Scienteens Lab launches art and AI workshops
Humans are generally suspicious of artificial intelligence taking away their jobs or taking control of their lives. But AI increasingly plays a central role in scientific research at the University of Luxembourg, including areas such as cancer and Parkinson’s disease.
“Computer science is everywhere. We need it for science and the humanities, and AI specialists can help researchers process data to understand it better,” says Régine Poussin, who leads a new three-hour long workshop on art and AI for Scienteens Lab, an extracurricular learning centre of the University of Luxembourg.
The workshop, which incorporates the realm of programming and artificial intelligence, is the first of many that will extend the Scienteens offering to secondary school children.
The Art and AI workshop, given in French and English simultaneously, takes a look at how smart technologies have become part of our everyday life. Students get to understand the science behind these devises to help them use the technology confidently and securely.
“Pupils learn interactively, discovering how AI can be used to create works of art. They learn how to design an unplugged AI and use computer programming to produce drawings,” Poussin said. “Working with images makes it easy to understand the power of computational methods, giving teenagers the chance to have fun exploring the endless possibilities.”
Creative use of data
Kids also learn that data is not worthless, but it needs to be collected in the right way. It can start with the data needed by an elevator so it can take you to the right floor. This includes recognition of who you are, which floor you get on (and therefore where your home is located) and what you are holding – washing or garbage means you need to go to the basement.
Poussin points out that data is worth quite a bit, citing the earnings of top YouTubers, footballers, pop stars and computer scientists like Elon Musk.
“AI can perform art. It’s basic coding. The mouse becomes the brush and the coding is the paint. I want to illustrate to young people that you need to be creative to be a computer scientist. In fact, research shows that you use the same part of the brain used when painting or creating music,” explains Poussin.
Skills needed in all fields
“Computer science can open many fields. You can go anywhere with this skill, not just banking and IT,” says Poussin. Pupils at the workshops see how it’s used for health via Neuralink and that Open AI can research and write articles just like a journalist. “The ultimate goal of computer science is to create an artificial brain that acts like a human brain.”
She also tackles views that make many people afraid of AI technology, for example whether it is possible to create the AI shown in films like "2001 A Space Odyssey," "Ex Machina" or "War Games." It’s unlikely the technology could fit into a human body or be advanced enough to detect when a human is in danger.
“Data scientists, analysts and engineers are the people who prepare the data, not computers. AI has no intuition, feelings or the ability to rely on experience like humans. It tries to find a solution, but it doesn’t always get it right, say for example if it rejects or accepts an application for a loan. It’s up to the data scientist to put in the context,” says Christian Lucius, a teacher at Lycée Michel Lucius who is helping English-language speakers at the workshop. “We can train a computer, but it doesn’t know what it is learning. We need to help it to make decisions with data.”
This becomes apparent when Poussin uses her photo to see if a computer programme can identify her age. The project was undertaken by teens who scanned in photos of their friends, so unsurprisingly the AI decides that Poussin must be a young adult.
Encouraging girls in computer science
The workshops are part of project called “Become a computer scientist”, and are supported by the National Research Fund and the PSP Flagship programme, which aims to set up long-term science outreach activities in Luxembourg. They were developed with the support of the Royal Bank of Canada.
Next year, Poussin hopes to launch Swimming Pool – an online platform providing tutorials and a meeting space for girls interested in computer science. “When boys are around, girls step back and are shy about IT. But they are as capable as boys, so I want to create a girl-friendly IT environment,” she said.
Plans are also in place to provide teacher training for art with coding and maths via algorithms so that they can be added to the school curriculum. Organisers also want to help answer questions from parents about ICT, such as how much time kids should spend on devices and what age they should start.
Scienteens Lab has been running for eight years and aims to spark pupils’ interest by showcasing the latest scientific research. To date, it has offered workshops in biology, maths, and physics and invited almost 10,000 students to step into a scientist’s shoes.
Book a workshop
The new computer science workshops, including Art & AI, can be booked by schools or private institutions and corporations via the Scienteens Lab website. They are for students aged 12-19 years.