by Divina Paredes

Forum introduces high school students to a career in AI

Mar 19, 2019
Artificial IntelligenceData WarehousingDigital Transformation

Two Kiwis working overseas – Alex Kendall (co-founder at and Craig Neville Manning (CTO Sidewalk Labs) will talk about working on some of the hottest applications of artificial intelligence at a forum for, and organised by high school students from South Auckland.

The forum YTech 2019: AI – Is it the Future? will be held on Saturday at the University of Auckland School of Computer Science.

More than 250 high and middle school students and teachers, industry and parents will be attending the forum, says Edwina Mistry, founder and director of CreateOps.

“While growing numbers of primary, as well as secondary schools, are now teaching their pupils how to code, this is only one tiny element of AI and a skill which will be ‘old hat’ by the time they enter the workforce,” says Mistry, who is also executive director, TechWomen at NZTech.

“Technology is everywhere, and one of the most promising new technologies of the age is artificial intelligence and its sister technology machine learning. It is therefore important that we introduce AI to students in a fun way.”

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It is important that we introduce AI to students in a fun way Edwina Mistry

Kendall and Manning will be speaking to the students through Skype.

Kendall’s company Wayve is pioneering artificial intelligence software for self-driving cars. He holds a research fellowship at Trinity College at the University of Cambridge. He grew up in New Zealand, studied mechatronics engineering at Auckland University, was awarded a Woolf Fisher Scholarship, helped design the algorithms which fly the Skydio drone, before completing a PhD in computer vision and robotics at Cambridge University.

Manning leads the engineering team at Sidewalk Labs, which develops technologies for connected cities.

He founded Google’s first remote engineering centre, located in New York City. In his role as Engineering Director at Google, he oversaw the development of products including Google Local (now Maps) and Froogle (now Google Shopping). As engineering director of, Google’s philanthropic arm, he co-founded’s Flu Trends and Crisis Response projects, providing maps, imagery and a missing persons service after crises in Japan and elsewhere

The students will then join a series of technology workshops to be run by Datacom, University of Auckland, Air New Zealand, Clearpoint and two AUT research fellows Maryam Doborjeh and Zohreh Doborjeh.

Mistry says this is the third event run by YTech, which was started by seven high school students from South Auckland who wanted to get more young people interested in technology as a career.

The first event, YTech 2K18, was held in February last year at the Datacom office in the Wynyard Innovation Qaurter in Auckland. The event opened with a message via video from the Hon Jacinda Ardern Prime Minister of NZ.

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The full day workshop explored augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), robotics and computer aided design, as well as covering artificial intelligence (AI), game creation and 3D Printing.

Speakers talked about importance of entrepreneurship in technology, the impact technology will have in the future, the ethics behind it and how technology is used in industries today, says Mistry, who mentored the students.

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The second event,YTech Walking on Mars featured Tom Soderstrom, IT chief technology and innovation officer at JPL Nasa as keynote speaker.

Soderstrom talked to the students via Skype. He gave them a virtual tour of JPL Nasa’s facilities in Pasadena, California. These included the Mission Control room, space craft build room and the Center of the Universe.

Mistry says attendees to the event came from 50 schools across Auckland, and notes that 40 per cent of them were female students.

She says these programmes enable high school and university students to experience and hear first-hand from industry leaders as to how technology is part of every business today and the various careers in the sector.

“This exposure enables them to make informed choices when selecting subjects in school to lead them to the careers of their choice,” says Mistry.

She says the second batch of YTech leaders are involved in the event on Saturday.

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