Nurturing minds beyond the classroom

Azlan Othman

Baiduri Bank believes in supporting young and curious minds, while providing opportunities for them to probe further in the realm of technology.

This was said by Baiduri Bank CEO Ti Eng Hui during the launch of the Teens in Artificial Intelligence (AI) programme at the Baiduri Bank Headquarters in 1 Jalan Gadong, yesterday.

“Platforms such as the Teens in AI initiative are important in nurturing and developing a habit of learning beyond the classroom and hopefully inspire the next generation of leaders and change makers who will contribute to Brunei’s bright future,” he added.

The launch kick-started the second phase of the project, where teachers will facilitate a nine-week programme in selected schools across the country.

Teens in Al was initiated by Founder and CEO of Teens in AI and Acorn Aspirations Elena Sinel. It was launched at the United Nations’ (UN) AI for Good Global Summit, with the mission of increasing diversity and inclusion in Al, as well as empowering young people to solve real-world problems through Al.

The programme is made possible through a close collaboration between DARe (Darussalam Enterprise), Brunei Shell Petroleum Company Sdn Bhd (BSP), Baiduri Bank Berhad, Brunei Shell Marketing Sdn Bhd (BSM), Unified National Networks Sdn Bhd and Dynamik Technologies Sdn Bhd, with support of the Science, Technology and Environment Partnership (STEP) Centre at the Ministry of Education (MoE), Jerudong International School (JIS) and the Authority for Info-communications Technology Industry of Brunei Darussalam (AITI).

The main objective of the programme is to provide a platform to shape, develop and utilise the digital and leadership skills of Brunei’s youth, as part of Brunei Darussalam’s Industry 4.0 aspirations which envision a sustainable, collaborative startup ecosystem supporting innovation and growth.

Baiduri Bank CEO Ti Eng Hui at the event. PHOTO: AZLAN OTHMAN

The programme is geared towards the following outcomes, including developing ‘new technology’ skills in the areas of AI and programming, which will prepare Bruneian teens for long-term careers in jobs of the future and equip them with skills that will make them globally marketable.

At the same time, the programme will look into opportunities to develop high tech businesses to support the vision of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, as outlined in his titah to explore areas such as AI, as part of Brunei Darussalam’s Industry 4.0 initiative.

It is also aimed at putting Brunei on the global innovation map as a driver for AI development in teens. Acorn Aspirations is connected to major global technology companies such as Microsoft and many more, which will take notice of rising tech talents.

The programme runs in three phases. Phase 1, the pilot programme in September 2020, involved an online hackathon which took place for eight days, with the participation of 48 teens and 18 teachers from 10 schools, accompanied by 30 industry mentors from sponsor organisations.

The teens came up with 10 ideas and prototype solutions in tackling one of the UN Sustainable Initiative Development Goals challenges set out for them. These solutions were pitched to a panel of judges during Demo Day, held physically at the Design & Technology building in Anggerek Desa.

The second phase will see a bigger turnout with participation from a wider audience – 159 students from a mix of 12 government and private schools, to be facilitated by 47 teachers.

Phase 2 places more emphasis on the importance of the teachers’ role as facilitators for Teens in Al. The learning and ‘competition’ will be held in each individual school over a duration of nine weeks, where the teachers will facilitate the students’ independent learning and provide them a safe space to discover and experiment with tech tools.

To prepare the teachers for the programme, InTurn Co conducted a two-day training workshop in January, where it aided the teachers in planning their weekly Teens in AI sessions, provided them with resources to use in their teaching, and shared some exercises they could conduct to introduce tech jargons to the students.

The transfer of knowledge to teachers is guaranteed to ensure the sustainability and continuity of the programme within the foreseeable future.

“Alongside the teachers, the participants will be supported by industry mentors comprising employees and stakeholders from sponsor organisations in the field of design thinking, technology and business,” said Chai Roslin of InTurnCo, the local delivery partner for Teens in AI.

“The students will have the opportunity to learn from the mentors’ industry experience and seek advice on their projects.”

The top 10 teams from Phase 2 will take centre stage at the end of the programme, to pitch their ideas to a panel of industry-leading judges, during Demo Day in April.

By the end of the programme, the expected target is to train and skill more than 500 teens (public and private secondary students aged 12-18), more than 50 teachers (in public and private secondary schools), more than 100 mentors (comprising local tech startup founders, unemployed IT graduates and skilled corporate employees).