Acorn Aspirations
7 min readAug 25, 2018
Teens in AI 2018 at BBC office

Day one began with a welcoming speech where Elena discussed the importance of her journey with the teens, how she made the decision that she wanted to change the world on her own terms, and her passion for the Teens In AI mission. The morning continued with Ali Shah from the BBC talking about “AI Now, and the Future”. He explained the concepts of design thinking, the question of how we can be sure information is good / accurate / useful / worth spending time on, and finally that jobs will start to matter less and less; it’s the difference you make that will matter. The morning continued with introductions from the rest of the team: firstly by Sinead, then our expert mentors (Yasmina, Brendan, Hannah, Asma and Peter), which was followed by introductions by the BBC UX&D team, with descriptions of what they do and their own thoughts on what design thinking is. The UX&D team then helped the teens for the rest of the day with their own design thinking, and starting to brainstorm ideas for their projects.

Hazel Wyllie with teen
Teens at BBC Office
Teens discussing AI project

Leanne Page kicked off day two with a talk on ‘Scrum and Product Management’, with Hannah Mackaness adding her insights as well. Leanne described and defined a scrum as well its components. She also explained what a sprint is, and all the work that goes into it. Before returning to design thinking and working on individual projects with the help of the BBC mentors, the BBC Blue Room team discussed ‘deepfakes’ and the impact they will have on the world. That afternoon, the teens were lucky enough to have a talk by John Havens via Google Hangouts from New York. As Head of Ethics at IEEE, he was able to provide a unique perspective on the ethics of autonomous and intelligent systems, and the future AI is heading in. The subjects he discussed were: addiction to screens, common feelings toward AI, the code of ethics, standards, affective computing, and data. He took questions from our teens and had a lively discussion about all the different aspects of AI and AI Ethics. The final talks of the day were by Alejandro Saucedo on Ethics and AI, and Bettina Hermant from the BBC on her Data Science journey. Alejandro, chairman of the Institute of Ethical AI and Machine Learning and advisor of Teens In AI, spoke to the teens about: machine learning, deep networks, the potential of AI, ‘where is the limit?’, ethics, accuracy, transparency of data and metadata collection, backwards comparability and versioning, and identifying cyber security threats. Bettina inspired the teens about her journey to becoming a data scientist. She told them all about how data is used to create a personalised experience.

On day three, we changed location from BBC Broadcast Centre in Shepherd’s Bush, to the BBC at Oxford Circus, bringing the BBC mentors with us. Each team started off the day with a morning scrum meeting, using the information they learnt from Leanne and Hannah the day before. Ali Shah then came to speak to us again as keynote speaker with a talk about ethics. They then all played a big game of ‘rock, paper, scissors’ as an icebreaker. Teens then continued with their projects, and worked on design thinking and developing new ideas with the BBC UXD team. For a ‘Lunch and Talk’, LJ Rich from BBC Click joined us to discuss technology, and what she does at her job. The teens loved her, and found it fascinating. This was followed by a continuation of design thinking with the BBC UXD team, and this time the teens made storyboards, prototyped, and tested their ideas. Aparna Ashok took the time to video-call us from India to do some 1-on-1 mentoring with each team, a helpful way to get a new perspective on their ideas, and hear from an expert. Final talk of the day was led by Magda Piatkowska from the BBC about what she does, and her perspectives!

Day 4 was a jam-packed day at Wayra, where we began with a talk by Alessandro Recino and Galiya Warrier from Microsoft Azure titled ‘Data and AI’. They discussed Microsoft’s approach to data and AI, which was that they are all about the person using the technology, and how they are using it, rather than the technology itself. They also spoke about reasoning, AI principles, and ethical AI. After lunch, Mohamed Ahmed from Benevolent AI shared what his job entails, data, precision medicine. He and the teens even entered into a spirited debate about animal testing, and whether or not it should be used for the healthcare sector, and the main question ensued- is it wrong to test on and kill a hundred mice to potentially save a million humans? Teams then regrouped and continued building their projects. A few hours later, Charlie Price joined us to tell us all about growth hacking and digital marketing, and how he uses LinkedIn as a useful tool. He also let us in on a few secrets to hacking the digital market, and some key tips on how to succeed at building your business. Day four was concluded by Hannah Mackaness from Unruly who had been with us from the start. She spoke about how the key to success in her eyes was through the strong combination of boldness and vulnerability, in addition to her journey, and what she does.

The majority of Day 5’s morning was spent with Laurie Wang in an interactive talk/ workshop on growth marketing. She firstly explained marketing to us, and went into detail about all its different aspects. The teens were then joined in as she asked them questions, and then as teams they would discuss and come up with answers, and really think about their project ideas in relation to what Laurie discussed with them. The rest of the day was dedicated to building, and really be critical of their work to see if they were truly happy with their ideas, and if they were sure it would work, or whether they should pivot. At the end of the day, we had a talk by Harvinder Bhogal from BallinDigital, who came in to inspire our teens and make them see life from another perspective. He told them of his realisation of not wanting his life to revolve around work, but for his life to revolve around life, and work to just be a side-note. He discussed what he does, his life journey, and also encouraged the teens to be individual and to be true to themselves, and not get “[plugged] into the matrix”.

Originally published at Acorn Aspirations.

Acorn Aspirations

Powering the Next Generation of Thought Leaders, Innovators and Technologists in #AI @teensinai #TeensInAI #GirlsinAI #MCStartup2016 Founder @elenasinel