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HomeTechnologyArtificial intelligenceEmpowering Cambridge youth through data activism

Empowering Cambridge youth through data activism

For over 40 years, the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program (MSYEP, or the Mayor’s Program) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has been offering youngsters with their first work expertise, however 2022 introduced a brand new providing. Collaborating with MIT’s Personal Robots analysis group (PRG) and Responsible AI for Social Empowerment and Education (RAISE) this summer season, MSYEP created a STEAM-focused studying website on the Institute. Eleven college students joined this system to study coding and programming abilities by the lens of “Data Activism.”

MSYEP’s partnership with MIT supplies a possibility for Cambridge excessive schoolers to achieve publicity to extra pathways for his or her future careers and training. The Mayor’s Program goals to respect college students’ time and present the worth of their work, so members are compensated with an hourly wage as they study workforce abilities at MSYEP worksites. In conjunction with two ongoing analysis research at MIT, PRG and RAISE developed the six-week Data Activism curriculum to equip college students with critical-thinking abilities so that they really feel ready to make the most of information science to problem social injustice and empower their group.

Rohan Kundargi, Ok-12 Community Outreach Administrator for MIT Office of Government and Community Relations (OGCR), says, I see this as a model for a new type of partnership between MIT and Cambridge MSYEP. Specifically, an MIT research project that involves students from Cambridge getting paid to learn, research, and develop their own skills!”

Cross-Cambridge collaboration

Cambridge’s Office of Workforce Development initially contacted MIT OGCR about internet hosting a possible MSYEP worksite that taught Cambridge teenagers the best way to code. When Kundargi reached out to MIT pK-12 collaborators, MIT PRG’s graduate analysis assistant Raechel Walker proposed the Data Activism curriculum. Walker defines “data activism” as using information, computing, and artwork to research how energy operates on the planet, problem energy, and empathize with people who find themselves oppressed.

Walker says, “I wanted students to feel empowered to incorporate their own expertise, talents, and interests into every activity. In order for students to fully embrace their academic abilities, they must remain comfortable with bringing their full selves into data activism.”

As Kundargi and Walker recruited college students for the Data Activism studying website, they wished to ensure the cohort of scholars — nearly all of whom are people of colour — felt represented at MIT and felt that they had the company for his or her voice to be heard. “The pioneers in this field are people who look like them,” Walker says, talking of well-known information activists Timnit Gebru, Rediet Abebe, and Joy Buolamwini.

When this system started this summer season, a few of the college students weren’t conscious of the methods information science and synthetic intelligence exacerbate systemic oppression in society, or a few of the instruments at the moment getting used to mitigate these societal harms. As a outcome, Walker says, the scholars wished to study extra about discriminatory design in each side of life. They have been additionally eager about creating accountable machine studying algorithms and AI equity metrics.

A distinct aspect of STEAM

The growth and execution of the Data Activism curriculum contributed to Walker’s and postdoc Xiaoxue Du’s respective analysis at PRG. Walker is learning AI training, particularly creating and educating information activism curricula for minoritized communities. Du’s analysis explores processes, assessments, and curriculum design that prepares educators to make use of, adapt, and combine AI literacy curricula. Additionally, her analysis targets the best way to leverage extra alternatives for college students with various studying wants.

The Data Activism curriculum makes use of a “libertatory computing” framework, a time period Walker coined in her place paper with Professor Cynthia Breazeal, director of MIT RAISE, dean for digital studying, and head of PRG, and Eman Sherif, a then-undergraduate researcher from University of California at San Diego, titled “Liberty Computing for African American Students.” This framework ensures that college students, particularly minoritized college students, purchase a sound racial identification, essential consciousness, collective obligation, liberation centered tutorial/achievement identification, in addition to the activism abilities to make use of computing to rework a multi-layered system of boundaries during which racism persists. Walker says, “We encouraged students to demonstrate competency in every pillar because all of the pillars are interconnected and build upon each other.”

Walker developed a collection of interactive coding and project-based actions that targeted on understanding systemic racism, using information science to research systemic oppression, information drawing, accountable machine studying, how racism could be embedded into AI, and totally different AI equity metrics.

This was the scholars’ first time studying the best way to create information visualizations utilizing the programming language Python and the info evaluation software Pandas. In one venture meant to look at how totally different techniques of oppression can have an effect on totally different elements of scholars’ personal identities, college students created datasets with information from their respective intersectional identities. Another exercise highlighted African American achievements, the place college students analyzed two datasets about African American scientists, activists, artists, students, and athletes. Using the info visualizations, college students then created zines concerning the African Americans who impressed them.

RAISE employed Olivia Dias, Sophia Brady, Lina Henriquez, and Zeynep Yalcin by the MIT Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) and PRG employed freelancer Matt Taylor to work with Walker on creating the curriculum and designing interdisciplinary expertise tasks. Walker and the 4 undergraduate researchers constructed an intersectional information evaluation exercise about totally different examples of systemic oppression. PRG additionally employed three highschool college students to check actions and supply insights about making the curriculum partaking for program members. Throughout this system, the Data Activism workforce taught college students in small teams, regularly requested college students the best way to enhance every exercise, and structured every lesson primarily based on the scholars’ pursuits. Walker says Dias, Brady, Henriquez, and Yalcin have been invaluable to cultivating a supportive classroom setting and serving to college students full their tasks.

Student Nina says, “It’s opened my eyes to a different side of STEM. I didn’t know what ‘data’ meant before this program, or how intersectionality can affect AI and data.” Before MSYEP, Nina took Intro to Computer Science and AP Computer Science, however she has been coding since Girls Who Code first sparked her curiosity in center faculty. “The community was really nice. I could talk with other girls. I saw there needs to be more women in STEM, especially in coding.” Now she’s eager about making use of to schools with sturdy laptop science applications so she will be able to pursue a coding-related profession.

From MYSEP to the mayor’s workplace

Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui visited the Data Activism studying website on Aug. 9, accompanied by Breazeal. A graduate of MSYEP herself, Siddiqui says, “Through hands-on learning through computer programming, Cambridge Rindge and Latin School students have the unique opportunity to see themselves as data scientists. Students were able learn ways to combat discrimination that occurs through artificial intelligence.” In an Instagram post, Siddiqui additionally stated, “I had a blast visiting the students and learning about their projects.”

Students labored on an exercise that requested them to ascertain how information science is likely to be used to help marginalized communities. They remodeled their solutions into block-printed T-shirt designs, carving photos of their hopes into rubber block stamps. Some college students targeted on the significance of knowledge privateness, like Jacob T., who drew a birdcage to characterize information saved and locked away by third occasion apps. He says, “I want to open that cage and restore my data to myself and see what can be done with it.”

Many college students wished to see extra illustration in each the media they eat and throughout numerous skilled fields. Nina talked concerning the significance of illustration in media and the way that might contribute to higher illustration within the tech business, whereas Kiki talked about encouraging extra girls to pursue STEM fields. Jesmin stated, “I wanted to show that data science is accessible to everyone, no matter their origin or language you speak. I wrote ‘hello’ in Bangla, Arabic, and English, because I speak all three languages and they all resonate with me.”

“Overall, I hope the students continue to use their data activism skills to re-envision a society that supports marginalized groups,” says Walker. “Moreover, I hope they are empowered to become data scientists and understand how their race can be a positive part of their identity.”



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