Tools Competition Winners 2021-2022


Launched in July 2021, the Learning Engineering Tools Competition generated more than 800 initial proposals from more than 60 countries, showcasing innovative ways to address pressing challenges and opportunities in education. The educational tools developed by the winning teams have the potential to impact over 4 million students by the end of 2022 and more than 40 million students within the next three years, according to estimates calculated by each team.

See the press release about the announcement here.

Download the winner information here.

K-12 Accelerated Learning Track


A Student-centered crowdsourcing platform that embraces cultural inspirations, critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity in mathematical learning

Catalyst Prize


ART-Math is a research-based, AI-powered interactive learning and creative construction platform for 3-8th grade students to engage in a transformative mathematical learning process: Abstraction, Representation, Transformation (ART). ART-Math substitutes conventional math problems for culturally relevant, student-generated real-life stories involving mathematical ideas, resulting in a unique student-centered approach to math education. This approach empowers students to be creators, supporters and collaborators through the learning process.

Team Leads
Dr. Alora Li
Co-founder, ART Math

Dr. Alora Li is currently working at Apple as a senior PM. She is interested in scalable technologies and innovative ways to support students' learning. Dr. Li has invented educational products and services adopted by large and small school districts in California and provided consultation to school and non-profit organization leaders on technology integration and educational innovation.

Wanli Xing
Co-founder, ART Math

Dr. Wanli Xing is currently working at the University of Florida as an Assistant Professor of Educational Technology. His research interest is artificial intelligence and learning analytics to leverage computing and big data in education to promote STEM and online education. Dr. Xing's work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, Institute of Educational Sciences, and private foundations.

Play. Connect. Learn

A mobile app to foster accelerated learning in early years via parental engagement

Mid-Scale/Large Prize

Top Parent App is a free mobile solution that helps young children at home minimize learning loss through parental engagement. It is especially designed to support parents from low-income communities to help prepare their children for ongoing success in school and life. A new version of the app will integrate multimedia content that includes educational videos for children, parent-facing videos to scaffold learning through play, gamified worksheets and monthly assessments that are mapped to an accelerated learning curriculum to take the child from emergent to foundational literacy and numeracy (FLN).

Team Leads
Sashwati Banerjee
Founding Managing Director, Sesame Workshop in India

Sashwati Banerjee is a social development professional with over three decades of experience in organizational leadership, media, & communication for change. Incubated under the Entrepreneur in Residence program at Central Square Foundation, she has recently founded Nudged Trust & Humanitus Learning Solutions to provide an open source, free mobile app to help low income families support their young children’s development at home. Banerjee was responsible for establishing Sesame Workshop in India, and has led the organization as the Founding Managing Director since 2006.

Akshina Gupta
Chief Operating Officer, Top Parent

Akshina Gupta is a 2013 graduate from Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (IITD) and has spent 8+ years in the space of EdTech products and strategy consulting. She comes with a deep passion for holistic early childhood education and is committed to using the power of technology to create scalable ECE solutions. In her current role as Chief Operating Officer at Top Parent, she works closely with product, data and marketing teams to rapidly expand Top Parent’s reach and build an impactful tech platform addressing the critical ECE needs of lower income segments in the country.


Mobile platform that inspires math learning by embracing mistakes

Catalyst Prize

USA, Asia-Pacific

RightOn! is a mobile platform that enables math educators to engage students in identifying and discussing misconceptions, in parallel with correct answers. The platform consists of three components: a student-facing mobile app, a database of distractors and explanations, and a teacher dashboard. RightOn! fosters a positive culture of error, improves student self-efficacy, and increases math proficiency.

Team Leads
Sinclair Wu
Co-founder, RightOn Education

Sinclair Wu’s work in education includes over 15 years of collaboration with classroom teachers, after-school program leaders, and diverse youth in underserved communities across the United States. In parallel, Wu also developed and honed skills in software product and program management, leading diverse teams at startups as well as global enterprises including Accenture and Google.

Allison S. Liu
Research Consultant, Righton Education

Dr. Allison Liu has over 10 years of cognitive and educational research experience in learning and motivation. She has led and contributed to many research projects involving large-scale educational math technologies, including ST Math and Graspable Math. Her research has been published in high-impact scholarly journals and presented at annual meetings of academic societies. Dr. Liu received her Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology (Cognitive Neuroscience concentration) and completed a postdoc in Educational Psychology.

