Lesson #6: Plan your AI Invention

In this lesson you will learn:

  • How to plan your invention that can change your community for the better
  • To consider how different inventions can have positive and negative impacts

To complete this lesson you will need:

  • A device with access to Internet
  • AI Inventors notebook

Over the course of this lesson you will:

  • Debate about AI Inventions
  • Make a paper prototype of your invention

Mini Debate: Impact of AI Technology

Pick sides in your group. You need at least one person each side.

  • Side 1 believes AI innovates. This is the viewpoint that loves AI, and always points out how the technology can help our world.
  • Side 2 believes we should be careful with AI. This is the viewpoint that thinks AI can negatively impact our world if we don’t make laws and carefully think through what can happen.

You will have 2 minutes to debate each topic.

  • Self driving cars and airplanes without pilots
  • Voice assistants (like Siri, OK Google and Alexa)
  • Bionic Arms
  • Using image recognition to find people (like a lost child in a airport)

Case Study: AI and Ads

What websites do you see advertisements on? Many websites make money by showing users ads that use AI to predict what the user might want to see.

How do websites use AI know what I want to buy?

  • First they gather data about people. They learn what someone clicks on, what websites they browse, and for how long they view pages.
  • They are programmed to find patterns in data. They know if someone clicks on lots of shoes, or if they spend a long time looking at basketball shoes in particular.
  • Then they make a decision about which ad to show. They may be choosing between several ads like a sneaker ad, a haircut ad, and a microwave add.
  • Finally, website’s AI takes action by showing an ad for a product that the user might buy. In the case of our example, they would show the sneaker ad.


What are good and bad things that could happen with this technology?

Good thingsBad things
A good thing about website AI is that this information can be used to show people ads that they would like to see. For example:
  • If you look at a lot of purple hats, it can keep showing you purple hats. 

  • If you order soap, it can suggest a sponge that is usually ordered with it.
They may show you a lot of the same things – maybe you don’t need any more shoes!
Maybe now you want to buy a plant but the website is only recommending shoes. 

Another bad thing about website AI is that it can be used to target certain groups of people. Therefore it is illegal in many places to purposefully show ads to people of specific ethnicities, genders, or religions. For example:
  • You cannot use AI to show coding jobs to men but not women.

  • You cannot advertise housing to people of a specific ethnicity. 

Your Invention Speed Dating

Think about how you invention might impact your community and different people. For this exercise, half of the groups around the room will remain stationary. The other groups will move around and talk with the seated groups. You will have 4 minutes to discuss the topic. When the bell rings, move to a new group that you haven’t spoken to.


“If it’s your algorithm, it’s your responsibility. This is the only way that we can sort of sustain a world where we know who is responsible for what.” – Margrethe Vestager, European Commissioner for Competition 

Consider: if it’s your AI invention, you have a responsibility for how it changes the world.

What decisions does your invention make?

Some inventions make a single decision. Others make many more! Think about what decisions you invention makes. For example, a weed puller makes a few decisions before pulling anything from the ground.

  • Is this a plant or not? 
  • If something is a plant, it decides if the plant is a weed

What are all the actions your invention could take?

Inventions make decisions to help them decide what actions to take. For example, the weed puller acts in the following ways:

  • If something is not a plant, then leave it alone and move on.
  • If something is a plant, then decide whether it is a weed.
  • If the plant is not a weed, then leave the plant alone and move on.
  • If the plant is a weed, then pull the plant

What do you think are fair actions for your invention to take? Can you program those actions?

Does you invention make decisions about people?

If yes, then could your invention’s decisions hurt people or groups?

Either way, have you talked about your invention with your community or the people you are trying to help?

How will your invention gather representative data?

Data is representative when it reflects the characteristics of the population on which the invention is being used. If your data is not representative, the invention might make mistakes.

Imagine that a weed puller has a dataset of images of weeds found only in Canada. What if we want to use it in Mexico? It might not work because it was not trained to recognize weeds found in Mexico.

What if you invention makes a mistake?

If the weed puller made a mistake and decided that a good plant was a weed it would pull out the good plant. Imagine going to the garden and seeing all the tomato plants pulled out and the weeds still in the ground! For your invention think about if you could reduce the risk of harm by doing the following:

  • Finding a more representative dataset.
  • Changing your invention’s actions based on how sure the invention is of its decision
  • Keeping your invention’s decisions private and sharing the decision only with the people who absolutely need to know it.


AI Inventor’s Notebook

Step 1: Draw your paper prototype

A paper prototype is a hand-drawn model of your invention. It’s a plan that shows the different parts of your idea, how your invention will work and move, and what materials you need.

Step 2: Answer these questions to make your plan more complete

  • How will your invention gather or use data to make decisions?
  • What decisions will your invention make?
  • What actions do you want your invention to take?

Step 3: Decide what materials you will need

  • What will you need to build your AI invention? If you build an invention that takes actions outside of your computer you might also need additional materials. These could be sensors and Raspberry Pi, Microbit, or Arduino or other LEDs or buzzers (if you want your invention to take actions) 
  • How will you use the online AI tools like Cognimates or ML4K?
  • Are there items you need to bring from home for the next session?

Wrap it all together

  • What is your invention?
  • How do you hope to positively impact your community?