AI's role in engineering contest is a yes-brainer

Artificial intelligence — the technology that was once considered too profound to be understood by the public — is now on the agenda for elementary and secondary schools.

Artificial intelligence — the technology that was once considered too profound to be understood by the public — is now on the agenda for elementary and secondary schools.

Furthermore, an engineering competition for Shanghai students that has been running for 13 years has for the first time added AI to the program.

The Shanghai Future Engineer Competition, held by Shanghai Educational Center of Science and Arts and Shanghai Science Education Development Foundation, focuses on inspiring and cultivating youngsters interested in science and technology.

Ten thousand students from all over Shanghai have signed up for the competition and have been preparing their projects since the new semester. The final competition will be held in December.

The presence of an AI project in the competition has attracted considerable attention from in and out the education system.

Eighteen teachers from all 16 districts involved in the competition gathered at Shanghai Science and Technology Museum yesterday to attend a seminar with David Li, a renowned AI entrepreneur.

“Teaching students AI is neither about algorithms, nor the Kafkaesque fantasy in the movies, but to intrigue students’ interests,” said Li, who told his audience that AI is more a tool than a mathematical computer science. The teaching of AI should concentrate on the practical, he added.

“Coding AI is hard and boring but the kids do not have to know about it, they can simply use and enjoy AI,” Li said.

ASML, a leading company in lithography industry, has funded 600,000 yuan (US$91,000) to the competition and has provided 16 AI control panels.

“Youth talent and AI are both cornerstones for the future, cultivating the youth to get involved into AI industry is capturing the future,” said Lucas van Grisven, vice president of ASML.

According to “Development Planning for a New Generation of Artificial Intelligence” published by the State Council in July, AI has now become a national strategy. 

In 2015, Shanghai Science and Technology Commission launched an “artificial intelligence project based on brain science.”  

“We will continue strengthening education in AI,” said Yao Zongqiang, secretary-general of Shanghai Science Education Development Foundation. 


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