Part of the challenge of developing the Mechatronics program at St. Raymond is looking into the future and predicting the types of technology tools that will become mainstream as students finish high school and enter college. One of the technologies we looked at last week with the 5th grade class has to do with using training Neural Nets to produce art. Neural nets are programs that learn on their own as they are exposed to different inputs. This is very similar to the developing human mind where patterns of synapses are trained (strengthened) with each new experience. The trainers of the Neural Nets do not program with code in the traditional sense, but simply provide direction like "compare these three songs and then write a new song based on the similarities of the three" or "use this image of a human and include the face in a painting with the style of Van Gough". Researchers are now looking at developments where we can ask a Neural Net to explore the similarities in certain existing medicines and to compose a new molecule to fight an as yet undefeatable disease.
This technology is very new, and it is hard to predict how it will be used in the future. The tools that will allow students to explore this type of technology are just coming online, and we are excited at St. Raymond that the new 6th grade class next year will be able to do some hands-on exploration with the technology and be among the first elementary school students in the country to look seriously at how it can be used to improve quality of life as they mature along side of it.