Gen Z explore attitudes to AI at London’s biggest festival of science and arts


Testing out the activity at the Imperial Lates

Working in collaboration with AI researchers, a diverse group of young people are developing an installation for The Great Exhibition Road Festival.

The Great Exhibition Road Festival brings together iconic scientific and cultural institutions including Imperial College London, the V&A Museum and the Royal Albert Hall. Attracting tens of thousands of visitors every year, the free Festival is a melting pot of hands-on activities, performances, talks, workshops and exhibitions for people of all ages. And some of these have been designed by local 18-25-year-olds alongside Imperial researchers as part of the Festival’s Young Producers programme.

“Working with the Young Producers has been an enriching experience.” Dr Antoine Cully Director of the Adaptive & Intelligent Robotics Lab and Deputy Director of Research

“The Young Producers programme was created to offer something for young people at the Festival, but also as a unique and positive experience for researchers. It’s something totally different from their day-to-day work and it’s been rewarding to see how the experience has introduced news ways of thinking about their research and reflections on the future of AI in society,” says Cristina Torrente, a member of Imperial's Public Engagement team who runs the project. “We’re really excited about their installation – it will be part of the NextGen Zone which is dedicated to young people,”  

As part of the programme, twelve Young Producers were recruited from local boroughs and are working collaboratively with researchers from the Department of Computing and an artist to create an activity for Festival-goers. They work together over six months, receiving training and testing out their ideas ahead of the Festival. The collaborative process provides the researchers, young people and artist with new insights, skills, understanding and passion. Imperial staff were particularly positive about how the conversations had impacted on their own work and its applications.  

Dr Antoine Cully, Director of the Adaptive & Intelligent Robotics Lab and Deputy Director of Research, said, “Working with the Young Producers has been an enriching experience - seeing how they perceive AI and its potential impacts on our society and how to blend it with art in their installation. I've been pleasantly surprised by their creativity and their desire to always know more about AI throughout the process. Sharing our research and experience with them is a great opportunity to demystify some aspects of these new technologies, but also to personally reflect on new ways to ensure the adoption of new technology while addressing their valid concerns.” 

Are you an AI-doomerist or utopianist? 

Laura Prieto Lopez testing out the installation at the Imperial Lates
Laura Prieto Lopez testing out the installation at the Imperial Lates.

The installation is all about exploring people’s perceptions of artificial intelligence and its role in our futures. The Young Producers team tested the first iteration of the activity with attendees at the Imperial Lates where visitors explored a personality map to determine whether they are AI-doomerists or AI-utopianists.  

"That feeling of being simultaneously excited and cautious is a common ground that we can all relate to." Dr Edward Johns Director of the Robot Learning Lab

“The young people have been a delight to work with – they’re a curious, enthusiastic, and friendly group. Their views on artificial intelligence are familiar from my conversations with the wider public, sharing excitement about how artificial intelligence can now be used in creative ways, whilst also sharing concerns about privacy, job security, and the speed at which society could now change. But although I may be more familiar with the underlying science, that feeling of being simultaneously excited and cautious is a common ground that we can all relate to.” said Dr Edward Johns, Director of the Robot Learning Lab. 

The young producers themselves are also positive about their experiences, the activities they have created, and the impact the programme is having on shaping research and research culture at Imperial.

“I am so excited to take part in this festival as I think it is a beautiful experience to be able to create an installation with a group and present it to the public,” said Laura Prieto Lopez, one of the Young Producers. 

Another Young Producer, Charles Mugoya, said his highlight has been learning about AI. “Artificial Intelligence is still a new concept and with a focus on learning, I believe we will be better equipped to educate long after the programme's completion. I think allowing young people with no experience with AI to participate reduces the gap between educational resources available to those at the institution and members of a community.” 

"Progressive and forward-thinking" 

Imperial Lates attendees engaging with the activity
Imperial Lates attendees engaging with the activity

The scheme has gone from strength to strength since its pilot in 2022 with applications increasing from 25 last year to 55 this year.

“Through working with and involving young people we’ve been able to engage groups and attract visitors we wouldn’t have been able to on our own. They tell their friends and family about it and invite them to come along,” says Cristina. This diversity in participants brings a wider range of lived experience and ideas to the research and engagement activities, whilst broadening perceptions of what working and studying at a university is like.

The young people are paid for their time too. “They are bringing a lot to the table and we want this opportunity to be available to everyone regardless of their background so we pay them London living wage. Some have said they wouldn’t otherwise have been able to take part.”

One participant, Sekela Ngamilo, said she has found the experience “illuminating and inspiring”. She said, “I’ve always been interested in artistic and scientific spaces but have felt that there’s a lack of access for people from working class and minority backgrounds. This programme has opened a door for us to enter the space and bring our unique and diverse perspectives to it. Engaging with the scientists has also been incredible as they are knowledgeable and generous to share their knowledge with us. It’s made me see the festival as more progressive and forward thinking." 

"This programme has opened a door for us" Sekela Ngamilo Young Producer

Han Hussein is another Young Producer and student at Royal Holloway. Before the programme, they didn’t have much knowledge of the Festival and saw Imperial as “prestigious and very competitive”.  

They said, “I didn't expect to see myself working alongside Imperial in a project like this. I think I've become more open minded about the people here and what working with researchers in the field of AI is like. I'm less intimidated by Imperial's status and I think the Festival will be a lot of fun!” 

The Great Exhibition Road Festival is taking place on 15-16 June in South Kensington. The Young Producers Programme is supported by the Reseach Culture Fund at Imperial and Cristina is keen to hear from researchers interested in being involved in 2025. 


Ellie Cawthera

Ellie Cawthera
Communications Division

Click to expand or contract

Contact details


Show all stories by this author


Outreach, Societal-engagement, Great-Exhibition-Road-Festival, Public-engagement
See more tags

Leave a comment

Your comment may be published, displaying your name as you provide it, unless you request otherwise. Your contact details will never be published.