#TeensInAI2018-Accelerator Summary

Acorn Aspirations
8 min readSep 17, 2018

Day one began with a welcoming speechwhere 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, the BBC’s Head of Emerging Technology and Strategic Direction, 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 Sinead O’Brien, Special Projects Lead from the BBC, then our expert mentors (Yasmina, Brendan, Hannah, Asma and Peter). This was then followed by introductions by the BBC UX&D team (User Experience & Design), RobKing, Hazel Wyllie, Caroline Gardiner, Shalyn Wilkins, Ryan Tinsley, Callum Peters, and Leanne Majhu, with descriptions of their work designing apps and websites, coordinating on the structure of how these will function, and researching and testing their products in the market.

Digital project director and international speakerLeanne Pagekicked off day two with a talk on ‘Scrum and Product Management’, with Hannah Mackanessfrom Unruly 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 Havensvia 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 Saucedoon Ethics and AI, and Bettina Hermantfrom 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 Shahthen 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 Richthe presenter of BBC show ‘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 the BBC’s Head of Data Science SolutionsMagda Piatkowskawho began by talking about her educational journey, her studying of neural networks and how AI has grown as a field.

A jam-packed day 4 at Wayra began with a talk by Alessandro Recino and Galiya Warrier from Microsoft Azureentitled ‘Data and AI’. They discussed Microsoft’s approach to data and AI, which focuses on the person using the technology, and how they are using it, rather than the technology itself: “what is a hammer without the person holding it?”. They also spoke about reasoning, AI principles, and ethical AI. After lunch, Mohamed Ahmed fromBenevolent AI- a start-up in AI for drug discovery- talked about what his job entails, data, how machine learning is used to help absorb data, the fact that knowledge continues to change and evolve, and 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, digital marketing expert, 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 Mackanessfrom Unrulywho 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.

Day five continued at Wayra, with the teens set on working hard and achieving as much as possible. Digital marketing consultant and social media specialist Laurie Wang made growth marketing come alive through an interactive workshop. After explaining marketing 101, Laurie then described the new digital marketing channels, and asked the teens questions before sending them back in teams to develop their answers in more detail. She challenged participants to get to know their businesses, and to ask themselves questions such as, ‘what problems am I solving?’, ‘what are the benefits of my product?’, ‘what is my value proposition?’, and ‘why should people care, given all of the noise out there?’. This prompted teams to revaluate decisions they had made, and to think more deeply about what they were trying to achieve. Following Laurie’s session, the teams returned to building their products, and were challenged to be critical of their work, it’s applications and prospects. This was the end of the first week, the mid-way point and a natural time for reflection. Emem Rita Usanga, UX & UA Specialist, helped the teens to do so, resulting in 3 teams deciding to pivot. Closing out the day, digital marketing specialist Harvinder Bhogal from BallinDigitalshared his perspective on work-life balance. “I want life to be at the centre of my life”, Harvinder said, and urged the teens not to “get [plugged] into the matrix”. He discussed what he does, his life journey, and also encouraged the teens to be individual and to be true to themselves.

Day 6 began with the teens getting into their groups and setting some goals for the team. Each team were joined by specialised expert mentors who were very helpful in supporting each and every team member in giving critical feedback on their ideas, and in helping to expand, develop and ameliorate ideas. Teams were given time to build and was to prepare a 5 minute long pitch that they would then present in front of the mentors and other teams. In preparation for the pitch, team were given the following statements/ questions to answer:

‘What is the problem you are solving?’; ‘What is the solution to the problem?’; ‘How did you come up with the solution?’; ‘Data that you need to help your solution’; ‘Responses from your data search’; ‘Does the research validates/ invalidates your solution?’; ‘What does solution look like?’; ‘What is your potential market?’; ‘How would you access that market?’.

Mentors then challenged teams to start taking the steps further to finding out who really is their market and how they would be able to make revenue. After pitches, teams had an inspirational talk by Professional Life Coach, and Founder of GiftGaming,Nick Hatter.

We were situated at the BBC New Broadcasting House at Oxford Circus for day seven of our #TeensInAI2018 Accelerator. Teens were lucky enough to have the opportunity to be taken on a tour of the BBC! They learnt about different aspects of what the BBC does, and what all the various rooms and studios do. With the aid of business-specialised mentors, and some tech mentors, the rest of the morning was dedicated to building. After lunch, Catherine Breslinfrom Amazon Alexa joined us to discuss voice technology with us. She mentioned different topics in the large sphere that is voice technology, some of which are: transcribing videos, automatic subtitling, machine translation, and automatic speech recognition. Conversation- understanding sentences and deciding how to respond- is bound to be a possibility in the near future for AI. As the afternoon began to come to a close, the teens were lucky to have a Skype talk from San Francisco with founder and CEO of Brighterion,Akli Adjaoute. He advised the teens that “wherever you come from, if you really, really want something, you can achieve it”, and that “the measure of your life is how good you feel about yourself, and you feel good about yourself by helping other people”. In addition to his highly inspirational words, Akli also told us about what he does at Brighterion, and his journey towards it.

Day 8 was at Microsoft Reactor, and started off with a talk by Life Coach, Business Strategist and Speaker Simon Alexander Ong, with an inspirational speech. He explained that life will have experiences which will have setbacks, challenges, and are guaranteed to fail, and also discussed the importance of obtaining the right mindset. At lunch, Rodolfo Lissia, Film Director from Rombo Productionsand expert mentor for #TeensInAI2018, shared his recent film “L’Oro Delle Tigri” (The Gold of the Tigers), exploring the triviality and banality of everyday life. Rodolfo advised the teens to “find something that empowers and fulfils you”. Later in the afternoon Silja Litvin, Psychologist and Founder of Psychappsand eQuoo, came to talk to teens about what she does, went into detail on the four ‘Pillars of Emotional Intelligence’: Self Awareness, Self-Management, Empathy, and Relationship management.

On day 9, we were lucky enough to go to Roborace, the world’s first competition for human and machine teams, using both self-driving and manually-controlled cars.

Day 10- aka Demo Day- was hosted by Microsoft Reactor! Teams pitched their ideas to a panel of judges (Paul Trueman, Senior Vice President of Mastercard; Director of BBC Children’s Alice Webb; Alessandro Recino, Cloud Solution Architect Data & AI at Microsoft; Head of Product for Voice AI and Conversational Assistants for BBC WorldwideAndy Webb; Strategic Director of Benevolent AI, Joe Tighe; Co Founder of CognitionX, Tabitha Goldstaub; Founder of CyberDuckDanny Bluestone; Speaker, AI Researcher and Author Jonnie Penn). The winning team, Daniella Abamu, Kiran Arun, Lowena Hull, Ethan Nwankwo will be going to Silicon Valley under sponsorship of Mastercard. They won with their pitched idea, ‘SKai’- BE COMFORTABLE IN YOUR OWN SKIN’ (An app which uses machine learning to help the user self-diagnose a skin condition using an image.)

On Monday the 3rd Sept’18, after the conclusion of #TeensInAI2018, the teens were invited to the BBC’s New Broadcasting House Portland Place for an AI conference, about ‘AI, Society and the Media’, with the main theme being ‘How Can We Flourish?’. Here Stella Lewis-Rodriguez and Peter He, two of our teens, pitched their product, ‘Saive’, and two more teens Daniella Abamu and Cherry Dale took part of a discussion on AI and education as members of a panel with Professor Mary Aiken and Tracy Chou, with Alice Webbhosting. Read more at Medium on our blog!

Originally published at Acorn Aspirations.



Acorn Aspirations

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