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Students bridge the generational digital divide

SVVSD students teach technology courses at Longmont Senior Center
SVVSD students teach technology courses at Longmont Senior Center

High school students from the St. Vrain Valley School District Innovations Center were on hand at the Longmont Senior Center Tuesday night working to help bridge the generational digital divide.

Seven students from various district high schools hosted an educational program for older members of the community on the benefits and risks associated with artificial intelligence. They showed videos aimed at demonstrating how some of the major applications of AI like self-driving cars and medical diagnostic tools can be used to improve the quality of life and increase accessibility. The teens also provided demonstrations of how AI can address real-world problems, from creating an exercise training plan to getting crochet patterns.

Students also spoke about how AI can leave seniors more vulnerable to scams and gave the audience tips on digital safeguards to help reduce the risks.

“Computers can now do things that they were previously unable to do like mimic human voices. It’s possible to be talking to a computer and not know,” said Niwot High School Junior Rohan Mysore.

When asked to explain the difference between artificial intelligence and regular human intelligence, Mysore explained, “Humans and computers actually learn in much the same way, but we have consciousness and uniqueness. If I tell my computer to look at images to learn something, it won’t get tired of looking and decide instead to generate images. That lack of consciousness is what makes it ‘artificial.’”

The program is a collaboration between the Senior Center’s Tech Connect program and the SVVSD’s Innovations Center.

The intergenerational partnership first began when the students reached out to the senior center, said Sarah Jane Snyder who runs Tech Connect. 

“The first program they did was on cyber security. We’ve hosted that about seven times now, and had about 350 people come out to hear them speak,” Snyder said.

Tuesday was the third time students with the Innovations Center AI program have presented, and Snyder estimates that they have had about 150 people attend those presentations.

“The interest is definitely there,” Snyder said, “and the presentations change a little each time because the technology changes so quickly.”

Student Aiden Buchanan has been working on a project involving self-driving cars with the University of Colorado at Boulder and sees the benefits of AI for seniors.

“You have to have a good level of knowledge about how you can use AI to make things easier and how to keep your information safe while you do that,” he said.

“If people are undereducated, they can see things on the news about the technology that make it seem really frightening. They can be scared of something that can actually really help them. We have computers set up here to show them how things work,” said High school Senior Sam Mendell.

At the conclusion of the presentation, the students walked around and answered individual questions from audience members as well as setting up smaller labs and demonstrations for those who wanted to learn more about some of the topics discussed.

“It’s great to be able to connect with our own community and close the generation gap by showing older generations how to use this kind of technology in their daily lives,” said High School Senior Idaly Gomez-Peña.