Last month, teams of bright young minds from all over the world virtually came together to hack the current COVID-19 crisis at the Teens in AI COVID-19 Global Hackathon. Arm’s Director of AI Ecosystem, Kate Kallot, and Gen Arm 2Z ambassador Samaira Mehta were among the judges. We caught up with them about their judging experience, how the hackathon was different from others they have been involved in, and what inspired them most.
Samaira: I feel that this is an amazing opportunity for the youth of today to create solutions to our current problems and that is a really exciting thing and something that should be promoted. So, I wanted to encourage them to feel welcome in this field. And, being a kid myself, I hope that will make them feel more encouraged to continue building the solutions that they are creating.
Kate: I think one thing that we sometimes forget is that teens are so imaginative — all they need is a platform. You only have to enable them and give them a couple of tools to play with for their imagination to blow your mind. So, it was important for me to be part of this because it was giving teens the chance to have an impact on the world.
Some of the applications and the projects we have seen coming out of these hackathons are just amazing. It is crazy to see the impact that they want to have in the world and how far their imagination can go with technology in just two weeks’ time. It is been really incredible.
Samaira: Some of the major things I was looking for was, one: what is was their solution? How does it play a role in our current world today? How much of an impact will it make? Can it scale from 200 users to a million users?
The second thing I was looking for was technicality: how they used the tools that they had in the limited amount of time. How they put it together and how they used their resources to create potential solutions to big problems. All of the ideas are truly amazing and each and every one of them had something that stuck out to me. I was truly impressed by the imagination and creativity.
Kate and Samaira discuss the inspirational entries for the Teens in AI COVID-19 Hackathon
Samaira: I think there were some real positives that came out of having this hackathon online rather than in person – just the fact that people who could not usually be together were connected. It really feels like the best of all worlds.
Teamwork is an important part of this entire process — the more heads, the more ideas, the better. So hearing the opinions of people not just from your own area but on the other side of the planet, that is really cool. For some, it may be the first time talking to somebody from outside their state or outside of their country.
Beyond this, the way that they came together on creating their videos and everything they worked on together. Although it may have seemed hard in the beginning, since we are all in different places, the way that they overcame those obstacles and still managed to put together entire videos, entire slideshows — I think that was really amazing.
Kate: We are dealing with a complex situation in the world right now and it feels like having these teams work on solutions that can have an impact either on local communities, or on the most vulnerable, or on the people that are at the forefront fighting for us and really dealing with the pandemic hands-on, is just incredible. So, I think that is where the uniqueness of this hackathon really comes from: the topic, and the impact these teams will have on the world.
It gives me a lot of hope. The planet is in good hands with them and I can't wait to see how far they are going to go after this hackathon and how their projects are going to evolve.
Kate: Really, for me they were all winners. All the projects had the potential to have a tremendous impact on people’s lives. But I would say there were two that really blew my mind. The first one, of course, is the winner. It's called All-In, and they have a speech-to-text application for education. What was beautiful about this app was their focus on inclusivity beyond borders.
So, if I look at Africa, for example, there are a lot of areas where you don't have great connectivity, and children that are supposed to go to school right now are unable to do so because of COVID-19. So how can the teacher reach out to the children?
I think this application really has the potential to address this problem because the teacher could give a class and that would be translated into a text transcript that will be sent to the students. So, it is really reducing the weight of sending a video or an audio file; supplying something that is very lightweight and easy to transmit in areas where connectivity is limited.
The second one is called HopefulHome and they were addressing the issue of domestic violence. Their app was completely amazing. It was hidden behind the calculator button on the phone, and it had information about domestic abuse. You could also set up panic buttons to be able to reach emergency contacts and to stay informed on organizations that can help you during the lockdown.
So, for different reasons, those two really caught my heart.
We are actually going to have these two teams — All-In and HopefulHome — presenting their projects at the Arm DevSummit in October. I am really looking forward to seeing these teams and seeing the progress that they make between now and then.
Samaira: Seeing the ideas that teens can put together in just two weeks with limited resources, while not even being able to see each other ... I have been truly amazed. Their work has really reminded me that no matter how much or how little time you have, or where you are in the world, or what resources you have, boundaries can still be broken. Great ideas can still come together. Just seeing the amount of creativity that was put into these projects was mind-blowing. It has really inspired me.
Kate: I would say just try. Let your imagination go wild, and don't be scared to invent. The interesting thing with AI right now is that it is such a booming segment. There's such an explosion of new technologies that are powered by AI. We've barely scratched the surface of what AI can do.
The Teens In AI initiative aim to increase diversity and inclusion in artificial intelligence, creating opportunities for underrepresented talent through mentoring, talks, workshops, hackathons, bootcamps, and accelerators.
Want to see the Teens in AI COVID-19 Hackathon winners in action?
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