As seen on the Baltimore Times

By Demetrius Dillard

July 5, 2024 – Several dozen youths in East Baltimore kicked off summer camp with a special experience.

Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Sean Ryan, in collaboration with NWN Carousel, Intel and Baltimore City Recreation and Parks, held the city’s first-ever “AI Athletics Day” at Greenmount Recreation Center on June 24, 2024.

The primary objective of the event was to expose local youth to emerging technology, namely artificial intelligence, through a variety of interactive athletic-oriented activities. 

Ryan, who’s entering his second season with the Ravens, used the event as an opportunity to inspire the program participants, most of whom were between the ages of 8 and 15. 

Growing up in the inner city under adverse conditions, Ryan sees Baltimore City youngsters as a reflection of him. The Brooklyn, New York native shared his unique story of perseverance, academic focus and overcoming obstacles as he enjoyed interacting with summer campers.

The event also marked the launch of the Sean Ryan Communities of Care Initiative.

“The interaction with the children was good for me because when I look into some of their eyes, I see myself,” Ryan said.

“Me being able to be that big brother for them and answering some of those questions, and them seeing me in person – not just with a helmet on TV – that meant more to me.”

In partnership with Baltimore City Recreation and Parks Chief Information Officer Jarell Johnson and the Intel Corporation, the Sean Ryan Communities of Care Initiative endeavors to elevate the educational achievements, well-being and economic mobility of Baltimore youth.

The two-hour event aimed to educate children about computer science and AI through four athletics workshops:

  • Relay Race: Teams of five players competed at pattern recognition stations equipped with AI-powered laptops displaying digital puzzles and tracking scores. 
  • Pixel Playoff: Teams of five students collaborated to recreate pixel art designs on a large grid canvas. Using AI-powered PCs, teams selected a pixel art template and arranged colored grid squares according to the design displayed. 
  • GenAI Tales: Youths created a collaborative story based on prompts displayed on the AI-powered laptops. The activity included visual and sound enhancements, and students received digital certificates with a group selfie.
  • AI Navigation: Teams of five guided a blindfolded member through a course with obstacles using instructions written by three teammates.

Intel’s latest AI-powered PCs, or personal computers, were at every workshop station. Each activity lasted 20 minutes each before campers rotated. Designed to be age-appropriate and captivating, every workshop activity was facilitated thanks to guidance from Baltimore Rec and Parks information technology staff.

Activities began after remarks from Baltimore City Recreation and Parks Executive Director Reginald Moore, NWN Carousel chief marketing officer Andrew Gilman, Sean Ryan and Intel’s Anshul Sonak.

The day’s celebration also included a special announcement: Greenmount Recreation Center will house an artificial intelligence-powered computer resource lab, which, according to Johnson, is expected to open this fall.

The lab will feature high-tech computers powered by HP, stem programming and digital literacy training. Other recreation centers in town have stem labs, including Middle Branch, Cahill, Towanda and Madison Square. However, the resource lab being developed at Greenmount will have the most advanced technology.

“The power that they’ll have in their hands with these new AI PCs, and the training and the courses that we’ll provide, it’s limitless,” Johnson said of the resource lab’s impact on local youth. 

“This is an opportunity that most people in this area probably would get their hands on.”

The AI resource lab will be made possible through a collaborative effort between Baltimore Rec and Parks, NWN Carousel and Intel.

NWN Carousel, one of the nation’s leading artificial intelligence-powered technology solutions providers, played a crucial role in the event. The company, which has been a partner with the City of Baltimore for 17 years, was responsible for the design, production and concepts of the workshop activities.

“I don’t think it’s going to stop here,” Ryan said of the launch for the resource lab. “I think this is just the blueprint to what we want to do next.”

Michael Greenbaum, Ryan’s adoptive father, is a business analyst with NWN Carousel and supported the event. 

“We have a relationship with the city of Baltimore and Sean is connected to the city of Baltimore as a Ravens player, so we looked for things that we could do to give back,” Greenbaum said.

“Early on, we saw that you have a lot of these smart kids who don’t have the tools and the resources available with technology to take advantage of their imagination and potential.”

To conclude the event, children took home activity kits, Brain Quest books and other souvenirs as event organizers hoped to inspire the next generation of technologists from Baltimore.

“I see these kids being the future of technology that’s going to change the world,” Greenbaum added.