Last month saw Rishab Jain win the 2018 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge for inventing a safer way to treat pancreatic cancer. By young, we’re talking thirteen years old.
Yep you read that right, Jain has invented an AI-based tool that improves pancreas tracking during radiotherapy – all before starting high school!
Jain is yet another name on a growing list of young tech creators around the world and he won’t be the last (see more below). They say kids are the future but it seems more like kids are creating the future. Most parents don’t know their iPads from their tablets, let alone their AI from machine learning – but for their children – there is no limit to the possibilities technology can offer them.
Just this school holidays the AppleStore in Sydney CBD hosted a coding lab for kids, which saw them having to complete a Sphero robot obstacle challenge.
UNICEF, the global organisation in charge of protecting the rights of children, has called on a diverse set of partners, including The World Economic Forum, UC Berkeley, Article One, Microsoft and others to set up and lead the global agenda on AI and children.
The initiative, dubbed Generation AI, has seen schools getting in on the action as well. Last year, The Guardian reported that tech companies in the UK and abroad were calling on Apple and Microsoft to help “foster an education revolution by putting technology at the heart of the classroom.”
“Everyone is going to be a coder of some sort in the future!”
Technology itself is now far from just a passing trend and has become an integral part of Australian classrooms. Mobiddiction CEO Mike Vasavada said: “Everyone is going to be a coder of some sort in the future! It’s going be like learning English at school”. Although there were initial concerns regarding concentration, research recently conducted by Monash University’s Education Futures team found that 66% of the 2 052 adults surveyed nationally, thought that digital technology made a positive contribution to schools.
Some companies have already started developing AI for use in schools, in the form of things like virtual classrooms, chat bot software and AI tutoring systems that can engage students in dialogue and provide feedback in subjects where they need extra help. The Sydney Morning Herald also reported that physical robots might be introduced to younger children.
“Learning in primary school is much more about play and experimentation so these physical robots are kind of like toys that are also educational,” Monash professor, Neil Selwyn said. Physical robots such as Hanson Robotics Little Sophia is one of these educational toys. The human-like miniature version of Sophia is a “new kind of STEM, AI and coding learning companion for ages 7+ individuals and a great tool for teachers and schools.”
Whilst all of this sounds great, there is a growing worry that children are more tech-literate than their teachers and parents. This especially seems to be the case in the absence of half-decent training, with teachers saying they do not have the right support to teach these new ‘tech-forward’ subjects, like coding. In the UK, a survey found that 67% of primary and high school teachers don’t believe they can teach coding because of a lack of skills and teaching tools. A further 40% said they did not have access to the right hardware and software.
We can’t blame teachers for worrying about their ability to keep up with the kids, especially when you hear some of the amazing inventions that have been thought up.
Like this DIY braille printer created by Shubham Banarjee when he was 13. Shubham used a LegoMindstorms EV3 kit and cheap parts from the hardware store to make a cheaper alternative to the pricey braille printers on the market. Sine then he’s launched his own start-up with his parents with Intel showing an interest in investing.
Laundry is a laborious chore, especially if you don’t have a washing machine. So when asked to help her mum, 14-year old Remya Jose decided to take some recycled bicycle parts to create an appliance that saves time, energy and keeps you fit at the same time. This device has countless applications in areas lacking electricity, or those who wish to save time on exercising and chores. Remya now works as an innovator at the National Innovation Foundation in India.
Another young inventor from India is Kavya Vignesh who built a robot to save bees when she was 12. Her interest in robotics and solving problems led to the creation of her ‘Bee Saver Bot’. While it is common to destroy an unwanted beehive, killing a lot of bees in the process, this bot can relocate a beehive without harming the bees. Her school team was India’s youngest ever to qualify for the First Lego League (FLL )-European Open Championship (EOC) held in Denmark in May, 2017.
Kenneth Shinozuku was just fifteen when he won a $50,000 science prize for inventing wireless, wearable sensors. Inspired by his grandfather, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and would wonder from his bed at night, Shinozuku’s sensors are strapped to a patients feet. Able to detect pressure when a person stands up, the sensors then triggers an audible alert on family or caregivers smartphones via an app.
Here in Australia, Cynthia Sin Nga Lam was just 17 when she basically solved the problem of supplying power and clean water to remote regions of the world. Her H2Pro device harnesses photocatalysis (using light to speed up chemical reactions) to sterilise water. The reaction releases hydrogen which Lam believes can be used to produce electricity with further improvements and it scored her a place as a finalist at the Google Science Fair.
At 18, George Matus is the founder of Teal 8, a company that sells commercial drones, and its first product is a battery-operated, camera-equipped unmanned aerial vehicle that reaches speeds of 70 mph. Matus has raised $2.8 million in seed funding and is a Thiel Fellow.
Another young gun in the drone business is 17-year old Mihir Garimella. He is the creator of Firefly; a low-cost, intelligent drone for first-responders that can enter and explore dangerous environments to find people who are trapped.
Honestly, the list is endless! If you’re feeling somewhat ashamed of your lack of tech skills after reading this, you should be. We suggest you start brushing up on your tech-knowledge or get left behind by the young and the fearless!