Success Story

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    The Lion Planner team
  • The Aspire team members (pictured from left to right): Tyler Spagnolo (team lead, Engineering), Isabelle Biase (Engineering), and Shane Hepner (Engineering). Not pictured: Dr. Montgomery Alger (Faculty Advisor, Engineering)

2018 Nittany AI Challenge Winners Provide EdTech Solutions, Receive $50,000

The Nittany AI Challenge offers teams of students, faculty, and staff the chance to compete for grants by developing and presenting AI–based solutions that solve real-world problems and improve the student experience and/or University operations at Penn State. The winners of the 2018 Nittany AI Challenge, presented by the Nittany AI Alliance, have been selected from a pool of teams representing 10 Commonwealth Campuses, 16 colleges and 35+ departments. Each of these teams already won $7,500 through the first two rounds of the competition.


$30,000 Winner


A web application that simplifies academic planning by providing students with full, modifiable plans for all their semesters and consolidating all the resources and requirements they need for the process.

The LionPlanner team members (pictured from left to right): Christina Warren (Arts & Architecture), Matthew Mancini (Engineering), Dylan Shoemaker (Engineering), Quinn Verbeke (Engineering), Benjamin Proto (Engineering), and Michael Roos (team lead, Engineering) Not pictured: Thanh Tran (Engineering) and Dr. Wang-Chien Lee (Faculty Advisor, Engineering).


$10,000 Winner

ProFound – A Professor Search Engine

A solution that retrieves all publicly available information about a professor and intelligently categorizes and populates it into a portal that students can access to search for a professor by name and/or research area.

Team members (pictured from left to right): Shaurya Rohatgi (team lead, Information Sciences & Technology), Mukund Srinath (Information Sciences & Technology), and Neisarg Dave (Information Sciences & Technology). Not pictured: Dr. C Lee Giles (Faculty Advisor, Information Sciences & Technology).   


$10,000 Winner


An application to help students map out their college careers by providing recommendations on experiences and skills needed to achieve their dream jobs post-graduation.

Team members (pictured from left to right): Tyler Spagnolo (team lead, Engineering), Isabelle Biase (Engineering), and Shane Hepner (Engineering). Not pictured: Dr. Montgomery Alger (Faculty Advisor, Engineering)

“The Challenge has provided me with an incredible real-world experience that you don’t usually get in a classroom,” says Penn State student and Aspire team member, Isabelle Biase. “Developing an idea into a functioning prototype taught me first-hand about the development process, working with a team, and pitching to investors as if our team was a startup company. In addition to technical skills, the Challenge required creative thinking, problem solving, communication, and leadership – all of which are necessary skills for the future job market.”

The Challenge is composed of three distinct phases. The 2019 Ideation Phase begins with a workshop November 12th at Happy Valley LaunchBox. Experience with development and artificial intelligence is not required, only the willingness to think creatively coupled with the ambition to solve problems.

The Challenge is open to Penn State students, faculty, and staff and culminates in September 2019, with the aim of accelerating adoption of AI technologies, and sparking creative, innovative ideas. Idea submissions for the Challenge are due January 29, 2019. This is one of two Ideation Workshops being offered. Please note that registration is required for this event

Key deadlines for the 2019 competition are highlighted below:

Idea Phase Deadline – January 29, 2019

Participants submit a short proposal describing the challenge they’re addressing and how they’ll use AI to develop their solution. Up to 20 proposals are selected to receive $500 grants to assist in the development of prototypes for the next phase.

Prototype Phase Deadline – April 2, 2019

This phase requires the submission of a prototype. Up to 10 prototype submissions are awarded $1,500 grants to further develop a minimum viable product (MVP) for the third phase of the challenge.

MVP Phase Deadline – August 2, 2019

The third phase includes the development and submission of a minimum viable product (MVP) based on the original proposed solution. Grants from a pool of $25,000 will be distributed during a pitch competition with the potential for future development and application.

For more information about the Nittany AI Challenge please visit The Nittany AI Alliance, a Penn State Outreach initiative, provides students with meaningful engagement opportunities to prepare them to lead in a world shaped by artificial intelligence.