Artificial Intelligence Comes to the DPIE After School Program

Rich Boschetti, DPIE Academy Director
October 28, 2020

Artificial Intelligence, also referred to as AI, is a term that most of us have heard about but … don’t truly understand.  With the popularity of science fiction movies like Terminator, The Avengers or Star Wars, most people think AI is something that we need to fear and will evolve into a sentient being that will conquer humans, suppress individual freedoms and destroy personal privacy as author George Orwell depicted in his epic novel, 1984. 

Asked about this Hollywood view of Artificial Intelligence, renowned computer scientist, Dr. Nisha Talagala, who earned her PhD in Computer Science from UC Berkeley and is an expert in AI and machine learning smiled and said, “The idea of AI that is commonly shown in movies represents it as almost  magical, but it’s not that way. While Artificial Intelligence is a powerful technology that is changing every aspect of our lives, it is basically a set of computer programs and mathematics.  AI is capable of very cool things, but it is far from being able to do what humans do.”

Artificial Intelligence is All Around Us

Dr. Talagala who has more than 20 years’ experience in the field is recognized as a leader in this area and consults with AI companies in many different countries. Due to AI’s growing impact in the world and the fact that she has an 11-year-old daughter, Dr. Talagala felt it was important to begin introducing students to the world of AI. Two years ago, she began AIClub with the aim to make it easy and fun for kids to learn and practice real AI skills.

“AI may be relatively new to human history, but it is growing at a tremendous rate. Whether we know it or not, AI’s are all around us. We interact with AI’s everyday from digital assistants like Alexa, to movie recommendations on the internet to auto correct on our smart phones. It is important for kids to learn about these technologies so they can understand the world around them and start to form opinions about how they can use these technologies to solve problems and make the world a better place” explained Dr. Talagala.

It is a common misconception that getting started with AI requires a PhD. In most cases, the algorithms available are so powerful that they can be reused, you just need to think about data. With modern tools, you do not need to know any high-level math or any programming to get started with AI. Once you understand that, you can learn progressively advanced AI concepts. The AIClub project has grown into something quite special and unique for students.”

Students Build Their Own AI System

Given that AI technology is very cutting edge, we asked Dr. Talagala how elementary students could possibly understand AI and then create their own AI technology.  “We have developed a unique combination of hands-on virtual lessons and tools where 4th and 5th graders can build their own AI’s as soon as their first class.  Students do not need to come to us with any experience because we show them how to think about AI in the context of their own experience. Once students begin to interact with their AI’s, they come to understand how and what AI’s learn. Then students can use AI’s to help solve problems without needing to know high level math and coding.”

“Hundreds of school age students have learned AI with us and have built their own AI’s” explained Dr. Talagala.  “You can see examples of these student created projects on our webpage at We find that the more students learn about AI the more they are motivated to learn more about math and coding.”

Sample AI Lesson

  1. Instructors introduce students to examples of AI in their daily lives and then discuss how information can be used to learn patterns and make predictions. Students learn how AI works at a high level and how information is used to build and train an AI.

  2. Students then build a simple AI using virtual tools such as one that can predict whether they are happy or sad based on sentences they type. With modern tools, students can build their AI in about 10 minutes and all students will build their first working AI system in their very first class.

  3. Once the AI system is in place, students interact with the system and begin to understand its strengths and flaws. They then go through the steps of retraining the AI system to be better. 

    From then on, students learn about different types of AI, how AI works with math and programming and they can build and use more advanced AI’s over time.

DPIE is very excited to introduce this cutting-edge AI class, “Get Inspired with Artificial Intelligence,” to the Winter After School Program.  Your students will be taught by PhD’s with real world experience and our hope is the class will serve to inspire your child’s imagination about the world of tomorrow.  Click here for a full class description and to enroll.