When you think of medical breakthroughs, eradicating poverty, technological advancements, or educational reform, you rarely picture a kid behind the wheel. But if there’s anything we’ve learned, it’s that kids are not to be underestimated — many grab on to the wheel with both hands and steer us straight into progress.
We can thank kids for inventing things like the trampoline, Christmas lights, swim fins, popsicles and even braille. But while these creations came to fruition in previous centuries, the one we live in now has a wealth of accessible tools kids can use to take their imaginations even further.
One of these tools is Artificial Intelligence (AI) and we plan to take full advantage of it with our new initiative, #kids2030. By the year of 2030, we aim to reach over 1,000,000 kids and 50,000 teachers in Canada with AI, to show how its power and ethics can be harnessed for the greater good. And specifically, to meet the UN’s Global Goals for Sustainable Development.
On that note, here are 5 examples of kids who used technology for a worthy cause:
Given that we want to reach the UN’s Global Goals through tech, we wanted to kick this list off with the micro:bit Global Challenge. Launched last year, the challenge for 8 to 12-year olds around the world was to select one of the Global Goals set out by the United Nations and create a project using the micro:bit that would help reach one of the goals and support a community in need.
Each corner of the world had a winner. Team Food Waste Watchers, winning for Asia and the Pacific, coupled a micro:bit with a weighing sensor to reduce food waste by measuring the weight of food waste bins and alerting the user when they’re throwing away a little too much. Competing for Africa, Joseph Adewole designed a device that measures class temperatures to reduce the number of students missing classes due to overheating. Representing the North American chapter, Elizabeth Gatten created an affordable home security system with the use of a micro:bit. And Kathellen Lima from the Latin American chapter made an “anti-trash buoy” that emits noise and lights when trash is thrown into rivers, thereby keeping them clean.
To read about all the winning projects, visit the Global Challenge winner’s page.
In a similar vein, Technovation challenges girls specifically to identify an issue in their community and use technology to try and solve it. Together with tackling real-world problems, the competition also gives girls the opportunity to "learn the skills they need to emerge as tech entrepreneurs and leaders."
In last year’s Junior Division, a team of five girls from Spain ages 12 and 13 was one of the winners. BT Valencia decided to take on the difficult task of combating gender-based violence — something women across the world fall victim to. The team designed Stop It, an app that can help women who are being abused without intervention.
Two mechanisms make that happen — geolocalisation and an aggression sensor. By analyzing information coming from social media networks, the app will correlate a given abuser’s tweets with their location and determine whether an alert needs to be issued to warn those around of a potential threat.
The team also designed an aggression sensor that can be incorporated into a watch or a wristband, which analyzes pressure applied to the wrist. Whenever the pressure is abnormal, an automatic emergency call will be made out and a text will be sent to all of the contacts housed within the StopIt app.
Despite its functions that don’t require intervention, the app can still be used to call an emergency line and to contact family and friends via a call or a text.
Another hub for STEM prodigies is the Google Science Fair. The competition invites teens from all over the world to come up with innovative ideas using science, technology, engineering or mathematics.
When Portland, Oregon native Anushka Naiknaware was 13 years old, she became the youngest person to ever win the Google Science Fair. Anushka took the competition by storm when she came up with a “smart” way to take care of wounds. She believed that chronic wound care is a commonly overlooked problem in the U.S. medical system, and through research, she understood that healthcare workers tend to change dressings on advanced wounds too frequently, which can expose patients to infections and a prolonged recovery.
To try and solve this, Anushka designed a prototype for a smart bandage — a bandage that alerts doctors when it needs to be changed. This way, medical professionals would be able to assess the state of the wound without removing the dressing. In turn, such a sensor could lower the risk of infection for a wound that has yet to heal and could prevent a patient from recovering for a longer period of time than actually needed.
We also couldn’t help but shine a light on Canadian kids. Hailing from Sault Ste. Marie in Ontario, a team of students going by the name of iSMAK set a world record in robotics this year.
iSMAK is made up of three young students — Ila Giroux, who’s nine years old, her brother Kavi Giroux, 11, and Max Shillingford of the same age. They conquered the Northern Ontario VEX IQ Robotics Qualifier — the largest regional robotics competition in the country — where they beat out 3,000 other teams and achieved a world record for speed.
In turn, their score bumped them up to number one in terms of performance on an international scale.
They got there by training three to four times a week with two coaches (one of them being Ila and Kavi’s parent), debugging, tweaking, coding and eventually designing robots. The ultimate goal with the robot was to have it complete tasks in a high-stakes, game-like setting. And clearly, iSMAK rose to the challenge.
“They were ecstatic. Over the moon,” said co-coach Sara Giroux in a Sault Star article. “They were jumping up and screaming.”
The next step for the team now is the VEX Robotics World Championship taking place in Louisville, Kentucky in late April.
We wanted to wrap up this list with ‘one of our own,’ so to speak. Samaira Mehta is a 10-year-old from Silicon Valley, California, who shares the exact same goal as we do — teaching kids how to coode.
This young prodigy is the mind behind Coderbunnyz, a 21st century board game that doubles as a learning tool which teaches young kids how to code. The idea came out of Samaira’s love for board games and coding, and wanting to combine the two instead of always interacting with them separately. She then fused it all together with her desire to spread the word of code and created Coderbunnyz.
The game teaches kids how to write an algorithm, and if they’re interested, they can type that algorithm into a computer afterwards and see the code come to life. With Coderbunnyz in hand, Samaira has now done over 75 coding workshops and reached over 2,400 kids with her board game. And she doesn’t plan to stop.
“When I do grow up, one of my main goals is that to keep on being an entrepreneur, keep on inventing things, keep on creating things that are good for the world,” said Samaira in an article of The New Indian Express’ Edex edition.
So whether it’s to solve a community problem, to learn something new or just to have fun, we encourage all kids to continue exploring, discovering and playing with technology — from board games to AI!