Making AI fun at Aalto Family Day
CEST participated in the Aalto Family Day on 10. September 2022 with their interactive molecules display “Do it like the BOSS”. Group leader Prof. Patrick Rinke, doctoral researcher Jari Järvi, and former CEST members Prof. Milica Todorovic and Dr. Lauri Himanen had designed the activity that encourages everyone from children to adults to explore a common biological molecule, the amino acid alanine. Although small in size, alanine can adopt 13 different stable forms depending on the rotation of its chemical bonds. In the Do-it-like-the-BOSS molecules game, participants had to rotate alanine bonds using a touch screen to find the molecule's lowest energy state. Once participants had succeeded, they could then build their own alanine molecule from colored polystyrene balls or go wild and crazy and design new molecules. To accomplish this type of search in real life, CEST has developed an artificial intelligence tool called BOSS (Bayesian Optimization Structure Search) that can identify these lowest energy state conformations in various molecules and other systems quickly and efficiently.
Aalto Family Day proved to be a fun experience for both the hosting scientists as well as the audience - people of all ages dropped by during the day and tested their molecular building skills. Rinke and Järvi are certainly already planning their next outreach activity for another event in the future.