Alexa, Who is Aariv Modi? : “An Eleven year old Alexa Programmer building Cool Skills”

Kids start finding it difficult to count using their fingers when the number is higher than 10. But the moment they understand & learn the trick of counting continuously without any ‘support system’ , they will keep going.

So when Aariv turned 11 in October 2018, it was his turn to get up and start running. Aariv Modi who has recently moved to Austin, TX from Seattle, WA is curious to know about things happening around him. 

It was three years ago, one day when Aariv returned back from school, there was a new addition in his house. His parents had bought an Amazon Echo device. Though for many kids a talking device would be just another toy, it was different for Aariv. “I thought that Alexa was amazing because it has so many capabilities” says Aariv. He was even more impressed when he found out that it was possible to make this Smart Alexa work as per his instructions and can add a variety of skills ranging from games to music to news.

When I was 5 or 6, I was using basic functions like Paint, and also educational games. Then, my dad introduced me to Scratch, which is an online block-based programming tool. I started out creating basic programs using Scratch and Khan Academy and then later moved to Codecademy to learn more complex coding.Aariv replied when asked about his interests in programming. 

All Work and No Play makes Jack a dull boy!

I wanted to understand if Aariv was only in to Programming or if he had other hobbies as well.

I like to play chess and went to my first chess tournament when I was in kindergarten. I learned how to solve a Rubik’s Cube recently, and now I can solve one in about a minute. I also like to play Basketball and Video Games says Aariv with a smiling face.

Alexa Skills are similar to the Apps we use in mobile phones. You can talk to Alexa to activate a particular Skill. Aariv has till now developed 4 ‘Skills’ on Alexa & the 5th one will be available for use in couple of weeks time. 

Aariv started making simple Skills and slowly increased the complexity of them. “I read the blog posts about Alexa Programming and learned the basics in few hours”. It took him less than 2 hours to complete the first Skill – ‘Kids Advice‘ : listen to this if you want to get some hilarious advice from Kids. 

Now since he had tamed Alexa with this first Skill, he wanted to Gift his parents with an Alexa Skill. His parents were having slight concern in the way Aariv’s younger brother was consuming his food. This is similar to the trouble lot of parents go through in making their kids eat their meal. Aariv developed ‘Meal Buddy‘ : which will help entertain the kids while having their food, entertaining with jokes, music and fun facts. 

Wheel of Fun‘ was the 3rd Skill by Aariv. This included random tidbits to amazing facts. So if you want to just pick your brain then try playing the WoF. 

Each Skill was helping Aariv to learn more about Alexa Programming. He is of the opinion that you should not waste your time on things which are readily available. ” I reuse an Alexa skill template if it solves my purpose. I create new templates only if there are additional features to be added to the new skill. “. This is actually the way everyone should be doing it, rather than trying to do things different each time. This, as per Aariv, gives more time in focusing on designing the new template for that specific purpose. The Chess skills also help him to plan his moves well in advance.

It took less than 3 weeks for this young programmer to come out with the 4th Skill – ‘STEM Party. He is excited when he talks about this Skill. “My most recent skill, STEM Party, is my favorite. Today, no one would deny the importance of an education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) for students. STEM Party is a math and science quiz game where kids can increase their knowledge. I really like this skill because it is the first skill that I added APL too! Since it has buttons on certain screens, the user can respond using touch or voice. It also saves the user’s total score and highest streak to DynamoDB so the user can attempt to beat it each time they come back.”  You can try this by saying ‘Alexa Begin Stem Party” & you will be welcomed to play the game at different levels as per your wish.

While talking to me , Aariv has submitted and is waiting for the 5th Skill to be reviewed by the Amazon team. This new skill is called ‘Water Tracker’. Its purpose is to help people keep track of how much water they drink during the day and remind them about their water intake. I feel this is a ‘Cool’ Skill and will help many who find it difficult to keep the hydration level as per the requirements. He was ready to listen to my thoughts about this skill and quickly acknowledged the points & replied that there are few updates also planned for this Water Tracker. 

Aariv is happy about the fact that ‘Alexa’ is now available in Hindi as well. Amazon’s ‘Voice Assistant’ is localising it’s applications & in turn tapping in to larger audience. Aariv is yet to think about a ‘Dream Project’. But for his age when most of the kids are still coming out of their dream world, he has already moved ahead of the pack and is enjoying writing codes on Javascript. He has attended Hackathons & Alexa Dev Meetups as well. There are already other interviews and podcast talks of Aariv doing rounds in the internet.

His parents have helped him understand the nuances of Technology and guided in the right direction. Aariv’s dad mentioned “The voice community has been very kind to Aariv. The interviews and knowledge sharing sessions help him introspect & learn more. However, I want him to continue to focus more on learning.”

The World around us is changing at a brisk pace. Things which kids learned in the 90s or 2000s are not much relevant in the current age. We can see that lot of schools have started improvising their curriculum to match the current required skill sets. No one is absolutely sure about the technologies which will make the difference in the next 5-10 year time period. But it is better for kids to keep themselves updated about the things happening around them in regard with technology. I personally feel that kids can learn and understand things faster, without much apprehensions, in the early part of their education. It can be any genre of learning – Sports, Music, Art, Commerce, Science, Technology. The earlier kids get the right exposure, higher are the chances of excelling it. Hope to see many like Aariv spearheading this tech revolution among the kids. One good old behaviour that is taught in schools and homes is actually key in making this happen:- “Sharing is Caring“. 

Aariv is already sharing his learnings through blogs, LinkedIn & YouTube videos (his LinkedIn videos has crossed 1 lakh+ views). In my opinion, this will even help the elder generation who want to understand the basics of “Alexa Programming”.

In addition to this, he is planning to schedule ‘offline’ knowledge sharing sessions in libraries. Great traits of a tech geek in the making – Aariv Modi.  

You can connect with Aariv to understand the basics of Alexa Programming or if you want to learn on your own then visit Alexa page.

Aariv Modi – The youngest to be featured in ‘PAC Talks with VJCV’.

People or rather in this case the young kid who has shown the world that ‘Passion Attitude Curiosity’ can take you to places.