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KMOV-4: UCHS Students help develop Alexa feature to answer questions about Black Lives Matter movement

U City students help develop Alexa feature to answer questions about Black Lives Matter movement

| Sep 1, 2020

UNIVERSITY CITY, Mo. (KMOV.com) -- A group of local high school students recently had an incredible opportunity when a local developer approached their school about a new Black Lives Matter feature on Alexa.

Jaiden Smith, Zoe Yudovich, and Merrick Hoel are all seniors at University City High School. They said their involvement with the feature started as a school project. 

They were able to help come up with questions Alexa could answer related to the Black Lives Matter movement. They were also able to help write the answers, including short biographies on people like George Floyd. 

“I really hope it will make it less of a conversation that needs to be had among Black people and a conversation that needs to be had among all people," said Smith. 

The new skill launched worldwide on Alexa last week and already has over 1,000 installations. 

The teens want the conversation to go beyond Alexa. They hope this new feature inspires people to take action.

“It’s hard for people to be like 'oh should I donate here, should I donate to this place' and this skill really just focuses on one specific platform that has every resource you can imagine," said Yudovich.

While the high school students from University City and Jennings only became involved this summer, this project has been years in the making. 

Bob Stolzberg, who owns a company that develops software that allows people to create skills on technology like Alexa, came up with the idea for the Black Lives Matter skill after Eric Gardner was killed in 2014. 

He reached out to a couple of partners for help, including the University City High School principal. 

Stolzberg said he knew he wanted to help create positive change for the Black community. 

“I understand that I can never understand how these people feel. What I can do is support and amplify the voices of the Black community and empower those youth and those voices that need to be heard by using this technology," said Stolzberg. 

The students said working on this project and seeing its early success has taught them you don't have to be 'somebody' to make a big difference. 

“We are the future and just seeing what we can do to make an impact just kind of inspires our whole generation," said Hoel. 

The feature is only available on Alexa right now. Stolzberg said his goal is to reach 1 million installations by the end of September. To install the feature on your Alexa, say "Alexa, install the Black Lives Matter skill."

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