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The Nittany AI Challenge offers Penn State undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to address pressing global issues and build solutions using AI and machine learning. Through a team-based competition, students develop and apply diverse skill sets toward a solution that improves the world while competing for prizes, extending their networks, and building critical leadership experience. Technical expertise is not required, and we encourage students from all campuses and colleges to apply. Follow the steps outlined below to get started with the Challenge.
Logging In to the Team Tool and Creating Your Profile
Whether you are interested in participating on a team or as a mentor, begin your entry into the Challenge by creating a profile in the Nittany AI Challenge Team Tool. You can create a profile even if you do not have a team, team members, or an idea — the Team Tool is designed to connect individuals to one another based on interests, skills, and availability. Once you have created a profile, review the next four steps on this page to learn how to complete your official entry into the Challenge.
Nittany AI Challenge Team Tool
Building Your Team
While there are several roles necessary for a successful team, there are no requirements regarding your team’s size. Successful teams to date have most often had four or six members with varied experience, backgrounds, and academic affiliations.
- Team Lead — helps guide the team, ensuring everyone is working together to achieve the desired results. The team lead also provides project management to bring the team to a successful and timely submission.
- Subject Matter Expert — provides the focus and the expertise to make certain the proposed solution is valuable, feasible, and aligned with an actual problem.
- Presentation/Marketing Lead — concentrates on conveying the work of the other team members through documentation, videos, and pitches.
- Technical Lead(s) — leads the project from a technical perspective, helping the team understand the tradeoffs of the technical decisions and leading the actual programming of the solution. This could include separate individuals focused on front-end development, back-end development, and data science.
- Design Lead — leads the team in user experience/user interface design decisions and development. The importance of someone in this role for later stages of the Challenge cannot be overemphasized.
Use the Nittany AI Challenge Team Tool to start and build your team. You can use the Team Tool to add members, or find any missing talent to fulfill the roles above.
Validating Your Idea
This activity is also named by many as customer discovery. The best solutions begin with truly understanding the customer/user point of view and the challenges they face. Validating your idea is a critical step in your success in the Nittany AI Challenge. As an often skipped step, without validation, ideas that are submitted into the Challenge may have already been done before, aren’t necessary, or simply won’t work. Complete the validation process to steer clear of those unfortunate possibilities.
Please check out our Events page for customer discovery and related workshops to help you get started.
- Talk to the potential end users to ensure you are solving a problem that needs to be solved.
- What do potential users need? What would make their lives easier?
- Research the potential problem or opportunity to apply AI so your solution is a match.
- Leverage social media and your personal networks to gather feedback on your idea
- Talk to subject matter experts (SMEs).
- If you are not the SME, you need to find a mentor that can guide you.
- You have a phenomenal network of experts across Penn State faculty and staff — they would love to talk with you. Do a bit of creative web-searching and reach out to them via email, LinkedIn, Microsoft Teams, etc.!
- If you are solving a problem students face at Penn State, then you may be the SME. If this is the case, talk with other students to get their points of view on the problem.
- Get letters of support
- You can use this template as a basic structure for letters.
- Letters of support are very effective in convincing reviewers you have validated your idea and are communicating with experts.
- Letters from experts in both the subject matter and technical sides of your project are encouraged.
This step takes place outside of the Team Tool.
Submitting Your Prototype
Prior to submitting a prototype, please ensure that all team members create a profile in the Team Tool and belong to your team.
Learn more about the Prototype Phase.
To compete in the 2024 Nittany AI Challenge, you must create a profile, build your team, and submit a prototype no later than noon (ET) on January 24, 2024 (link forthcoming).