Hackathons show teen girls the potential for AI and themselves

Teen in three U.S. cities learned about the possibility of AI in three Microsoft-hosted boot camps.

This summer, young women in San Francisco and Seattle spent a weekend taking their creative problem solving to a whole new level through the power of artificial intelligence. The two events were part of a Microsoft-hosted AI boot-camp program that started last year in Athens, then broadened its reach with events in London last fall and New York City in the spring.

“I’ve been so impressed not only with the willingness of these young women to spend an entire weekend learning and embracing this opportunity, but with the quality of the projects,” said Didem Un Ates, one of the program organizers and a senior director for AI within Microsoft. “It’s just two days, but what they come up with always blows our minds.” (Read a LinkedIn post from Un Ates about the events.)

The problems these girls tackled aren’t kid stuff: The girls chose their weekend projects from among the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, considered to be the most difficult and highest priority for the world.

The result? Dozens of innovative products that could help solve issues as diverse as ocean pollution, dietary needs, mental health, acne and climate change. Not to mention all those young women 129 attended the U.S. events who now feel empowered to pursue careers to help solve those problems. They now see themselves as “Alice,” a mascot created by the project team to represent the qualities young women possess that lend themselves to changing the world through AI.

Organizers plan to broaden the reach of these events, so that girls everywhere can learn about the possibility of careers in technology.

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