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Artificial Intelligence teaches students

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Perth high school students attended an Artificial Intelligence (AI) summer bootcamp at Curtin to enhance their software development and interpersonal skills.

Human head outline with circuit board inside.

Eight students from Willetton Senior High School, Churchlands Senior High School and Ursula Frayne Catholic College spent four days of their summer holidays programming chatbots.

Chatbots are essentially computer programs that are designed to simulate human conversation. The students programmed their chatbots to give specific study, health and exam tips on StudentBox, an online community for year 10 to 12 high school students in Western Australia. The chatbots could recognise whether a student was seeking study, exam or health tips, and was then able to provide further information on that topic.

 

A screenshot of a chatbot and real person having a conversation.

A chatbot is a computer program designed to simulate human conversation.

The bootcamp was run by Curtin’s Faculty of Science and Engineering and University Marketing, and the chatbot software was supplied by Amazon Web Services (AWS).

“A key ethos that we have within the AWS public sector team is to use our capabilities to ‘make the world a better place’. Supporting a program that is aimed at developing future information and communications technology talent and improving the futures of children is a clear opportunity to do this,” says Andrew Phillips, the Australia and New Zealand Public Sector Country Manager at AWS.

“AWS offers more than 120 services, including machine learning and AI services that allow users to unleash their creativity and invent cutting edge solutions. This was demonstrated throughout the AI bootcamp where we watched students build chatbots incorporating logic flows and sentiment analysis in just hours. What lies ahead for these students is exciting for both AWS and for the Australian community.”

On the final day of the program, the students pitched their chatbots to members from the University Marketing team, drawing on the presentation skills they learned throughout the week.

Two male high school students stand in front of a white board and computer screen with chatbot logo.

Colton Palmer and Theo Vander Heyden were two of the eight students who attended the AI summer bootcamp.

“Many university courses have traditionally focused on the hard skills, so this program was very much about learning those broader, non-technical skills and exposing the students to real-world situations that will help them in their career progression,” says Mark Calleja, camp coordinator and Manager of Curtin IT Planning and Executive Support.

Curtin PhD students were on hand to help the high schoolers configure the high-tech software, but found they quickly grasped the complex programming language.

“The fact they’ve been able to pick up the basics of the programming language in a couple of days really speaks volumes to both the dedication and interest they have in this program and the capabilities and skills they have,” says Tristan Reid, a PhD mentor.

Reid and his colleagues also gave the students insight into university life and the opportunities that could await them in the very near future.

“We answered their questions about how we enjoy it here and also let them know what kind of options there are for study in this area, from engineering to computer science to mechatronics,” says Reid.

“It’s been great to share our experiences with the students. Hopefully we’ll see them here again as university students in a few years’ time!”

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