Arguing the case


Travelling to Hawaii to meet a humanoid robot called Sophia, two students at Llandilo’s Xavier Catholic College have become more knowledgeable about technology, tourism and artificial intelligence. Sponsored by the Hawaii Tourism Authority, Chloe Brennan, 14, and Mia Marquez, 16, were selected to represent Australia at the 2018 Global Tourism Summit student debating tournament in Hawaii last month.

Pitted against 14 schools from Asia, the US and Canada, the youngest entrants in the competition argued for the benefits of using artificial intelligence technologies in tourism.

Selected from 12 students at the college, the two public speakers were surprised by the overseas trip, after being told only that a debating opportunity existed for students willing to devote their school holiday time.

Xavier College science and technology teacher Justine Philips said the yearly conference, which invites guest speakers from around the world, included an “address” by a Hong Kongbased humanoid robot, Sophia.

“She’s quite an interesting robot to look at — she is the first artificial intelligence robot to be built to resemble Audrey Hepburn,” Ms Philips said.

“She blinks, she smiles, she cracks jokes. It’s all a bit surreal. Saudi Arabia even tried to make her an honorary citizen.

“You can pose questions to her and she will gather information and respond in a matter of seconds.”

Ms Philips said the hitech robot was an insight into what artificial intelligence could be capable of into the future of industry.

She said the college was tremendously proud of the students’ achievements.

“I was impressed by the willingness of the students and by the community response when they reached out for information,” she said.

Ms Philips said that in preparation for the overseas debate, the girls were supported by a technology professor in the UK and by tourism industry delegates.

“There was a very mature and dynamic nature between these two girls, who had never before debated with each other,” she said.

“They have learned so much about the endless possibilities of technology and future industry.”