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Empowerment of AI competences: What makes an expert from a novice?

R&D: UNIVERSITÀ DI TORINO, Dipartimento di Informatica in collaboration with Dipartimento di Psicologia. 
Partner: POP AI | QUERCETTI & C. 


Emp AI focuses on defining an efficient teaching methodology through an educational online platform that helps the students to develop their AI competencies together with a range of physical gaming and entertaining activities that will be conducted together with the local partner institutions and associations.

The project aims to study which abilities facilitate children and young adults in understanding machines that exhibit rational behavior. The process of understanding machines presupposes the acquisition of basic AI and computational abilities

Which are the basic AI abilities that support understanding and construction of intelligent systems?

The answer is to be sought in the following areas:

  • Symbolic representation and processing, distilling the core abilities for building and dealing with symbols and finding ways for allowing children to practice them, either acquiring or enhancing their natural abilities.

  • Non-symbolic representation and processing, distilling the core abilities for building and dealing with data and with numbers and finding ways for allowing children to practice them, either acquiring or enhancing their natural abilities.

  • Formulation of algorithms, the ability to build and tackle an algorithm is pervasive and surely not limited to AI. Write a program means to describe how things are, rather than which sequence of steps is to be applied. Often the same program, the reasoning engine, can be applied to domains as diverse as path planning and theorem proving. 


The assumption is that enhancement of these basic abilities will better prepare individuals for living in an increasingly digitalized world and will produce better problem solvers also in fields that do not necessarily involve AI applications.


In line with well-established findings in the experimental literature, a main assumption of the project is that enhancement of basic critical abilities should be fostered through informal and pleasant activities that exploit abilities already at play in learners. Further, in line with experimental literature on expertise, a further assumption is that it is possible to conceive training for becoming experts in a domain that are effective for children as well as for young adults.

Design of activities based on games:

  • Activities to enhance core AI abilities developing games. The methodology exploits cooperative and participatory design in which learners involved may become a member of the design team and collaborate actively in the design process. The participatory design methods include brainstorming, storyboarding, pencil and paper exercises.

  • Activities to train the ability to formulate informal algorithms empowering the ability to deal with them can be a way to foster the ability to formulate formal algorithms. The project carries on experiments apt to identify major sources of difficulty in their formulation, included recursive loops of operations. Once obtained a measure of algorithms’ complexity, we shall conceive and realize sessions to train the ability to formulate informal algorithms.

Evaluation of the proposed activities in terms of effectiveness in promoting the empowerment of AI competences. An experiment will test the effectiveness of training the critical abilities on two main dimensions: enhancement of the ability to learn how to program a robot and its intelligent behavior and enhancement of the ability to solve AI-based problems.


Emp AI will provide a concrete contribution on how to foster AI literacy in audiences without technical backgrounds. The training in informal algorithms could help budding programmers to master recursive functions and training effective in abilities that will prove crucial to develop AI skills that can be used to promote individual thinking and reasoning in a wide variety of contexts.


An online platform with the aim of publishing and disseminating the teaching material developed by the Departments of Computer Science and Psychology of the University of Turin for EmPAI on the occasion of the training workshops carried out in the presence of some schools in Turin and its province.

The aim is to allow all interested teachers to download and use the material in a fruitful way: the educational contents have been collected on a Moodle-based website, providing additional material specifically designed to support the replication of the course in the classroom.

The website has been designed to collect the material in a structured way and guide teachers in using it. In fact, the teaching material has been organized so that the learning course can be replicated both entirely and partially, by selecting the topics of interest.

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