A crossword puzzle with a big purpose

Before the pandemic, Alicia Chang was working on a new project. “I was experimenting with non-traditional ways to help teach Googlers the AI Principles,” she says. Alicia is a technical writer on the Engineering Education team focused on designing learning experiences to help Googlers learn about our AI Principles and how to apply them in their own work.

The challenge for Alicia would be how many people she needed to educate. “There are so many people spread over different locations, time zones, countries!” But when the world started working from home, she was inspired by the various workarounds people were using to connect virtually. 

A photo of Alicia Chang sitting on a bench outside. She is looking into the camera and smiling.

Alicia Chang

“I started testing out activities like haiku-writing contests and online trivia,” Alicia says. “Then one day a friend mentioned an online escape room activity someone had arranged for a COVID-safe birthday gathering. Something really clicked with me when she mentioned that, and I started to think about designing an immersive learning experience.” Alicia decided to research how some of the most creative, dedicated people deliver information: She looked at what teachers were doing. 

Alicia soon stumbled upon a YouTube video about using Google Sheets to create a crossword puzzle, so she decided to make her own — and Googlers loved it. Since the crossword was such a success, Alicia decided to make more interactive games. She used Google Forms to create a fun “Which AI Principle are you?” quiz, and Google Docs to make a word search. Then there’s the Emoji Challenge, where players have to figure out which AI Principles a set of emoji describe. All of this became part of what is now known as the Responsible Innovation Challenge, a set of various puzzle activities built with Google products — including Forms, Sheets, Docs and Sites — that focus on teaching Google’s AI Principles.

The purpose of the Responsible Innovation Challenge is to introduce Google’s AI Principles to new technical hires in onboarding courses, and to help Googlers put the AI Principles into practice in everyday product development situations. The first few puzzles are fairly simple and help players remember and recall the Principles, which serve as a practical framework for responsible innovation. As Googlers start leveling up, the puzzles get a bit more complex.. There’s even a bonus level where Googlers are asked to think about various technical resources and tools they can use to develop AI responsibly by applying them in their existing workflow when creating a machine learning model.

Alicia added a points system and a leaderboard with digital badges — and even included prizes. “I noticed that people were motivated by some friendly competition. Googlers really got involved and referred their coworkers to play, too,” she says. “We had over 1,000 enroll in the first 30 days alone!” To date, more than 2,800 Googlers have participated from across 41 countries, and people continue to sign up. 

It’s been encouraging for Alicia to see how much Googlers are enjoying the puzzles, especially when screen time burnout is all too real. Most importantly, though, she’s thrilled that more people are learning about Google’s AI Principles. “Each of the billions of people who use Google products has a unique story and life experience,” Alicia says. “And that’s what we want to think about so we can make the best products for individual people.” 

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