An eLab Spotlight on the Undergraduate Venture, AI-Learners
The summer before her undergraduate sophomore year at Cornell, Adele Smolansky ('23) embarked upon her goal of helping her sister Lara learn math skills. When Lara was two years old, she was diagnosed with Rett syndrome, a genetic mutation that can result in physical and cognitive impairments. With her new project, Adele wanted to create something that would afford children with Rett syndrome, or other disabilities, the opportunity to learn in an effective way geared toward their individual needs and capabilities. AI-Learners was born out of Adele’s firm held belief that children with physical impairments are still smart and can learn, they just need to learn differently.
With the AI-Learners website, Adele hopes to create a tool that can help severely disabled kids at home and in school develop math skills. As many current educational tools are not adaptable to assistive devices, Adele ensures that students that use assistive technologies, such as her sister, can play all games and use all extra features. AI-Learners will show that kids with disabilities are capable of learning foundational math concepts when the proper tools are made available.
In addition to adapting the platform to assistive technologies, AI-Learners uses advanced data analytics to learn a student’s math level and can dynamically adjust both math difficulty and design to meet a student’s needs. Students and adults can also customize their experience by populating games with their favorite images, hiding parts of the screen, changing the number of answer choices, and much more. The tool then carefully analyzes a student’s progress to provide adults with detailed analytics.
In the sign-up process, the software will use questions to gauge the beginning level of each student. This is a highly important feature in a learning tool for disabled students with highly individualized learning needs and beginning levels. A primary goal for the website is to support assistive learning technologies such as an alternative mouse or touchscreen devices. As such, the software must be designed with great precision.
When Adele first had the initial idea as a high schooler, she had limited technical capabilities; therefore, she decided to put her idea on hold. With an unprecedented amount of free time on her hands with the onset of quarantine last March, she seized the opportunity to re-launch her entrepreneurial venture. With a year of Cornell engineering courses under her belt, Adele felt more equipped to successfully develop the software she envisioned. Over the summer, Adele sent out email blasts to engineering newsletters seeking undergraduates interested in joining her team and was able to recruit five new members. In September, Adele applied for eLab. Her idea for AI-Learners was met with great enthusiasm from the eLab advisors; as a member of the new cohort, AI-Learners began to take off.
Through eLab as well as the Designing New Ventures class at Cornell, Adele met three new students to add to her team. After performing extensive customer discovery, AI-Learners devised a 20-page business model that laid out the goals and projected timeline of the business. To carry out this plan, Adele aggressively recruited new members to help grow her venture. By reaching out to professors across Cornell and student organizations, AI-Learners attracted over 70 applicants for the team. After roughly 30 interviews, Adele hired nine new employees, bringing the tally up to 15 members comprising five teams: operations, software development, game development, research, and design.
During the winter recess, the team set out to develop the software with new games and to redesign the website in preparation for MVP testing that is scheduled to begin in February. With the support of eLab advisors and through numerous conversations with eLab alumni, Adele has seen her vision transform into a functioning company. Guided by their advice and learnings from past experiences, Adele has navigated the ins-and-outs of being an entrepreneur to successfully managed her growing team. With the support of eLab, the undergraduate team at AI Learners has a bright future ahead.
To learn more about AI Learners and to experience their product first-hand, check out their website: https://ai-learners.com/