangle": money, fun and learning.

After a full day of sessions, TechAid closed out with the Saturday night Talent Mixer, giving attendees a chance to unwind and network after a full two days of events.

Amii would like to thank all the participants, speakers and others who helped make this year's TechAid a success. We'd like to offer a special thanks to the event's sponsors for their generous support: Invest Alberta, the University of Alberta, RBC, ATB, CIFAR, Edmonton Global, Explore Edmonton, Accelerate Fund, Calgary Economic Development, Scotia Bank, the Worker's Compensation Board — Alberta, PwC Canada, the Glenrose Foundation, CBRE Canada, Inflexion Games, DrugBank, Boosted.AI and NeuroSoph.

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