Teens in AI hack joins fight against coronavirus

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A global hackathon aimed at involving youth in the fight against COVID-19 kicked off virtually this past weekend, hosted by London-based organisation Teens in AI.

The COVID-19 Virtual Global Hackathon is an opportunity for 12- to 24-year-olds to use data science and machine learning across a range of challenges. Teens in AI encourages young people to develop AI applications and trains them through mentorship, hackathons, accelerators and workshops.

The hackathon challenges teams to come up with solutions addressing different needs during the coronavirus outbreak. These include examining how the quality of online learning can be improved, how high risk groups, such as the elderly, can be supported, and how mental and physical health can be tracked. The teams are also looking at how health information can be quickly disseminated to communities around the globe.

Elena Sinel, founder of Teens in AI and an award-wining social entrepreneur, said: “Despite uncertainties across many sectors, young innovators will leave a significant impact on the future of the world. Now more than ever, we need to hear from the younger generation and showcase their engagement and passion for technology to solve modern problems and challenges.”

Hackathon participants from 59 cities are allowed to choose the technology they are most comfortable working with in creating their solution. They are also allowed to work in teams of up to five individuals.

“We’ve grouped teams by time zones because we want them to collaborate; that's the key to this programme,” said Sinel.

Over the course of this week, teams are sitting through webinars and workshops hosted by mentors from around the world. One of these mentors is Johan Steyn, from local management consultancy, IQbusiness.

The sessions cover topics such as the ethics of AI and design thinking, as well as helping participants decide what tech is best in addressing their chosen challenge.

VOIP and chat app Discord will be used as a conferencing tool for the hackathon, in part because it has better safety features than other conferencing apps, said Sinel.

The hackathon ends at midnight, May 2, and the shortlist will be announced on May 10. The top 10 will then be given another week to fine-tune their solutions before final submissions on May 17.

Prizes include a spot in the Teens in AI’s accelerator programme and £500 for the winning team.

This will be the first time the accelerator takes place online.

Samaira Mehta will present the YouthvsCOVID hack’s keynote. She is the 11-year-old American founder of Coderbunnyz, a board game that teaches coding.

“The world of tomorrow is not going to be the same, and I believe teens can create solutions and build companies to prepare the world for a better future,” she said.

To learn more about the hackathon, go to

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