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MacKillop students blitz AI challenge

ARTIFICIAL Intelligence (AI) can instil a real fear of the future for those who are not so tech savvy.

But for Digital Technologies students at MacKillop Catholic College, they are determined to use their AI powers for good.

And now their innovative ideas have earnt them a trip to Sydney to compete in the finals of a national AI challenge.

The 2019 ‘AI for Good Challenge’ was an opportunity for Australian high school students to learn about AI, understand the ethics behind it, then dream up an AI solution to make the world a better place.

The year nine and 10 MacKillop students, working in teams, blitzed the preliminary ‘hackathon’ event on 26 July at the University of Tasmania in Sandy Bay.

MacKillop Digital Technologies teacher Cameron Briers said the school submitted two teams, both of which won their age categories in the state finals of the challenge.

“Our year nine team of Jode Brewster Jones, Max Makrogamvrakis and Jasper Reilly won the Year 7-9 section, while our year 10 team of Jacinta Watson, Jorja D’Amico and Oscar Harris won for the Year 9-12,” he said.

“They will now represent Tasmania in Sydney in the finals on 16 August.”

A total of 680 teams submitted ideas for the challenge across Australia, where competitors were required to submit AI concepts that fell into one of three categories – AI for Earth, Humanitarian Action or Accessibility.

Choosing the latter, MacKillop’s year 10 team designed an app to help people with disabilities who lacked their own transport – and even submitted a prototype of the app.

“Our idea was an app that helps all people with disabilities to catch public transport,” MacKillop year 10 student Oscar Harris said.

“It uses timetables that are already available online, existing data, plus the users’ data and travel routes and puts all that data into one place for users.

“It makes it easier for those people to participate more fully in daily life through their involvement with community activities or getting to work or school.”

The year nine concept aimed to help the planet by drastically reducing food waste.

“Every year, humans waste 1.6 billion tons of food and it costs us almost one trillion dollars,” student Jode Brewster Jones said.

“Our solution, InDate, is a camera sensor for fridges and pantries.

“The camera tracks what goes in and out, and with the help of AI and Microsoft cognitive services, creates shopping lists for you based on either manually added priority items or tracked items.

“You can see what’s in your fridge via wireless at any time, and if you don’t know what to have for dinner the app will suggest recipes using items in your fridge, or order items for you.”

Student Jacinta Watson said another group from the school’s year level came up with a Developer Bot.

“It’s a machine that scans things that need fixing and it gives you an approximate cost for fixing it by searching lots of websites,” she said.

In addition to the Digital Technologies course, MacKillop College also holds a popular Robotics Club after hours so students can see their coding skills in action.

When asked what excites them most about their upcoming trip to Sydney, the students unanimously responded, “Krispy Kreme and Starbucks.”

Caption: MacKillip Catholic College students at the 2019 ‘AI for Good Challenge’ preliminary event at the University of Tasmania.