8th grader creates Watson-powered chatbot to help students plan for college during COVID-19
After a taking an IBM course online, she created a service for her father's business
When eighth-grader Harita Suresh found herself stuck at home due to the coronavirus, she decided to use her extra time to learn something new. After perusing edX.org, she settled on a course from IBM called AI chatbots without programming, which claimed that she would be able to build a fully functional chatbot with no prior knowledge about AI.
Two weeks later, she’d used her newfound knowledge to create and launch a fully functioning chatbot — Rita — for her dad’s business, Analyze-Ed.
From zero to chatbot in a couple weeks
As she worked through the course at her own pace, Harita quickly realized she was ready to put what she’d learned to use. Her mom suggested that she should apply the concepts from the course to create a chatbot for her father’s company, Analyze-Ed, a company that works with high schools to help administrators, teachers, and students with their college and career readiness.
“I love a challenge and wanted to see if I could develop a chatbot from scratch with the knowledge I gained from the course,” explained Harita.
Turns out, she could.
She worked with her dad to understand the frequently asked questions his company was fielding about standardized tests. Harita used those questions to create the intents and entities to train IBM Watson for her chatbot, Rita.
“I used every concept I learned in the course to build Rita’s dialog skills.”
A week later she had created a working chatbot that leveraged Watson Assistant to answer any short-tailed or frequently asked questions that Analyze-Ed users may have. Rita provides general information about the ACT, SAT, and PSAT 8/9 standardized tests, including test dates, test lengths, calculator policies, and more. She also answers questions about the Pareto analysis method used by Analyze-Ed. If she isn’t able to answer a question, she will redirect the user to a human agent.
Helping students find answers they need
Rita went live in the first week of April 2020.
“We thought the chatbot would be a good way for students to learn more about the test, as they may not have access to school resources to help them navigate the college planning phase,” said Harita’s father, Suresh Kashyap.
Students can access and chat with Rita both on the web and on mobile platforms. And Harita has plans to add natural language processing capabilities to Rita so students can audio chat with her.
The initial set of questions that Rita can address is focused on reducing student anxiety about standardized tests and highlights Analyze-Ed’s offerings. Since luanch, Harita and her father also retrained Rita to address frequently asked support and business development questions. And, because the nature and impact of COVID-19 is always changing, they continuously monitor changes to the ACT, SAT, and PSAT exam requirements to provide the best information to our students.
“We believe Rita, powered by IBM Watson, can be a significant differentiator in both our school-based offering and direct-to-consumer offering in the coming months.”
A future built on AI
From her initial experience with the AI course, Harita has plans to pursue a career that specializes in AI, excited about the possibility of using AI to benefit humanity.
“I am particularly inspired by IBM’s cloud-based AI research source which assists researchers in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic by efficiently aggregating and analyzing vast amounts of data. In the climate change arena, projects like IBM’s VolCat, which address plastic pollution by introducing efficient recycling methods, and IBM’s Green Horizons initiative, which helps tackle air pollution, hold a lot of promise for a better world,” says Harita.
We have no doubt she will continue to use her inquisitive nature and fast learning to build a successful career.
Start your own learning
If you’re inspired by Harita’s quick success with building a chatbot, the good news is that we have a wealth of self-paced learning content to get you started. Check out our courses to see what new skills you can learn.
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