May 13, 2019
RoboTutor Team Awaits Global Learning XPRIZE Result
Media Inquiries: Byron Spice
Team members of RoboTutor LLC — who have spent years developing open-source software that children can use to teach themselves basic reading, writing and mathematics — are anxiously awaiting the results of the Global Learning XPRIZE competition.
RoboTutor, based at Carnegie Mellon University, is one of five finalists in the international competition. Following a 15-month, large-scale field trial in Tanzania that involved thousands of children, XPRIZE will announce the trial results and the winner of the competition's $10 million prize on Wednesday evening, May 15, during a ceremony in Los Angeles.
"Our goal was always to win the competition, but win or lose, this has been a tremendous experience for all of us," said Jack Mostow, research professor emeritus in the Robotics Institute and leader of the RoboTutor team. "We believe the work by all five teams will have enormous benefits for millions of children around the world who otherwise face a future dimmed by illiteracy."
Each team was tasked with creating Android tablet apps in both Swahili and English that could be used by children ages 7–10. The idea was that children presented with a tablet could learn basic literacy and numeracy skills without need of adult supervision. That's essential in areas of the world where few teachers, if any, exist.
"We know that kids who used RoboTutor benefited from it," Mostow said, based on the app's internal processes for assessing student progress. "But we also know that there was attrition over the 15 months, as the novelty wore off and some kids stopped using it. The real answer to how effective these apps are will come from the post-test that XPRIZE administered following the field test. Obviously, we can't wait to hear those results."
Those findings and the grand prize winner of the Global Learning XPRIZE will be announced at 9:30 p.m. EDT Wednesday, May 15, and will be streamed on YouTube Live.
RoboTutor LLC is a CMU spinoff, created by Mostow for the competition and based on decades of research on human learning. It received early support from CMU's Simon Initiative and licensed some of its technology from the university. More than 180 people from CMU, the University of Pittsburgh and other institutions around the world contributed to the team.