Vinny the virus is overwhelming the city AI-CITI. However, heroes AIDan and AI-Lin, with the help of Scientist Suzy and Engineer Ellis, battle Vinny using their Artificial Intelligence (AI) knowledge and toolset, and eventually scare it away.
The story, shown in the form of the comic book AIDAN & AI LIN vs Vinny The Virus, was first initiated more than a year ago by an international team led by Professor Dean Ho, Director of the NUS N.1 Institute for Health. The team, consisting Dr Agata Blasiak, Dr Darron Miya, and Mr Theodore Kee, was inspired by Saturday morning cartoons of the 90’s such as Justice League and Dexter’s Laboratory that they used to watch themselves. With Thor’s hammer sitting on a shelf in Prof Ho’s office, the comic book was almost inevitable.
Connecting with early learners
“The chief aim of developing the comic was to connect with the early learners to let them see what’s on the horizon for STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math), especially in this rapidly evolving age of technology like AI,” said Prof Ho.
“It was a fun process! Developing this book was an awesome way to communicate what we do technically with a broader audience. Tailoring the book to early learners and primary school students was itself a learning experience,” recounted Dr. Blasiak.
“We had to take a step back from the lab and the vocabulary we normally use, like replacing the word ‘drugs’ with ‘medicine’. Another challenging aspect was how to communicate simply and personify concepts used in AI and biology, like algorithms, represented by the dog named Algo, and viral replication represented by Vinny’s growth,” added Mr Kee.
Optimism for tomorrow’s innovators
The team was invited to do a trial reading of the first version of the book to the early learners at Little Sage International Preschool. “A cool and unexpected part of the process was that we realised that not only early learners are interested in this resource, but also professionals from other fields can learn from this as well,” commented Dr Miya.
The team believes that the release of AIDAN & AI-LIN vs Vinny The Virus is even more relevant in the current time overshadowed COVID-19. “With so many working from home now, it is even more meaningful for us that we have something that everyone can learn about now that there is extra time spent with family members,” shared Prof Ho, who himself has two young children.
AIDAN & AI-LIN vs Vinny The Virus will be made available at all libraries within Singapore including the Singapore National Library. It is also available for download online. “We want to share the book with as many as possible, to provide a source of optimism to tomorrow’s innovators,” said Dr. Blasiak.
“We are grateful for all of the support from the whole campus community and international community for rallying around us during the development process,” added Prof. Ho.
By the NUS N.1 Institute for Health