<img src="https://www.chicagotribune.com/resizer/0q9rIabqRQVrQlEcTV_JHWKARi0=/800x428/top/cloudfront-us-east-1.images.arcpublishing.com/tronc/SAXBVM77SFCEVMD2GSZJIBEV6E.jpg" alt="Jui Khankari"/>

Jui Khankari didn’t want to just sit around with the extra time she had at home when the coronavirus pandemic began shutting things down in March.

So, the 16-year-old Oak Brook resident decided to start a nonprofit group that teaches the applications of artificial intelligence, or AI, to students of all ages and backgrounds. And in only about six months, AInspire has launched workshops and other online methods for students to learn about artificial intelligence, with a focus on its applications in health care.

The group has connected with more than 200 people from 26 countries and 28 U.S. states, Khankari said.

“I never expected it to take off like this; I was really only expecting people from our area,” the Hinsdale Central junior said. “I’m excited by the potential of AI to improve patient care and accelerate the pace of biological research, and I’d like to share this passion with other individuals.”

Khankari said she believes her group’s mission is particularly important because there isn’t much of a connection to information about AI with younger people.

She started an Artificial Intelligence Club at Hinsdale Central last October, with 10-15 people attending twice-a-month Tuesday meetings. The meetings have moved online, monthly, since the pandemic started.

AInspire and its workshops are open to anyone who is interested. So far, participants have ranged in age from Khankari’s 10-year-old sister, Neha, to someone who is 49 years old.

“I’d love to get AI curriculum into elementary and middle schools,” Khankari said.

She became very interested in AI a couple of years ago and attended a camp on it with a friend.

“Although my start with AI was serendipitous, after learning of its potential, I watched almost every video about machine learning and audited almost every machine learning course I could find on YouTube and on online learning platforms,” she said.

Khankari said she hopes to inspire and encourage young students to pursue careers in AI, a field that doesn’t have much diversity among its ranks.

“Through hands-on workshops that teach technical and networking skills, I hope to show students that they are capable of pursuing AI-related careers if they want, thereby increasing diversity in the AI space,” she said.

Khankari said workshop activities range from networking with AI professors to creating machine learning models to diagnose illnesses, such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease, to imaging, clinical data and creating neural art.

AInspire currently is promoting its Synapshot Contest, for which students make a short video explaining a concept in AI and apply it to biology for the chance to win hundreds of dollars in prizes.

“We hope that explaining concepts and seeing where they can be applied will help students understand AI concepts better,” Khankari said.