Today, technology company Amazon have launched a challenge for students aged 13-18 to bridge the skills gap in tech careers.
The ‘Alexa Young Innovator Challenge’ is designed to inspire young people about the potential of AI (artificial intelligence).
Competitors will create an ‘Alexa Skill’ to promote social good in their community.
Teachers and educators will be able to access free curriculum-linked lesson plans and materials to engage students, while supporting the development of AI learning in UK classrooms.
Schools taking part will have the chance to win prizes, including £2,500 worth of tech products for the winner and a £2,500 donation to their school.
The 20 runners up will also receive an Amazon gift card to the value of £250 (redeemable on Amazon’s website) and £500 will be donated to their school.
New research commissioned by Amazon from YouGov has found that currently, 79% of STEM teachers have limited access to AI resources and 64% to computer science resources in general.
Amazon said this highlights difficultly schools face when trying to engage students in this field.
Of the 72% of secondary school teachers surveyed who agree that schools should be making an active adroit to increase education and resources around AI and computer science, three quarters say that without this, there will be long-term skill gaps.
YouGov’s research showed strong support for boosting AI learning in UK schools among secondary school teachers, students and parents, with 65% of secondary school teachers agreeing that AI could be part of their school’s syllabus.
87% of the UK STEM teachers surveyed believe access to free AI and computer science learning resources linked with the national curriculum would help students better engage in computer science.
69% of all secondary school teachers believe that education in computer science better prepares students for future careers in all sectors.
Students will be able to explore the possibilities of using AI to help solve societal issues like climate change and homelessness by taking part in the challenge.
Winners will be selected in two age categories, together with 20 runners-up, by judges including:
- Technology director at Amazon and UK Ambassador for Amazon Future Engineer, Lauren Kisser
- YouTuber and computing graduate Tobi Brown
- TV presenter and STEM education advocate, Carol Vorderman MBE
- Computer scientist and entrepreneur Professor Sue Black
- Maths and computing prodigy, and Stemettes founder, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon
Chris Hillidge, Director of STEM at The Challenge Academy Trust said: “This competition is an amazing opportunity for students to engage with coding in a real-world context and use ‘tech for good’.
“Coding in a real-world context is a valuable learning opportunity for young people and the Alexa Young Innovator Challenge gives young people to influence the world around them in a positive way.”
One third of secondary school children surveyed out AI said they have only heard of the subject in science fiction movies and literature.
Almost half of students said they would like to know more about careers using computer science and AI.
To help remedy this, Amazon is also offering virtual Class Chats with schools across the UK, where Amazon leaders and current apprentices will share insights from their education, career journey, and discuss the future potential of AI with teachers and students.
Research has also shown that 82% of secondary school teachers believe their students would be more interested in AI and computer science if they had the opportunity to speak to industry leaders in these sectors.
Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon said: “Supporting women in accessing resources and information to help them consider careers in STEM has always been my number one priority.
“The tech revolution never stops and we know that AI is going to be a vital part of the future of the industry so it’s great to see an initiative like the Alexa Young Innovator Challenge identifying this and looking to help inspire the kids of today, who will be our future scientists and technologists.
“I am passionate about the role of creativity and imagination in technology and development, and I think showing kids what tomorrow’s world of work could look like does exactly this.”
Lauren Kiss, technology director at Amazon, said: “Through the Alexa Young Innovator Challenge, we hope to not only build confidence in students’ ability to understand and control this incredible technology but also inspire young minds, regardless of their background, to realise their potential as creators, thinkers and builders of the future; using AI to create innovative solutions to real world problems.”
For more information about the Alexa Young Innovator Challenge, click here.