Or, the time a class of middle schoolers kicked my butt at neural network ice cream naming.


The other day I got an email from Anita Johnson, who teaches coding classes at Kealing Middle School in Austin, Texas. She explained that her students had been reading the neural network experiments on my blog and had decided to do their own.

The middle schoolers (about 11-14 years old) had downloaded textgenrnn and had generated some new flavors that they wanted to share with me. Did I want to see them?

As it turns out, I had just trained textgenrnn on ice cream flavors myself. But there were some problems with my attempt:

1. I only had a dataset of 200 flavors (that I had a dataset at all is thanks to Salli Wason of Rosanna’s Ice Cream in Portland).
2. textgenrnn allows transfer learning, meaning that it remembers some of what it learned from its previous dataset.
3. My previous dataset had been metal bands.

So the flavors I had generated were not, shall we say, appealing.

Silence Cherry
Strawberry Cream Disease
Chocolate Sin
Bloody Coffee
Sock Caramel
Chocolate Raven
Moan Chocolate
Chocolate Chocolate Blood
Colon Bane

The 11-14 year olds, however, had collected nearly 1,600 flavors, due in part to their coding skills, and in part to sheer numbers, time, and motivation. Their results were significantly better than mine.

Lots of the flavors they produced were sweet and fun. The kind you might find at a trendy ice cream or yogurt shop near you.

It’s Sunday
Cherry Poet
Brittle Cheesecake
Honey Vanilla Happy
Bubble Bun
Triple Bun
Holy Lemon Monster
Cookies & Red Hot Lover
Vanilla Nettle
Sundana Rainbow
Team Cherry
Cherry Cherry Cherry
Chocolate Breath
Pig Nut
Bumble Cookie
Oh and Cinnamon

Other flavors sounded a bit weirder. Approach with caution.

Chocolate Finger
Caramel Book
Cupsie Core
Washing Chocolate
Peanut Cinnamon Budge
the United Bacon de Vanilla
Texas Boy Nut
Key de Smoke
Crackberry Pretzel
Salted Pie Breekberry Sundae
Texas Charlie Covered Stunt
Seat Strawberry
Butter Sweep
Bunny Out
Strawberry Moons
Pretzel Egg

Others: a quite worrisome level of ambiguity

Nuts with Mattery
Brown Crunch
Sticky Crumple
Cookies and Green
Sea Cheesecake
Mango Cats
Lemon Cream Grassplay

Whereas these are almost certainly bad news.

Pumpkin Trash Break
Peanut Butter Slime
Walnut Dirt
Peanut Skin Tuesday
Gravy Cashew
Ants-Almond Cheesecake
Chocolate Gingerbread Bum
Strawberry Turfle
Cake Pitt
Caramel Livers
Elk Peanut Southe
Sand & Cream
Toffee Frog
Snake Vanilla Cream Cheesecake

The 6th graders (the 11-12 year olds) tended to favor the very weird flavors.

Garamel Phankie Cookies & Peach
Cark Nutty Banana Croced Banana & Crazz
Vervette’s Caramel Borfle
Oatleak with Ninterbise
Barming French Cambarcot
Chocolate Blackbumple
Herbetures with The Chillin
Pie Lime Mint Thrippine
Praline Pelletral Liver
Banana Cookies & Jarange Core
Peach Peacket Marsh Blue

The 13-14 year olds, though? They preferred my first attempt, actually. And added a few of their own to the list.

Orange Chocolate Killa
Blood Chip
Explosion Stick
Die White Pistachio
Funge Ecide

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