AI for Good Challenge uncovers tomorrow’s innovators in Australia’s schools today

About the Challenge:
The world that students will enter as adults will be different to the world we inhabit today – not least because many of those students will help design it.

Microsoft’s AI for Good Challenge was designed as an opportunity for all high school students to ideate solutions that use artificial intelligence to make a positive impact in their world. The Challenge concluded recently with an extraordinary crop of ideas that point the way to a brighter future for all.

Working with Education Changemakers, Microsoft developed four learning modules aligned to the Australian curriculum standards to support teachers to flexibly deliver the content to their students in grades 7-12 participating in the Challenge. Microsoft also ran a series of 14 hackathons around the country attended by over 800 teachers and students that allowed them to explore AI, how to harness design thinking, and work together as a team for maximum impact.

Supported by their teachers, students learned the basics of AI and armed with that insight came up with transformative ideas for products or services. Working in groups of two or three, students were encouraged to consider how AI technologies could be applied for good.

The 2019 AI for Good Challenge focus areas were accessibility, earth (climate change) and humanitarian action and 545 applications from 325 registered schools across Australia were submitted.

State finals were held in July and the national final took place in Sydney in August.

National Final Winners:
The winning entry from Grades 7-9 came from a team at Hale School in Western Australia. Its SugAIr concept is an AI infused app designed to help motivate children manage Type 1 diabetes by gamifying the injection process.

The winner from Grades 10-12 was NAIla, an AI enabled midwife chatbot that provides women with information about what to expect and links to their health record, an idea from a team from St Peter’s Girls School in South Australia.

According to Steven Miller, director of Education, Microsoft Australia; “We know AI is one of the most powerful and impactful technologies in our society today. We’re passionate about challenging students to think beyond generic solutions and actually use an AI lens when it comes to solving real world problems. We’re trying to encourage critical thinking and this challenge was a great stepping-stone to do so, and the talent we have in schools around the country is incredible.”

Aaron Taite, CEO and co-founder, Education Changemakers, added that; “This project has been a few months in the making, but bringing together some of the top ideas has been an excellent opportunity to showcase some of the future talent we’ve got in this country and see just how passionate these students are about solving real world problems using AI.”

Students solving issues important to them
For many of the students participating, the problems weren’t just real world – they were personal. For example one of the team members that came up with the SugAIr concept has diabetes themselves.

And the runners up in the national award, and winner of the Queensland State Final, had a personal connection to the problem they were trying to solve.

A team of three girls, aged 13-14, from Brisbane Bayside State College came up with a concept called ChameleonFrames – using AI to support the diagnosis of cerebral visual impairment, a condition which the brother of two team members has.

The concept, which was developed with the help of teacher Frederic Legrand uses AI to monitor and analyse eye movement and brainwaves in order to speed diagnosis.

Besides winning the state finals and travelling to Sydney for the national finals the girls were interviewed on ABC radio, eloquently describing their concept.

Impact of the Challenge
Peter Turner, acting principal, Brisbane Bayside State College, applauded the AI for Good initiative, the opportunity to showcase innovation abilities at school, and for the team “To shine in teamwork, and outside of a text book.

“It was also a chance for them to show their skills in presenting the report, as well as their collaboration and research skills. For me and Frederic Legrand this was a career highlight,” said Turner.

He added that the marriage between schools and business working together on the Challenge was also valuable. “The organisation was flawless and it showed to the kids that what they are doing is important,” he added.

Samantha Tan, NSW Program Manager for the Australian Business and Community Network, a not-for-profit organisation that connects business with education to improve outcomes, said that the AI for Good Challenge had been an “incredible” initiative and had received very positive feedback from schools.

Tan participated in AI workshops with one school in Queensland and one in NSW and was impressed by the “Opportunity for project-based learning in AI,” as well as for students to gain experience in skills prized in modern workplaces such as communications, design thinking and teamwork.

For more information on the 2020 AI for Good Challenge including teacher resources, prizes and information about next year’s challenge register now at www.aiforgood.com.au.

Click here for free STEM resources