Bright Start

A tool for bridging reading instruction gaps through the use of a speech technology-enabled autonomous reading tutor

Catalyst Prize

  • University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona & St. Augustine
Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago

Bright Start is a fully functional automated reading tutor that will enable vulnerable young children to access personalized and culturally-relevant reading instruction across the Caribbean. The solution aims to increase the number of young children that are reading before the age of 10. The tutor will supplement current reading instruction and provide targeted attention and feedback to children who are underserved due to large class sizes and difficult socioeconomic circumstances.

Team Leads
Andre Coy
Professor, University of the West Indies

Dr. Andre Coy has expertise in Speech and Language Technologies (SLT) with a focus on applications of SLT for education.

Phaedra Mohammed
Professor, University of the West Indies

Dr. Phaedra S. Mohammed has expertise in Intelligent Learning Systems (ILS). Her current focus is cultural modelling in ILS.


An intelligent teaching assistant for small group learning in K-12 education

Catalyst Prize

Oko facilitates fun and rigorous games and puzzles for elementary math instruction through AI-enabled small group work. Small group learning is a powerful tool for differentiation, yet is out of reach for too many teachers due to a perfect storm of widening achievement gaps and severe staffing shortages. Oko solves these challenges using computer vision, natural language processing, and cognitive tutoring to make learning more fun, accessible, rigorous and equitable.

Team Leads
Matt Miller
Co-Founder and CEO, Oko

Matt Miller was previously CTO and VP of Labs at Amplify Education and Head of Product at Flatiron School. He is an active consultant, advisor, and mentor in the education space and serves as Technology Advisor at XQ Institute. He also co-founded Stories Bookshop and Storytelling Lab, a retail and creative education space in Brooklyn, NY. Earlier in his career, Miller co-founded CounterStorm, an AI-based intrusion detection and prevention company later acquired by Raytheon. Miller holds BS and MS degrees in Computer Science from Columbia University.

Laurence Holt
Co-Founder, Oko

Laurence Holt is Entrepreneur in Residence at XQ Institute, and was previously Chief Product Officer of Amplify Education. Prior to that, Holt founded Quidnunc, a consulting firm with clients such as Apple, Sprint, the BBC, and Goldman Sachs. Previously a bond trader with Credit Suisse First Boston, Holt also created "multi-user calendar" software, which he later sold to Microsoft. Holt holds a First Class BSc(Eng) Hons in Computing Science from Imperial College London and a Masters in Neuroscience and Education from Columbia University.


Leveraging low-cost technology for personalized at-home learning in vernacular language

Mid-Scale/Large Prize


ThinkZone's home-based learning solution uses free, low-cost technological solutions to engage parents regardless of their income in their children’s learning journey. Delivered in vernacular language via voice calls and messaging apps, the solution supports parents as they work towards developing their children's foundational educational skills. Parents receive structured and personalized activity-based learning content -- whose efficacy is backed by independent research -- which requires only a few minutes of daily engagement.

Team Leads
Binayak Acharya
Founder and CEO, ThinkZone

Binayak Acharya is a World Bank & CEMEX-TEC(Mexico) awarded social entrepreneur. Acharya, a Laureate Global Fellow and MassChallenge Israel Alumnus, has worked extensively in emerging markets for more than 10 years in multiple domains including implementing large-scale ICT4D and skills development programs, education technology products development, and deployment and early-grade education pedagogy. His background also includes working in Global Education Practice (World Bank), Impact Investment (Unitus), and technology products development (L&T Infotech).

Itishree Behera
Program Lead, ThinkZone

Itishree Behera is an India Fellow Alumna with a Masters in Applied Psychology. Behera has multiple years of experience in pre-primary and primary educational content development, grassroots level training (Training of Trainers), community engagement modules development, and education program operations. She has also worked across domains like development communication, monitoring and evaluation, and stakeholder and government communication and partnerships.


