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Teenagers build new skills for Amazon's Alexa at Cambridge Development Centre

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Students attend event at Amazons Cambridge Development Centre Picture: Tim George
Students attend event at Amazons Cambridge Development Centre Picture: Tim George

Teenagers with an interest in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) coded new skills for Amazon's personal assistant system Alexa during a special event.

Amazon teamed up with Robogals, a Cambridge team that is part of a global organisation dedicated to encouraging girls to embrace STEM subjects, to host the technology skills event.

Twenty boys and girls attended the event at Cambridge Development Centre, where they worked with the Amazon and Robogals teams to build a skill for Alexa— a personal assistant system that can be controlled or interacted with via voice.

The skills, which will be added to the Alexa service, are a Harry Potter inspired sorting hat skill which allocates Hogwarts houses to users, and a random number generator which gives a Fibonacci number when prompted. Both skills can now be accessed via Amazon’s voice-controlled speakers, Amazon Echo and Echo Dot.

Participants also got the opportunity to tour Amazon’s drone development lab in Cambridge that is developing Prime Air – a delivery system designed to safely get packages to customers in 30 minutes or less using drones.

David Hardcastle, Senior Manager at Amazon’s Cambridge Development Centre, said: “The event has been a huge success, and it was great to host so many local teenagers with an interest in STEM.

“Our team really enjoyed helping the group with their coding exercises, as well as showing them some of the work we do here at Amazon Cambridge. We’ve had a lot of fun working with Robogals on this event, and look forward to inviting more of the local community to visit our Development Centre in the future.”

Jenny Sidey, from Robogals, who is currently on the shortlist to become an astronaut with the Canadian Space Agency, added: “It was fantastic to host such an innovative event with David and his team from Amazon in Cambridge and everyone involved on the day had a great time.

“From giving the local boys and girls a tour of the Amazon Development Centre to helping them develop an Alexa Skill with coding classes, the event provided a great mix of educational learning and real-world experience and I hope it inspires as many local teenagers as possible to embrace a future career in STEM.”

Robogals offer interactive, engineering-based workshops for girls aged between eight-18 all around the world.

Before Saturday’s event, members of the Amazon Cambridge team visited Robogals HQ to deliver a £1,000 donation, which will be used to purchase new equipment that will help the group continue its work in the community.

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