Youth Power: Unlocking Ideas, A Conversation with Young Minds

BEIJING, March 5, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — What first comes to your mind when you think of STEM students? Thick-rimmed glasses, plaid shirts or aloof geniuses? Well, as technology becomes ever more important in life, you may be surprised by the STEM students you meet.

Youth Power, Season 3, Episode 9: Unlocking Ideas: A Conversation with Young Minds, was broadcast on Feb 29. Gen Zers who work in STEM from Canada, China, South Africa, Turkey and the US held a technology convention during which they debunked myths about STEM students and discussed frontier technologies such as the AI engine Sora, new energies, electric cars and regenerative medicine.

The seeds of science need to be sown from an early age. The program guests, studying regenerative medicine, data science and AI, first explained their research to three school-age children. STEM Gen Zers working in nuclear engineering and materials science then explained what they do to three adults with backgrounds in humanities. Subsequently, both the children and the adults expressed a stronger interest in science-related subjects.

Speaking of their first encounters with STEM, the guests recalled science education in their middle school years. In all the guests’ home countries, schools provide education in both humanities and science during early school years. Among the guests, Nikita Li Van Heerden, a South African/American studying information management, said Chinese schools arrange computer classes for second and third graders, while American schools have science fairs at fifth grade.

The myth-busting guests answered several questions related to STEM disciplines. Talking of the imbalance between men and women in science, the guests reached a consensus: society needs to banish gender-based stereotypes and biases and empower women in various research fields with more rights and opportunities. Mustafa Umut Ozbek, a master’s student in nuclear engineering and management, said: “Most countries and international organizations are encouraging women to study nuclear subjects through supporting mechanisms such as scholarships. Female students in nuclear engineering are also successful all over the world.”

In the technology era does everyone need to excel at mathematics and programming? Li Zitong, who is studying materials science, said there is no doubt that mathematics is important, but by no means an obstacle to conducting STEM research. Ooi Hon Son, a Malaysian studying regenerative medicine, said programming should not be compulsory. It depends on each individual’s interests and passions.

It is people’s different interests in art or technology that makes human civilization so rich and diverse. “The human mind is much more creative, unlike AI, which can only recreate and redraw existing pieces,” said Nikita. The host, Zhong Yutong, concluded, “Science makes our world go forward, but arts and humanities make our world go deeper.”

Aime Lu Fan Chen, a Canadian studying art and media, said AI image and video generating engines are astonishing. Also, AI has made studying ever more convenient. “We can learn 80 percent of knowledge through conversations with AI.” As for Sora, the new video-generating engine developed by OpenAI, Chen said: “AI will bring huge influence to the entertainment and media industry. Before, I needed to shoot all the footage by myself, but now I have this tool which can build all the stuff for me.” Youth Power also generated an animated introduction on the Year of the Dragon using AI engines. We look forward to AI better integrating with modern life and benefiting all of us.

Youth Power, organized by China Daily and first broadcast in June 2021, aims to build a global platform of communication and exchange, focusing on the interests and ideas of Generation Z. The program comes in the form of interviews, forums and speeches, with topics related to anything of current interest in the world.