IBM’s EdTech Cities Challenge Grants DISD Students $500K

Students from local P-TECH campuses worked with IBM and AT&T experts last week on ideas that use 5G or AI to solve a community problem. The two winning teams got $250,000 worth of support—and get to watch their idea come to life.

IBM wants to teach students how to address real-world educational problems.

Through its IBM EdTech Cities Challenge, students are tasked with proposing gamechanging ideas that use 5G connectivity or AI and could solve a school or community problem.

Held in Dallas and Detroit, the competition required applicants to complete three pre-work modules, and submissions were accepted in October. Four teams were then selected to participate in Round 2.

Held last week, Round 2 was an all-day design workshop where teams could work with IBM and AT&T experts to perfect their plans. Two winning teams were announced at the end: Adamson High School and Seagoville High School by coming up with new ways to combine ultrafast 5G Internet with artificial intelligence. 

Each winning team gets $250,000 worth of support from IBM and AT&T to build their prototypes, which they get to complete at a workshop in January.

The winning team at Adamson consists of  Jose Alcacio, Martin Colmenero, Natalia Alvarado and Vanessa Martinez. At Seagoville, the winning team consists of Dibanhi Martinez, Lisbeth Alvear, Romeo Robledo and Tyran Rogers. All the students are juniors in high school

Both Adamson and Seagoville high schools are P-TECH campuses, or Pathways in Technology Early College High School, which allow Dallas ISD students to earn up to 60 hours of tuition free college credit while in high school. Each P-TECH school has a corporate partner; Adamson is partnered with IBM and Seagoville partnered with AT&T. 

Brent Kendall, vice president of 5G program management for AT&T, said he was impressed with the innovation of the students. 

“It’s just so neat to see our technology through their fresh eyes,” Kendall said. “What we can do with AI and 5G is limitless so it was just exciting to see where they can take this capability.” 

The general concept for both solutions is an application that learns how students are learning, then gives insights to both teachers and students on how to best focus their efforts in mastering new material. 

It could identify grammar errors or citation issues in an essay. It could pair students with a “study buddy” based on complementary subject matter, strengths and weaknesses and learning styles. It could also identify trends in what concepts students are mastering versus where they are struggling, enabling teachers to confidently focus attention on where students need the most help. And it could produce personalized study guides for students based on mastery of content and learning styles. 

IBM and AT&T got involved because these types of projects help get young people excited about the endless possibilities of 5G Internet and artificial intelligence. 

“For me, it is essential to always think about how we can support and improve the communities we live and work in,” said Andrew Demas, senior managing consultant for IBM. “EdTech Cities Challenge provided us with an invaluable opportunity to bring three forces together—IBM, AT&T and P-TECH—turn student ideas into community realities. Partnering like this enables us to unite our workforces, skilled in AI, 5G and Design Thinking, to build solutions that better our society.” 

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