This hour-long computer science activity is ideal for grade 3 and up participants. Participants will explore artificial intelligence through Chatterbots and discussion of the Uncanny Valley. Using group discussion and individual inquiry, youth will explore user-centered design, scientific consensus, and integration of different types of knowledge; improve their communication and critical thinking skills, and garner curiosity, comfort with uncertainty and appreciation of the fallible nature of science.


Big Ideas

  1. Chatterbots are computer programs designed to simulate an intelligent conversation with one or more human users via auditory or textual methods. Traditionally chatterbots were used to fool humans into thinking they’re talking to another human.
  2. Today chatterbots are used regularly for online help, personalized services, and information acquisition
  3. The Turing Test is a proposal for a test of a machine’s ability to demonstrate intelligence. A human judge engages in a natural conversation with a human and a machine, each of which is trying to appear human. If the judge cannot reliably tell the human from the machine, the machine is said to have passed the test.

Opening Hook

Have you encountered a chatterbot?

To Do in Advance:

  1. Test internet connection and the the following Chatterbot links:
  2. Draw simple Robot Outlines onto 4-5 sheets of paper for use in part 1.
  3. On the reverse side draw an “uncanny valley” graph for use in part 2.
  4. Print and laminate Uncanny Valley Example Pictures (should you want to save on paper and re-use these images with future groups).
  5. Print and laminate theCodemakers Debrief cards.
  6. Review the big ideas.


  1. Ask participants, have you ever talked to a robot? Have you ever interacted with artificial intelligence (i.e a computer that appears to think/act like a human)? If no, would you want to?
  2. Assign participants into groups. Have them discuss these questions for 5 minutes.       


  1. Ask participants to share their thoughts interactively: (feel free to add more questions to the list) Give time for discussion before introducing the next prompt.
    • Stand up if you have interacted with Artificial Intelligence.
    • Move to the left side of the room if you would like to. Move to the right if you wouldn’t like to.
    • Put your hands on your head if you can give an example of artificial intelligence.
    • Do “the robot” dance if you can think of places where artificial intelligence could make your life easier.
    • Gather in a corner if you think artificial intelligence is kind of creepy.
  2.  Introduce the concept of “The Turing Test” referring to the information provided in the big ideas section. Ensure that participants understand that humans get to judge whether or not a robot seems intelligent. 

Activity 1

The Turing Test - What’s the difference between a robot and a human?

To do in Advance:

  1. Show participants one of the Chatterbot links. Introduce this chatterbot as an example of artificial intelligence.
  2. Have participants suggest questions that we should ask the Chatterbot.
  3. Remind them to be polite (think would you ask that in front of your grandma or your school principal?)
  4. Spend 5 - 10 minutes asking questions of your selected chatterbot.


  1. Ask: “What sort questions and responses PROVE that someone is human?
  2. Return to your groups. Have one person pick up a sheet of paper with the robot outline for your group and markers for each person.
  3. Using your robot outline write questions and answers that prove someone is human OUTSIDE of the robot, and questions and answers that prove something is a ROBOT inside the robot. (i.e what would your test of intelligence be?, what would let you know you’re speaking to a robot and not a human?)


  1. Have students find a partner and go online. Let them use the questions they generated on the Robot-Outline paper to test the intelligence of one of the Chatterbots. Provide short urls so they go directly to the site:
    1. Elbot the Chatterbot: http://goo.gl/a95Y9c
    2. Yeti The Abominable Snowman: http://goo.gl/2RSfGs
    3. Chato the Chatterbot: http://goo.gl/iiL5ug
    4. Alice the Chatterbot: http://goo.gl/ICj963
  2. Remind participants to be polite to their chatterbots. Give them time to meet each Chatterbot. Once they have, ask each group to order the Chatterbots on a continuum of robot > human.
  3. Have students provide feedback on their experience. Did their Chatterbots pass their turing test? Why or why not? Would it pass the uncanny valley test?

Activity 2

The Uncanny Valley

To Do in Advance:

  1. Link a computer with internet connection to a projector in order to show the following video: http://www.tubechop.com/watch/5756222
  2. Have students use the attached Uncanny Valley Pictures to align them on an Uncanny Valley Graph. Where would they place the robot examples?
  3. To generate a discussion about artificial intelligence have participants return to the group and use the Codemakers Debrief cards your printed and laminated. The cards are organized into three colours: Blue, Pink, and Orange
  4. Blue relates to what happened, Pink relates to why is this important, Orange relates to how can I use this information
  5. Have participants pick one card from each pile in order Blue, Pink, Orange. Respond to the questions and repeat as many times as possible within 15 minutes.

Modifications and Extensions


  • Have participants work in partners.
  • Increase time for turing test question generation.


  • Have participants work individually.
  • Give students only 5 minutes to use the turing test on their robot (this will force them to select excellent questions in advance).
  • Early finishers can visit a 20 questions game where AI can identify what you’re thinking in 20 questions or less based on user feedback: http://www.20q.net/