Students can now share their worries with a new buddy — Sparky! Five students of Class XI at Shiv Nadar School, Gurugram, have designed the AI-based chatbot to offer teenagers a platform to discuss their mental health issues and get help.
Sparky the chatbot has 2,000 buddies or users so far and the students are working towards getting schools from other states on board.
The team of Class XI students that worked together during the pandemic to create the chatbot consisted of Akkshansh Bagga, Akshat Jain, Yash Kataria, Muskaan Chawla and Aryan Misra.
“The chatbot uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to provide non-clinical support to teenagers to help them deal with stress and anxiety by suggesting music playlists and videos. The chatbot, available on www.sparkthespirit.in, monitors the user’s mood and helps them express their thoughts and emotions through therapeutic conversations,” Muskaan said.
The portal also connects users to social clubs where they can interact with people facing similar issues. “Club sessions are being held across Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Lucknow and Hyderabad and the team plans to make this feature available across the country. They are also working on adding new features to make the chatbot more helpful and engaging. Soon, we will tie up with other schools in various cities to launch the chatbot,” Akkshansh said.
Sparky’s creators conducted a survey with close to 300 young adults, using the Paediatric Symptoms Checklist (PSC) to understand the issue of mental health and found a trend of one in three students demonstrating signs of anxiety.
“We identified that social isolation and emotional trauma caused specifically by the pandemic led to mental health issues. A lot of times individuals were not comfortable discussing these issues openly or seeking professional help. This encouraged us to work towards developing a solution that not only addressed the problem but also offered the comfort of privacy to the users,” Akshat said.
The chatbot asks the users a set of introductory questions and takes them to the next level where it asks specific questions put together by the team based on the PSC. “At the end, it diagnoses anxiety and other problems and suggests therapeutic songs, grounding exercises and inspirational videos from the resources page on the website to help calm the user and, if needed, reach out for professional support. However, professional support is recommended,” Yash said.
Explaining how the students got together to develop Sparky, Aryan said, “This innovation was part of our Capstone Project, an annual competition in school where students are encouraged to ideate and devise economically viable and creative technology-based solutions to address real-world problems.”
Shiv Nadar School has a dedicated technology curriculum that enables students to learn about the latest technology trends and use the methodology of design thinking in which students and teachers find unique solutions together to real-world problems.
“As part of our technology curriculum, we asked the students to identify problems of society and then they were divided into teams. These teams participated in a design-based competition to develop solutions for these problems and build prototypes. Such innovations would encourage them to innovate,” said Mark Nelson, teacher at Shiv Nadar School and mentor of the Spark The Spirit project.