Twenty-year-old Matthew Elphinstone, who has been interning with NeuralStudio SECZ in Cayman, has successfully created a proof of concept for a device that uses Artificial Intelligence to recognize lionfish. This invasive species of fish has become a serious marine environmental issue along the southeast coast of the U.S., the Caribbean, and in parts of the Gulf of Mexico.

The prototype was designed during a “Summer in the City” internship placement. Now in its sixth year, the internship program connects young Caymanians with opportunities throughout the Cayman Enterprise City Special Economic Zone.

Elphinstone, who is a 3rd year mechanical engineering student at Queens University in Canada, applied to the internship program and during an interview with Jack Copper, the managing director of NeuralStudio, initiated a conversation about how Artificial Intelligence could be used to create a device to hunt lionfish. “I thought this was a great idea for a project and a fantastic opportunity to mentor a young Caymanian who is interested in applying AI to solve a genuine problem,” says Copper.

NeuralStudio, which has been part of the Cayman Enterprise City community since 2015, has recently launched an Azure (cloud) based portal which allows non-experts to exploit opportunities for Artificial Intelligence within their organizations. Copper mentored two student interns this summer and his intern from last summer, Jamal Clarke, now works full time at NeuralStudio.

To create the recognizer, Elphinstone first studied how feature extraction (pattern recognition and image processing) could be applied in machine learning. He also spoke to members of the local lionfish hunting community to gain a better understanding of the species, its habitat and behavior. After creating a web skimmer which downloaded thousands of pictures of Caribbean reef fish including lionfish, he was able to train an AI to recognize images of lionfish and upload them to a device. Elphinstone then took the prototype on a test dive with the Cayman Enterprise City dive club to see if the device worked. “I was so happy to see the blue light on the device successfully indicate reef fish and the red light signal that a lionfish was detected,” says Elphinstone.

The next step in the project will involve him obtaining additional training data and further developing the design of an unaided trapping system capable of capturing lionfish and avoiding other aquatic life.

“I have to admit, I was pretty overwhelmed when I began,” says Elphinstone. “Mr. Copper was able to guide me through the project and direct me to resources which helped me to successfully complete the proof of concept during my two-month placement.

“Being able to explore a subject like AI, which sits outside of my direct field of study, was invaluable. I learnt a lot and I’m excited to apply what I’ve learned when I return to university and continue my studies in mechanical engineering.”

“Matthew was able to successfully design and test a fairly sophisticated proof of concept utilizing both hardware and AI software, which is impressive,” says Copper. “I look forward to what the future holds for Matthew, as well as the lionfish trapping system.”

The “Summer in the City” internship program is open to Caymanians and residents of the Cayman Islands between the ages of 18-25 and lasts for one to two months during the summer months.

Areas of placement include: Internet technology, science and technology, commodities and derivatives, maritime and aviation services, client services and business operations, marketing and communications, urban planning and development. For more information and to apply, email [email protected]

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