AI is shaping the world. Who will shape AI? — TeensInAI Accelerator 2019

Acorn Aspirations
5 min readSep 6, 2019

August 2019, Central London — Between the 19th and 30th August, Teens In AI (TIA), the Acorn Aspirations initiative, completed the fourth edition of its annual accelerator, inspiring young people to apply the latest techniques in machine learning and artificial intelligence to address any one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This year, 21 teens from a diverse range of backgrounds created a “minimum viable product” that utilised AI, and worked alongside headlining companies including Microsoft, Accenture, BBC, Element AI, Cancer Research UK, Tech Nation, Microsoft and many more.

Over the two weeks our six teams of teens developed the following:

  1. Hydroponics.AI: AI that optimises the conditions in a hydroponic system so that plants can grow more efficiently using less space by using data from sensors to detect and change the conditions under which the plants are growing.
  2. Early Catch: AI that can distinguish between healthy and cancerous cells creating a less invasive and time-consuming process of diagnosing breast cancer.
  3. GreenFeast: a chrome extension that scans your food receipts and finds you alternative products that are more carbon efficient and environmentally friendly, reducing your food carbon footprint.
  4. BikeOzone: AI-powered app that reduces carbon footprint by incentivising people to cycle through a points scheme and friends…
  5. S.H.O.W: A chatbot for children who are victims of bullying to seek support, counselling and referrals to specialists if in danger.
  6. Educ8r: An app and teddy bear that supports preschool children in developing problem solving and language skills.

The Demo Day on August 30th saw the teens pitch their ideas to a panel of 12 leading industry players including, Tabitha Goldstaub (Co-Founder, CognitionX), Jessica Rose Morley (AI Project Lead, NHSX), Julien Cornebise (Director of Research, Element AI), Harry Davies (TechNation), John Spindler (Co-Founder, AI Seed) and Paul Trueman (SVP, MasterCard), amongst others. The exceptional teams won prizes that included introductions to key relevant organisations (TFL); the opportunity to present ideas to MasterCard and clients of Accenture; and tickets to attend CogX during London Tech Week. In addition, Hydroponics.AI won the privilege of pitching at the AI conference hosted by McKinsey & Co AI in October.

Addressing the teens at the end of the accelerator, Julien Cornebise (Director of Research, Element AI) said the Demo Day, “could have put to shame some of the best global incubator days with people twice your age”. Alejandro Saucedo (Engineering Direction, Seldon) said, “It is very rare to see a hackathon where concrete code is written alongside ideas and pitches, it takes a lot of work to crack those concepts and get something up and running in a short period of time”. Paul Trueman tweeted: “It is a humbling experience to see what young people can achieve with encouragement and support. Another truly wonderful set of business pitches that would grace any funding round. Grateful to be invited to assist.”

The Accelerator
Acorn Aspirations puts on a unique programme that nurtures teenagers’ interest in AI and entrepreneurship for social good while avoiding classroom-style teaching. Each day our diverse cohort of teens and our extensive set of mentors from some of the UK’s most innovative companies (Google, Microsoft, Constellation AI, BBC, Accenture and many more) met at different venues across Central London and worked to develop an innovative entrepreneurial project using AI for Good.

The line up of speakers for the two weeks have included: George Alagaih OBE (BBC Presenter), Julien Cornebise (Director of Research, Element AI), Julian Harris (Head of AI, Tech Research CognitionX), Sabine Azancot (Lead Partner IBM Digital Strategy; Chris Bakal, Institute of Cancer Research.

More information here:

A big part of supporting the future of AI involves democratising and diversifying the workforce, which is why Teens in AI is collaborating with Tech Nation’s Applied AI programme. The aim is for Applied AI’s current cohort to support TIA with continued mentoring and internship opportunities. Applied AI is Tech Nation’s first growth programme for Artificial Intelligence to help the UK’s most promising founders who are applying AI in practical areas to create real-world impact.

Acorn Aspirations is on a mission to encourage young people to pursue computing, technology and promote diversity in this ever-growing field. In line with this, of our 2019 cohort:

  • All qualified students on free school meals/full bursaries received a free place
  • Just under half of Accelerator talents were girls
  • More than half of Accelerator talents were from underprivileged backgrounds

Elena Sinel, Founder and CEO of Acorn Aspirations & Teens in AI, says:
“It’s vital that young people from all backgrounds have a chance to participate in our programmes. The real societal impact can only be achieved when technology that powers the world is representative of the diverse societal makeup of the world and this is exactly what Teens in AI is attempting to achieve: offer opportunities to all young people, irrespective of their gender or background, to express their voices through technology for social good. We are constantly on the lookout for like-minded partners who will work with us to grow this community of enterprising young people who want to shape the future of the world to create one which is inclusive, sustainable and critical to long-term global success.”

About​ ​Acorn​ ​Aspirations
Acorn Aspirations is a global teen tech accelerator for future digital leaders. An award-winning social impact company, (Winner of CogX AI Innovation Awards 2017 and Google Developers Launchpad Accelerator) and a MassChallenge Finalist, Acorn Aspirations is on a mission to bridge the digital skills gap, nurture the next generation of tech talent and fill the jobs required by the tech industry.

Please see for more details.

About​ ​Teens In AI
Teens In AI is an Acorn Aspirations initiative launched at the AI for Good Global Summit at the UN in May 2018. It exists to increase diversity and inclusion in artificial intelligence. It aims to democratise AI and create opportunities for underrepresented talent through a combination of expert mentoring, talks, workshops, hackathons, bootcamps and accelerators, company tours and networking opportunities that give young people aged 12–18 early exposure to AI for social good. The vision is for AI to be developed by a diverse group of thinkers and doers advancing AI for humanity’s benefit.

In the last one year, Teens in AI has partnered with Microsoft, Mastercard, BBC, J P Morgan, CognitionX, Founders4Schools, Deepmind, HSBC, IP Soft, Accenture and various other partners to run programmes in the UK (London), United States (San Francisco, Seattle, New York) and Africa (Nairobi).

Please see for more details.



Acorn Aspirations

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