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Student portrait: Anne Diedrich and Julia Woronkow - Help 4.0

2020-08-10 Together with an interdisciplinary team, the master's candidates have developed a chatbot prototype that allows children in need to receive quick support. The prototype won the Hackathon #wirfürschule. The competition is under the patronage of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

Maja is being abused by her stepfather. But she doesn't dare to talk about it with her mother. Maja is unsure: Maybe it is normal what her stepfather does with her. Because of the corona lockdown she can't talk about her worries with anyone at school. Maja is desperate.

With the digital assistant "Botty", master students Anne Diedrich and Julia Woronkow and their team want to help children like Maja. The girl is a fictitious example and her suffering is not real. Maja is part of the introductory video for "Botty". But many other children need help. "According to the Federal Statistical Office, in 2018 around 50,000 children were at risk from neglect and violence", the two students of the Master's programme "Management & Marketing" explain. Around 200 teams submitted their ideas to the hackathon #wirfürschule run by the association "Digital Education for All". 15 ideas were selected. The app "Botty" is a short-message program. However, many answers are already pre-formulated for children. The chatbot, for example, suggests various emojis to the children with which they can express their feelings. "That way the children do not have to struggle for formulations. We wanted to develop an offer that has the lowest threshold possible," says Anne Diedrich. The child remains anonymous while chatting. At the end of the digital exchange, the child receives a telephone number of a suitable auxiliary organ station, which he or she can call if he or she wishes.

Anne Diedrich completed her business studies at the University of Applied Sciences in Münster with a bachelor's degree: "I had already tried to come to Leuphana before. With the Master's degree, it finally worked out. I'm excited about the inter- and transdisciplinary concept of the university. In her complementary studies she could take courses on environmental justice and gender studies, for example. Besides social and ecological justice, Anne Diedrich is interested in data analytics and digital business models. At Leuphana, she is involved in the student initiative "mosaique", as an “bewirken-Mentorin” and is part of the escaped buddy program. 

Julia Woronkow has already completed her Bachelor's degree at Leuphana and studied cultural studies with a focus on cultural organization and communication as well as cultural theory and analysis with a minor in business administration: "During that time I already took marketing courses and then applied for the Master's program "Management and Marketing””. Like her fellow student, Julia Woronkow also chose Leuphana because of the study model: "Thanks to the openness, I was able to form my own profile and develop myself further. In the middle of her studies she set her own focus on human-computer interaction. At the beginning of her studies she also took art theory seminars in cultural studies. "But then I realized that the field of cultural organization with its economic aspects is more exciting to me." 

Julia Woronkow is now applying her artistic talents to Botty. Most of the drawings in the introductory video were done by her. In the next step the students would like to test and develop Botty together with their team. Children and young people from five schools are to rate the chatbot. They will receive support from the Institute for Management and Organisation, among others. Both work there as student assistants under the supervision of PhD student Lennart Seitz and Professor Dr. Sigrid Bekmeier-Feuerhahn in the project "Medibility", in which psychological constructs in chatbot interaction are being researched. They are also writing their master theses on this topic. There they also developed their idea to develop chatbots for sensitive topics. As the winning team of the hackathon #wirfürschule, the botty team also remains part of the network that was built during the project. The team, which has been formed by the hackathon, consists of teachers, psychologists, students and computer specialists. The jury saw potential in Botty to improve the lives of children and young people – even beyond the corona crisis. "Our project is now being funded as part of the Solution Enabler Program together with the winning projects of the German government's #WirVsVirus Hackathon," Anne Diedrich and Julia Woronkow explain. After completing their master's degree, the two plan to set up a social enterprise in December, which will develop chatbots for various sensitive topics and thus transfer their expertise into practice.

The short-message program "botty" won the hackathon #wirfürschule. ©Leuphana/Patrizia Jäger
The short-message program "botty" won the hackathon #wirfürschule.