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UT Dallas Partners with CauseBot on Worldwide AI Competition

The University of Texas at Dallas is teaming up with CauseBot, an artificial intelligence software company based in Frisco, Texas, to compete in a worldwide AI challenge sponsored by IBM.

The IBM Watson AI XPRIZE is a three-year global competition with $5 million in total prizes. Its goal is to accelerate the innovation and adoption of AI solutions that can scale to address massive societal challenges.

CauseBot, a software company creating next-generation funding solutions for nonprofits, is one of 146 accepted teams from 22 nations, and the only competitor from Texas. Its relationship with UT Dallas began in 2016 when the company commissioned an AI project on machine learning from UTDesign, the senior capstone program that pairs industry with seniors in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science.

Jimmy Hester, BS’16, one of the students from CauseBot’s UTDesign team, graduated in December from the UT Dallas Computer Science Department and joined the company in January.

“My education at UT Dallas and real-world exposure through the UTDesign program were instrumental to the skills I now use every day at CauseBot,” Hester said. “I feel very fortunate to be working on next-generation technology that also has the ability to positively impact the world.”

For the competition, CauseBot and its partners are working on solutions that leverage artificial intelligence to help nonprofits maximize their fundraising and social impact.

“CauseBot was born out of passion for both the transformative capability of technology and the social impact nonprofits can have on the world,” said Ken Koo, founder and CEO of CauseBot. “Our goal is to impact the world by bringing the power of artificial intelligence to the nonprofit sector. Competing in the IBM Watson AI XPRIZE lends us a powerful and global platform to do just that.”

The team has successfully cleared the first milestone of the competition, earning a place in the competition for 2017. In 2018 and 2019, subsequent selection rounds will narrow the field. The competition will culminate with three finalists vying for the grand prize at TED 2020.

Knowing the scale of the challenge ahead, CauseBot secured UT Dallas as its academic partner in the spring. It now operates an office in the UT Dallas Venture Development Center.

CauseBot anticipates it will first rely on students and faculty from the Jonsson School for help with requirements gathering, back-end development, application development and testing. As the project progresses, it will involve a wider range of UT Dallas schools.

Dr. Mark W. Spong, dean of the Jonsson School, emphasized the broad spectrum of expertise that comes together on a project like this and the benefits that it can have.

“This effort requires multidisciplinary skills ranging from engineering to marketing,” said Spong, holder of the Lars Magnus Ericsson Chair in Electrical Engineering and the Excellence in Education Chair. “It provides an opportunity to students with diverse backgrounds and skills to align in one global cause in which we can demonstrate our leadership to the world.”

UT Dallas’ reputation, and the student and faculty talent available at the University, made the collaboration an obvious choice for the CauseBot team.

“UT Dallas has long been the local standard-bearer for technology in academia,” said Todd Alsup, a Dallas native and the chief marketing officer at CauseBot. “We are excited to have UTD as our academic partner and are moving forward with confidence as we compete against teams with ties to top universities and technology institutes worldwide.

“We look forward to deepening our relationship with the Jonsson School and exploring other ways we can partner with other schools on campus as we progress in the competition.”

CauseBot’s competition partners also include the Richards Group, Gardere, the City of Frisco Economic Development Corporation and the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas.


The IBM Watson AI XPRIZE is a $5 million competition, challenging teams globally to develop and demonstrate how humans can collaborate with powerful AI technologies to tackle the world’s grand challenges.

Source | UT Dallas News Center


The UT Dallas Computer Science program is one of the largest Computer Science departments in the United States with over 2,100 bachelor’s-degree students, more than 1,000 MS master’s students, 150 PhD students, and 86 faculty members, as of Fall 2016. With The University of Texas at Dallas’ unique history of starting as a graduate institution first, the CS Department is built on a legacy of valuing innovative research and providing advanced training for software engineers and computer scientists.

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