Hands-on Artificial Intelligence for middle schoolers:

Using Machine Learning models to control games and robots in Snap!

A workshop led by Tom Lauwers


Saturday, January 7, 2023, 10:00 am to noon EST


Everywhere via Zoom


$10 per person
Free for people who participated in the 2022 Virtual Logo Summer Institute

Computers can distinguish different faces, spoken words, gestures, and printed symbols. They can use this information to make decisions. Your smart phone unlocks when it sees your face, but not other faces. You give spoken commands to Siri or Alexa and maybe get an appropriate response.

How do they do this? By examining a large number of specific cases that are placed into categories, a computer program can examine a new case to see which category it best fits into. This identification can then be used by the program to take action. For example, you could train the computer to recognize one of several Star Wars characters or Muppets and then write a program to play a song based on which one is seen. Or, you can program a robot to respond to spoken commands, gestures you make with your arms, or printed symbols.

In this workshop you will train your computer to recognize patterns using Google Teachable Machine and your machine learning models. You will use these models in Snap! programs to control games and animations. We’ll also explore an example of how to use the machine learning model to control a Finch Robot.

Some prior familiarity with Snap! or blocks coding is useful, but not essential.  No robot is required to participate in this workshop.

If you do not have a Finch robot and would like to borrow one for free on a 60-day loan click here to submit your request.

About the workshop leader:

Tom Lauwers founded BirdBrain Technologies in 2010 after receiving his doctorate in robotics from Carnegie Mellon University. His research was founded on engaging all students, regardless of background, in robotics and engineering. Tom seeks to design educational tools that catalyze positive making, coding, and engineering learning experiences in the classroom. Tom resides in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood with his wife, two kids, cat, and a small army of robots. He would be an invaluable ally in the event of a robot uprising.


  • Snap! homepage
  • Finch overview page
  • Programming Finch in Snap!
  • AI with the Finch Robot