Students at STEM School and Academy in Highlands Ranch, Colo. are using artificial-intelligence programming and 3D printing to bring historical figures “back to life” for their history class.
They created Kaiser Wilhelm II, the last German Emperor and the provocateur of the First World War. The tiny, 3D printed talking head has red and green flaring eyes, and angrily answers questions you ask him.
“Who were your enemies?” one of the students asks. “My enemies were the French republic and the British Empire,” the programmed historical figure answers.
Through creating, programming and interacting with “Kaiser,” they learn why the swaggering militarist help start a conflict that killed 38 million people from 1914 to 1918.
“I wanted to bring history alive. I wanted the students to experience the process of talking to an artificial intelligence, talking to a person long deceased,” history teacher Owen Cegielski told 9News.
“I wanted the students to become scientists and experiment and invent and create something new. We had no clear-cut plan. It was just a mad invention experimentation.”
Students plan on creating a wide array of talking heads, so they can learn how history unfolded. It’s a way to get students more engaged, Cegielski said.
Cegielski issued the students a challenge to use technology and put some life into history. A few of the students sketched out the design of Kaiser so he could be 3D printed. Then other students, using software and coding, created the artificial-intelligence personality. They mounted the head on a Google Home Assistant, and have its mouth move in sync with his AI programming.
The talking head is basically a database of historical facts and when students ask him questions, he answers. The students had to do a lot of research about the causes of the First World War to program Kaiser. Depending on the question, he could answer in frustration, anger or in an agreeable tone.
“They actually were able to program temperament,” Cegielski told the Denver Post. “When these kids were challenged, there really was no stopping them.”
“I believe this is an exciting breakthrough in education,” Cegielski said. “This is a whole new way of learning bringing artificial intelligence, coding into any discipline.”