Improving the Spanish-language writing skills of native and heritage speakers with adaptive games

Mid-Scale/Large Prize

USA, Latin America

Escritura+ is a set of games targeting specific Spanish-language writing skills for K-12 native and heritage speakers. Housed within a larger writing platform that BeeReaders is building, the tool will give students engaging ways to correct common writing errors and teachers data on student progress. Teaching and learning to write well takes time, and this tool eases the burden on teachers and empowers Spanish-speaking students to be confident, lucid writers in their home language.

Team Leads
Kristina Cordero
Director of Research, BeeReaders

Kristina Cordero holds a BA in Romance Languages from Harvard College and a PhD in Engineering from Universidad Católica de Chile, where she and a team created literacy apps for primary school students. She is the author of the children’s book Didi recorre Nueva York (2013), academic and non-academic articles, and a regular blog for BeeReaders. Her research interests include literacy and technology; biliteracy and bilingualism; libraries and library users. She has also translated over 25 books and teaches translation at Brooklyn College, in New York.

Rubén Arias
Co-founder and CEO, BeeReaders

Rubén Arias has been an edtech entrepreneur for over 11 years. He grew up in Santiago, Chile in a low-income home, and was the first in his family to go to college, thanks to hard work and scholarships. After earning his degree in engineering, he chose to focus on education as a way of helping to drive change for students like him. To date, Arias has created edtech products that have served over half a million K-12 Spanish-speaking students in Latin America. His companies have raised over $6M in venture capital and generated over $5M in revenue.

K-12 Assessment Track

Actionable Assessment

Scaffolding students' experience with assessment results

Mid-Scale/Large Prize

Actionable Assessment is a digital reporting tool that engages students in interpreting and using assessment results to drive learning, improving the quality of the student assessment experience. The tool will help make students’ assessment results interpretable and actionable, fostering positive assessment use and learning habits. It will also report information to teachers, enabling them to better meet learning needs.

Team Leads
Laura J. Wright
Project Director, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Dr. Laura Wright has more than 20 years of experience in education and education research. She began her career as an ESOL teacher and holds a PhD in sociolinguistics from Georgetown University. Her research focuses on how students express understanding through discourse in complex learning environments. She has investigated how students demonstrate evidence of knowledge, skills, and abilities through multiple modalities such as action, speaking and writing. She has worked in assessment for 15 years and specializes in technology-based assessments.

Linda Malkin
Outreach Specialist, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Linda Malkin spent 19 years as an informal educator and administrator before becoming a middle school science teacher in 2010. She holds a BS in Meteorology from the UW–Madison, an MA in Urban Education Studies from Yale, and a certificate in Online Teaching and Learning from Michigan State. Before joining the ONPAR team as an Outreach Specialist in 2016, she spent 3 years working on a grant-funded effort to transform her K-8 general education school into a S.T.E.M. magnet school. In her spare time, Malkin enjoys environmental stewardship activities and working as a Master Naturalist.


A learning analytic tool for real-time assessment and group-based personalized instruction in the science classroom

Catalyst Prize

GrouPer (Group-based Personalization) is an assessment and recommendation system that uses big data and machine learning to assist science teachers in providing personalized instruction. It identifies student knowledge profiles and recommends learning sequences that match their needs. GrouPer also collects teachers’ choices and improves its recommendations based on their collective wisdom. The tool was co-designed with teachers and was recently integrated into PeTeL, a free learning platform that serves teachers across Israel, developed within Weizmann’s Science Teaching Department.

Team Leads
Giora Alexandron
Assistant Professor in the Department of Science Teaching, Weizmann Institute of Science

Giora Alexandron is the head of the Computational Approaches to Science Education (CASEd) research group. His research combines science education and the learning sciences, AI, and human-computer interaction, in order to study and develop learning environments that are more adapted to the needs of different learners. Alexandron's main focus is on K-12 science education and on Teacher:AI partnership – how AI can work alongside teachers in order to assist them in providing more personalized instruction.

Tanya Nazaretsky
Doctoral student, Department of Science Teaching, Weizmann Institute of Science

Tanya Nazaretsky is a computer scientist by education and started her professional career in the hi-tech industry as a software architect and engineer and later as an engineering manager. In recent years, she has aimed to apply her computer science background to education. Nazaretsky studies and develops AI and Natural Language Processing methods to assist teachers in providing personalized instruction. Her research has already led to the development of two AI-powered technologies for science teachers.

