MIT App Inventor Inspires Girls with AI and Data Science at Technovation Challenge Workshop

Apr 9, 2024 selim's Blog

Technovation 2024 Workshop at MIT

On March 16, 2024, after a prolonged hiatus due to the pandemic, the MIT App Inventor team had the delightful opportunity to host 24 girls participating in the Technovation Challenge 2024. This eagerly anticipated in-person event resulted from collaborative brainstorming between the Boston chapter of Technovation Girls organizers and the App Inventor education team. Together, we sought to revive the pre-pandemic tradition of welcoming Greater Boston area Technovation participants to MIT, providing them with firsthand insights from the App Inventor team and the latest tools to enhance their competition projects.

The morning session commenced with a collaborative endeavor: collectively constructing an app from scratch that interfaced with OpenAI's DALL-E image-generating platform. Remarkably, with just a handful of user interface (UI) components and a mere five blocks of code, the students swiftly grasped the process thanks to App Inventor's ingenious abstractions. They delighted in exploring the creative possibilities of their apps, generating imaginative images, and comparing their results.

ImageBot showing astronaut cat

Following this, the students embarked on building a ChatBot app, leveraging OpenAI's ChatGPT interface, enabling them to pose questions and receive intriguing responses. Notably, the ChatBot's ability to engage in self-reflection proved particularly captivating for the students, who delved into understanding the mechanics behind it. This session culminated in a presentation by David Kim from the Dev team on the training processes of large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT.

Technovation students at work

After lunch provided by the Technovation staff, the afternoon session commenced with a presentation by Technovation alumnae, Giovanna Romero and Jennet Zamanova, who shared insights from their own competition experiences in their respective countries, Mexico and Turkmenistan. Emphasizing the iterative nature of their projects, they underscored the importance of resilience and adaptability—a testament to the transformative potential of the Technovation platform.

Technovation alumnae sharing experiences

Before jumping into the afternoon session, Dev team lead Evan Patton, responded to technical questions and offered a tantalizing glimpse into the Aptly project—an initiative that promises to revolutionize app development through natural language interfaces.

The afternoon session, led by Robert Parks from the Ed team, immersed students in cutting-edge Data Science tools in the App Inventor platform. With a focus on climate change, Robert navigated through accessing spreadsheet data, employing data visualization techniques, identifying anomalies in data sets, and employing linear regression analysis to forecast trends. Utilizing publicly available data on lake ice duration, the students witnessed firsthand the alarming decline in ice coverage over the years, culminating in a sobering realization of the implications of climate change.

Lake data visualized

The workshop culminated in an illuminating revisit to the ChatBot component, where students employed prompt engineering to solicit climate analysis from ChatGPT. Despite the potentially gloomy implications of data analysis, the day ended happily on a light note when one of the participants used ChatGPT to provide the climate analysis, but alas, using song lyrics in the style of Taylor Swift. The result was then sung by a volunteer to the beat of a Taylor Swift song, a surprising and fun finish to a day brimming with learning and camaraderie.

Data Science Karaoke

Feedback from participants underscored the workshop's resounding success, with one attendee expressing newfound confidence and excitement for their Technovation project:

“This workshop was amazing! I am so excited with what I have learned. I had no idea that MIT App Inventor had the capabilities of connecting with bluetooth devices or graphing data so easily. My Technovation group and I were not sure how we were going to finish our project in time. . . but I'm now feeling so much more confident. Thanks so so much!”

Technovation students happy

The event was made possible through the dedicated efforts of two local Technovation organizers, supported by ten MIT undergraduates and five MIT staff, whose unwavering commitment ensured a seamless experience. As we reflect on this enriching collaboration, we anticipate future opportunities to empower and inspire young women through continued partnership with Technovation, fostering innovation and positive change within our communities. Wishing all Technovation teams the utmost success as they embark on the 2024 Challenge!