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Empowering Cambridge youth through data activism | MIT News

For more than 40 years, Cambridge, Massachusetts’ Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program (MSYEP, or Mayor’s Program) has provided teens with first-time work experience, but 2022 brings new opportunities. I was. Working with MIT’s Personal Robots research group (PRG) and Responsible AI for Social Empowerment and Education (RAISE) this summer, MSYEP created his STEAM-focused learning site at the Institute. Eleven students participated in the program and learned coding and programming skills through the lens of “data activism.”

The partnership between MSYEP and MIT offers Cambridge high school students access to more pathways for their future careers and education. The Mayor’s program aims to respect students’ time and demonstrate the value of work, so participants are paid an hourly wage as they learn workforce skills in her MSYEP workplace. PRG and RAISE, in collaboration with two ongoing research studies at MIT, have developed a six-week data activism curriculum to equip students with critical thinking skills so that they can use data science to contribute to society. We made sure we felt ready to challenge public injustice and empower our community.

Rohan Kundargi, K-12 Community Outreach Manager for MIT’s Office of Government and Community Relations (OGCR) said: I see this as a model for a new type of partnership between MIT and Cambridge MSYEP. Specifically, an MIT research project where Cambridge students are rewarded to learn, research and develop their skills!”

Collaboration beyond Cambridge

Cambridge’s Workforce Development Authority initially contacted MIT OGCR to host the MSYEP worksite to teach Cambridge teenagers how to code. When Kundargi reached out to his MIT pK-12 collaborators, Raechel Walker, a graduate research assistant at MIT PRG, suggested his Data Activism curriculum. Walker defines “data activism” as the use of data, computing and art to analyze how power works in the world, to challenge power and to empathize with those who are oppressed. is defined as

Mr Walker said: In order for students to fully utilize their academic abilities, they must be accustomed to dedicating themselves to data her activism. ”

When Kundargi and Walker recruited students for their data activism learning site, a cohort of students — most of whom were people of color — felt represented at MIT and had an agency to make their voices heard. I wanted to be able to “The pioneers in this space are people like them,” Walker said of renowned data activists Timnit Gebble, Redito Abebe, and Joy Buolamwini.

When the program launched this summer, some students learned how data science and artificial intelligence exacerbate systemic oppression in society and the tools currently used to mitigate those social harms. I didn’t recognize some of the As a result, Walker says, students wanted to learn more about discriminatory design in all aspects of life. He also had an interest in creating responsible machine learning algorithms and fairness metrics for AI.

Another side of STEAM

The development and implementation of the Data Activism curriculum contributed to Walker’s and postdoc Xiaoxue Du’s respective research at PRG. Walker has researched his AI education and data specifically for minority communities. Du’s research explores the process, assessment, and curriculum design for an educator to use, adapt, and integrate AI literacy into his curriculum. In addition, her research targets ways to take advantage of more opportunities for students with diverse learning needs.

The data activism curriculum utilizes the “libertary computing” framework. The term Walker refers to the position of Professor Cynthia Breazeal, director of his MIT RAISE, dean of digital learning and head of PRG, and her Eman Sherif, who was an undergraduate at the time in his papers. It was made with University of California, San Diego, titledLiberty Computing for African American StudentsThis framework enables students, especially minority students, to develop a healthy racial identity, critical awareness, collective duty, a liberation-centered academic/achievement identity, and the use of computing to combat racism. You will definitely gain the activity skills to transform the multi-layered system of barriers that exist. Persist. Walker said: “All pillars are interconnected and build upon each other, and we encouraged our students to excel in all pillars.”

Walker has extensive research on understanding systemic racism, systemic oppression, data drawing, responsible machine learning, how to incorporate racism into AI, and the application of data science to analyze various AI fairness metrics. We have developed a series of interactive coding and project-based activities focused on usage.

This was the first time students learned how to create data visualizations using the programming language Python and the data analysis tool Pandas. In one project aimed at examining how different systems of oppression affect different aspects of students’ own identities, students created datasets using data from each of their intersecting identities. did. In another activity, the achievements of African Americans were highlighted, and students analyzed two of her datasets on African American scientists, activists, artists, scholars, and athletes. Using data visualizations, students created her ZINE about African Americans that inspired her.

RAISE has recruited Olivia Diaz, Sophia Brady, Lina Henriquez, and Zeynep Jarsin through the MIT Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP), and PRG has hired freelancer Matt Taylor to develop curriculum and design interdisciplinary experience projects. Worked with Walker on Walker and his four undergraduate researchers constructed a cross-data analysis activity on various examples of systemic oppression. PRG also hired three of her high school students to test the activity and provide insight into making the curriculum more engaging for program participants. Throughout the program, the data activism team taught students in small groups, continually asked how they could improve each activity, and structured each lesson based on student interests. Walker says Diaz, Brady, Henriquez, and Yarushin are invaluable in fostering a supportive classroom environment and helping students complete their projects.

Student Nina said: Prior to this program, she had no idea what “data” meant or how intersectionality would affect her AI and data. Before MSYEP, Nina had taken Intro to Computer Science and AP Computer Science, but she’s been coding ever since Girls Who Code first ignited a middle-schooler’s interest . “The community has been really great. As such, I am interested in applying to a university with a strong computer science program.

From MYSEP to the mayor’s office

Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui was accompanied by Breazeal when he visited the data activism learning site on August 9th. His Siddiqui, an MSYEP graduate, said: Students were able to learn how to combat discrimination that occurs through artificial intelligence. ” and Instagram postSiddiqui also said, “I really enjoyed visiting the students and learning about their projects.”

Students engaged in activities that asked them to imagine how data science could be used to help marginalized communities. They turned their answers into block-printed t-shirt designs and carved their desired drawings into rubber block stamps. Some students focused on the importance of data privacy. Jacob T. drew a birdcage to represent data stored and locked by third-party apps. “I want to open that cage and restore my data to myself and see what I can do with it,” he says.

Many students wanted to see more representation, both in the media they consume and across different disciplines. Nina will discuss the importance of media representation and how it can contribute to increased representation in the tech industry, and Kiki will encourage more women to pursue her STEM fields. talked about Jesmin says: I wrote “Hello” in Bangla, Arabic and English. Because I speak all three of her languages ​​and they all resonate with me. ”

“Overall, we hope that our students will continue to use their data activism skills to reimagine a society that supports marginalized groups,” says Walker. “We also hope that they will become data scientists and understand that their race can be a positive part of their identity.”


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