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Community Climate Hero: Amy Yang

March’s Community Climate Hero is Amy Yang a high school student and Bedford 2030 Greenlight Awards™ alumna. Amy has since gone on to create an air quality monitoring project titled Image-Based Deep Learning on Air Quality Using a Nine-Layer Residual Neural Network.

She was recently selected as a prestigious Regeneron Science Talent Search Scholar. We caught up with Amy to discuss her work, her Greenlight Award™ experience, and her future plans.

When did you first become interested in environmental issues?

During my frequent visits to China to see relatives, I would notice that many would wear masks outside (even before COVID) and there would be an omnipresence of smog. This led to my curiosity of air pollution and how methods can be developed to help fight climate change.

Can you please describe your Air Quality invention and what it does?

Air pollution has continued to negatively impact humans and the planet in various ways, and air quality monitoring systems are essential for a deepened understanding of air pollution and its influence. In my project, air quality was analyzed by estimating air pollution from various natural webcam images, focusing on levels of particulate matter (PM2.5), a common pollutant. I developed a machine learning model (ResNet9) that can classify these webcam images into their corresponding levels of PM2.5 concentrations. Classification was accomplished by extracting certain features from these images, specifically haziness/visibility. To perform this classification, a combined dataset was created with webcam images from Beijing and Yosemite National Park, and their corresponding levels of PM2.5. After training and testing the model, the results showed optimal performance of the ResNet9 model, therefore validating this method of PM2.5 concentration estimation. The developed ResNet9 monitoring system can decrease costs and increase the implementation of monitoring systems, which will improve the human condition by motivating people to engage in reducing air pollution and push governments to establish air quality monitors. 

Images taken from Beijing webcams

What inspired you to create your invention?

I was first inspired to create my monitoring system when I was connected with my mentor, an Artificial Intelligence specialist. I have always been interested in environmental science, so I felt motivated to bring my own passions and interests into this mentorship and explore the intersections between AI and environmental solutions.

How has your invention been received outside of the competition?

Outside of the competition, others have been very drawn to my research project because many are unaware of how advantageous leveraging AI can be for fighting climate change and other aspects of environmentalism.

Random sample of Beijing and Yosemite National Park webcam imaging

Was Greenlight was a beneficial experience for you?

I definitely think Greenlight was a beneficial experience for me because I was challenged to innovate and and create environmental-friendly solutions. While working on my own project and learning about others, I became more conscious about my everyday habits and how I can make an impact on helping advance a more eco-friendly world.

Would you recommend Bedford 2030’s Greenlight to other students who are passionate about environmentalism?

I would recommend Greenlight to other students because you are pushed to think critically and innovatively. Also, students become exposed to both an inclusive and competitive environment where creative ideas are shared and environmentalism is promoted.

Do you have any future plans for your award winning project?

I would like to continue my research project by improving the monitoring system’s accuracy so that it can be more applicable to various environments/webcams in the future. 

Do you hope to pursue environmental innovation in the future?

I think I will always be passionate about environmentalism and I hope I can further my curiosity and knowledge in my studies at college. I also hope I can push environmental innovation and become an advocate for eco-friendly practices.

What advice do you have for other students interested in climate action?

I strongly encourage students interested in climate action to be involved in advocating for environmental-friendly practices. It certainly does not take an award-winning project to make an impact — anyone can make a difference and every effort is valued!

The 2023 Greenlight Finals will be on April 29, 9am at the Katonah Village Library. We hope you will join us in supporting these young leaders!