6-y-o Jamaican girl uses AI to create winning farming app
Manage your garden or farm better with a Jamaican-made app that tells you what’s best to plant at a particular location. Plan your next overseas trip hassle-free with another local application that does it for you. If you’re a loner in need of a friend, there’s an app for that too.
These innovations are among those which were spawned from a routine Sunday dinner discussion in the Crawford family home. The discussion led to the launch of a competition where innovation met creativity to see who could create the best artificial intelligence (AI) app for the chance to win $50,000.
The competition was open to all the members of the family but it was Georgia Crawford; her children Rhea, 17, Skye, 11, and Nathan, 9; and her six-year-old niece Isabelle, who took up the challenge.
According to Kerry Crawford, Isabelle’s mother, the idea for the app competition came from a discussion about ChatGPT in response to an article about universities expressing concern over the use of AI.
“The discussion around the table started about artificial intelligence and what we thought about it. The discussions involve everybody—so children and adults— and we were asking the pros and cons, and I think the question being asked was ‘would you be okay if AI was your doctor instead of a human being?’ My nephew, Nathan, said yes it would be a good thing because [AI] is so advanced in its thinking it would help,” Crawford told Observer Online.
She said the concept of AI was broken down and explained to the children, especially the youngest, Isabelle, and then Georgia came up with the idea for the competition where each participant would develop an app that could help people.
Each person was tasked with coming up with five ideas for an app, and this list was whittled down to one great concept which would be presented to be developed. Once this was done, the family got in touch with app developers to have the participants’ ideas come to reality.
“We had a meeting with the developer of the app and each participant explained their idea and how they would like to see it happen. I was really impressed by my family- the children were very articulate about how they wanted their apps to look and who would be the target audience and what it would be used for,” Crawford said smiling.
She said over a period of four to six weeks, the family was in discussions with the app developers until a draft was presented and fine-tuned to fit the preferences of the competitors. The apps were then put together in a video where the participants explained what their apps do, and why they should be the winner of the $50,000 competition.
The video with links to the apps were shared to family members’ social media pages so friends and followers could vote for their favourites.
On Sunday, October 22, during another family dinner, the apps were judged by six people, some of whom are involved in technology, including one individual who has designed and launched his own app. The apps judged were Skye’s ‘My Friend App’ which is a friendly companion; Isabelle’s ‘Grow My Garden App’ which outlines the best produce to plant based on location; Rhea’s ‘Vacation Planner App’ which takes the hassle out of vacation planning within a budget; Nathan’s ‘What Should I do App’, an application that assists students with choosing careers that suits them best; and Georgia’s ‘What Am I taking? Will It Kill Me App’ which gives information on medication being taken.
Crawford explained that in judging the final app presentations, the judges were instructed to take into consideration:
• impact- the extent to which the app makes things better for the target group;
• innovation- how unique and different the app and its features were;
• functionality- how well the app performed its intended purpose; and
• the people’s choice based on viewers’ voting in response to the promotional video.
At the end of the evening, it was Isabelle’s Grow My Garden app that came out as the winner of the people’s choice award as well as the overall competition and the $50,000.
For Crawford, while she is proud of her daughter who came out as the victor, she was impressed by the excitement and passion that the children exuded over the competition and process of creating the apps.
She added that the fact that this competition was born out of a family discussion over Sunday dinner involving the children, shows the importance of gathering with loved ones and bonding, as she has seen where the children’s confidence have grown.
“I think the family dinners are essential in terms of confidence building and bonding and getting them to understand current affairs and to be critical thinkers. We can always gather at a family dinner and bond because we are in the same space, but the fact that we have the topics and they also have the option of choosing the topics I have seen where my child— because she came back to Jamaica two years ago— has grown immensely in terms of her confidence level,” Crawford stated.
She pointed out too that the family dinners are also for check-ins so they can always be aware of what is happening with each family member.
As for the winning app along with the runner-up, Nathan’s ‘What Should I do App’, the family hopes to partner with the Ministry of Education and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) to make them available to the public.
“The aim is to expand Isabelle’s Grow My Garden App by partnering with RADA so farmers can upload pictures or information about their plots and get advice on what is the best plant and when for their area. They will also be able to upload photos of plants and get information on what may be wrong and what they should do,” Crawford stated.
“For Nathan’s app the hope is to expand by partnering with the Ministry of Education so that students in third form can input information about themselves and get suggestions on what careers best fit them, what subjects to study, what university or training is best and what global opportunities exist for their career choices,” she added.