Teens today, tech entrepreneurs of tomorrow

October 14, 2020 | By Hayden Harrison

The Teens in AI program inspires the next generation of digital researchers, entrepreneurs and leaders who will shape the future of work while creating opportunities for underrepresented youth. 

Eleos was the Greek god of mercy, clemency and compassion — a fitting name for the team of innovators who developed a solution that uses artificial intelligence to curate and deliver targeted advice to help young people manage their emotional well-being. And fitting, too, that the team responsible are teens themselves.

Watch our video interview with the winning team, Eleos, to discover how this next generation of AI leaders will shape the future of work — and might well change the world.


Team Eleos — London teens Anisha, 16, and Mohammed, 17, along with Imani, 13, of Sheffield, U.K., — worked together across cyberspace as part of a first-of-its-kind virtual artificial intelligence workshop and competition, part of the global Teens in AI initiative. They were tasked to develop an innovative AI solution to help meet the United Nations’ sustainable development goals for pressing healthcare and societal challenges facing the planet.

First launched at the AI for Good Global Summit at the U.N. in May 2018, the Teens in AI program typically includes hackathons, mentoring, workshops and an annual two-week AI accelerator. Given the pandemic, the accelerator program was delivered remotely this year. It included a comprehensive introduction to AI technology and ethics, design thinking and project management, as well as branding, marketing and entrepreneurship. "It really helps to build soft skills as well as technical skills," Anisha says.

This year’s cohort included 40 students, ages 12 to 18, plucked from more than 300 applicants around the world. They were virtually mentored by AI business leaders, including experts from Mastercard. At the close of the program in August, the students pitched their solutions to a panel of industry experts. “It was amazing hearing their insights, their knowledge,” Anisha says. “They helped us make our product vision a reality."

Pivoting to a virtual event allowed more students to participate, says Mastercard's Paul Trueman, senior vice president of Cyber & Intelligence, who has previously mentored teens on the program. “Enhancing their skills and confidence with AI, with a little support and mentorship, can help them make a real impact on society and feel empowered to change the world.”

The majority of the cohort included young women and teens from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds, who don’t typically have many opportunities to participate in STEM-related learning programs.

"What stood out for me was how Teens in AI was able to pull together teams across countries, continents and geographies," says Deepak Ravichandran, Mastercard vice president for Cyber & Intelligence, who served as one of the project judges. "Diversity of ideas is absolutely essential to build a solid solution, so it was fascinating to see the great collaboration from all the different backgrounds, cultures and perspectives.”

Innovations such as robotics, AI and big data are dramatically transforming the future of work. But studies show that few young people are graduating with the skills needed to succeed in this rapidly evolving, technologically driven workforce. With sponsors including Wayra, Microsoft, BBC and Mastercard, Teens in AI is helping to equip future generations with the intelligence they need to shape the working world of tomorrow.

Team Eleos will continue to work with Mastercard mentors and experts from the AI Center of Learning, and with the U.K. National Health Service to market and test the solution. 

“AI is the future," Imani says. "It’s mind-blowing to me, [and] it’s really important that young people know more about it.

Hayden Harrison, director, Creative Studio, Mastercard