With artificial intelligence (AI) all around us, NewTechKids decided to teach a special AI bootcamp during last week’s Fall school vacation in Amsterdam. Our goal: to kids what AI is, the thinking behind it, how it’s being used in everything from self-driving cars to customer service and Siri, Apple’s ‘intelligent’ personal assistant, and the pros and cons of this technology.

Developed by Stichting NewTechKids and sponsored by Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam (Amsterdam Municipal Library), the course covered concepts such as machine learning, minimax algorithms, brute force, heuristics and ethics. Kids discovered these concepts by playing traditional games according to strict rules (algorithms) and online role-play games. The bootcamp ended with kids designing and programming LEGO Mindstorms.

The main takeaways that we wanted to teach the kids:
– computers are only as smart as the developers behind them
– AI requires extreme precision and without it, things can go very differently and in some cases, very wrong

One of the highlights of the bootcamp was the lively discussions on the effects of AI, with kids worrying about laziness, boredom, obesity and unemployment. One boy asked what would happen to the economy when everything was produced by machines.

NewTechKids was especially excited that a boy visiting from Thailand joined the bootcamp.