Robots, AI and Inspiring Minds

On Saturday, we hosted seventy-five Year 10 students at Augustine House, Canterbury, for the second session in our Inspiring Minds series: Does Siri “just” listen? Delivered by Christ Church academics and top academics from across the country, Inspiring Minds teaches science and maths in a fun and interactive way.

A huge thanks to our very own student ambassadors, Sophie (2nd year Sociology student), Polly (Special Education and Inclusion Studies student) and Elizabeth (Creative and Professional Writing student) for helping out at the event and sharing their highlights from the day…

Blog by Sophie, Polly and Elizabeth

Boundless enthusiasm met a frosty but sunny City of Canterbury morning today, with Year 10 students from surrounding secondary schools returning to Canterbury Christ

Church University for a day of knowledge, learning and fun.

ROBOTS! Yes, there were robots- from small, respectively cute ones to a reluctant humanoid that just wanted to go back to sleep, the room was certainly intrigued to see what these marvellous machines could really do. We were to ask many questions today, from what we really mean when we talk about computers, robots and artificial intelligence, to the big questions which have been troubling the world for a good few years now…at what point to robots really become humans, and vice versa? Do robots really understand us? Can they hear us? All questions which really stressed the minds of both students and adults alike.

To try and answer these questions, we got introduced to Mitsuku – a three-time winner of the Loebner Prize Turing Test. For this, students and ambassadors had to chat to Mitsuku online, and try and determine whether they were in fact talking to a human or a robot by asking questions. The results turned out to be very exciting and thought-provoking, with one team believing they were talking to a robot and were in fact having a conversation with a human, and many other teams vice versa. These results just made us question what makes a human ‘human’ even more, stimulating many discussions and debates around the room! After a quick break with re-fuelling the minds with the ever-so popular baked-in-house flapjacks, fruit bowls and crisps, it was time to work on the CREST Award projects. To start off with, a short talk about the science and technology behind robots and how they work, was given to the students. Optical illusions was then the next topic of discussion and heavy debates…was that dress blue or white?! Our brains are so easily fooled! After some time filling in the CREST workbooks and having a good discussion about our chosen topic, soon enough it was break time again!

After being re-energised once again by more healthy snacks, it was soon time to learn about stress, and the effects it has on our bodies. As many of us have faced stress in some way over the years, many of the students and ambassador’s participated brilliant answers when asked about what triggers stress, and in what ways our bodies handle it. For example, many students stated they experience symptoms such as butterflies in their stomach, headaches, nausea, tingling bodies and fatigue when they feel stressed, and can usually be caused from ‘stressful situations’ such as exams, school, social media, fears, meeting new people and so on. It was an extremely engaging session in which we as ambassadors even learnt something new!

Everyone took something away from Saturday’s experience, we all took a new insight away about technology, and our slightly (but needed) stressed selves. Some of the students said they found the session inspiring and intriguing, and they were in fact going to go away and research the topics some more (which is what we like to hear).

So, does Siri “just” listen? That’s a question that we continue to debate on!

Inspiring Minds empowers students to make informed decisions about their education and employment trajectories while providing spaces where they can share their ideas with each other and have their voices heard. The course builds students’ epistemic insight, which refers to students’ ability to think across their subjects and beyond, to ask good questions and to make good use of what is already known. This new programme aims to increase the number of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in higher education by 2020. The National Collaborative Outreach Programme and its regional consortium Kent & Medway Collaborative Outreach Programme (KaMCOP) aims to support the most disadvantaged young people in England to progress into Higher Education (HE). It will run from 2016-2020. Each session has been designed to support students to develop their critical thinking skills through bridging the boundaries between science and their other subjects. The sessions will be led by top academics from UK universities, dealing with issues at the forefront of current research.

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