Short Answer

Peer feedback for increased student engagement and deeper learning

Catalyst Prize

Short Answer leverages peer-driven formative assessment to close the feedback time gap and increase student agency in grades 6-12. On the Short Answer platform, students construct responses to teacher-generated questions, compare and provide feedback on peer answers, and converse as a class to deepen understanding of material. Short Answer is grounded in best practices of formative assessment, empowering teachers to make more informed instructional decisions, engage their students, and reduce achievement gaps.

Team Leads
Alexa Sparks
Senior Software Engineer, WP Engine

Alexa Sparks grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. She is a senior software engineer at WP Engine with 5 years of software development experience. Sparks previously worked as an ESL teacher and is passionate about using technology to help make teachers’ jobs easier. Outside of work, Sparks loves to read, travel, golf, ski, and enjoy the outdoors.

Adam Sparks
Graduate student, Stanford University

Adam Sparks was raised by a family of educators in Louisville, Nebraska. He is a licensed teacher with 7 years of middle and high school teaching experience in Nebraska, China, and Chicago. Sparks is currently a full-time Master’s student in Stanford’s Learning Design and Technology program. In his work at Stanford, Sparks focuses on improving formative assessment for teachers and students. Outside of work, Sparks loves to read, travel, and cheer on the Nebraska Cornhuskers (Go Big Red).

Ben Thier
Graduate student, Stanford University

Ben Thier was born and raised in New York City. He graduated from Duke University where he studied neuroscience and education. Thier is currently a full-time Master’s student in Stanford’s Learning Design and Technology program. Previously, Thier worked as an education systems support analyst at Macmillan Learning and interned on learning experience design projects for large companies and start-ups. Thier enjoys solving crosswords, playing tennis, scuba diving, and watching Survivor.

The Platform for Actionable Reading Assessment

An online reading assessment and intervention platform that measures the efficacy of reading interventions

Mid-Scale/Large Prize


The Platform for Actionable Reading Assessment (PARA) is an online reading assessment and intervention platform. PARA’s assessment uses speech recognition, human transcription, and selected response to provide fast, accurate, actionable data, across all key reading skills. PARA’s intervention platform provides teachers with personalized recommendations by student and class and allows researchers to rapidly measure the efficacy of reading interventions.

Team Leads
Tyler Borek
CEO and Founder, Literably

Tyler Borek and the team at Literably are on a mission to help every child master reading. Under Borek's leadership, Literably has grown to serve hundreds of thousands of students across hundreds of school and district customers, including some of America’s largest school districts. Before Literably, Borek was an Urban Fellow at the New York City Department of Education and a Corps Member at MATCH Charter Public School. He graduated with honors from Yale College.

Seamus Martin
VP of Engineering, Literably

Seamus Martin began his career as a high school math teacher before moving into software engineering, with a focus on educational assessment. Martin built Schoology's assessment scoring pipeline, which scores hundreds of thousands of assessments per day. At Literably, Martin leads the engineering team. Martin has a Masters in Education from Johns Hopkins.

Tracking the Math Process

A teaching platform that collects thinking data

Catalyst Prize

Uplift K12 is a teaching platform that builds foundational fluency in math through active participation, live peer collaboration, and formative assessment. The new tool substitutes concrete manipulatives, such as wooden or plastic blocks, for virtual manipulatives, bringing the highly effective CRA (Concrete-Representational-Abstract) methodology into the virtual classroom. Anonymous data of student performance, keyboard clicks, and mouse movements are collected and stored for researchers to access for free.

Team Leads
Mehul Shah
Co-founder, Uplift K12

Mehul Shah taught for 10 years in low performing schools and low income communities. His focus was on math intervention and helping students catch up to grade level and build math confidence using manipulatives. He then transitioned full-time into product management and front-end web development before co-founding Uplift K12 with Michelle.

Michelle Shah
Co-founder, Uplift K12

Michelle Shah was a Montessori-certified teacher, who worked in public school settings for 10 years. Her experience focused on the early grades of Pre-K-3 to kindergarten. Shah now focuses on curriculum design and operations as a co-founder for Uplift K12.

Fast Cycle Feedback

Studying the efficacy of feedback at scale

Mid-Scale/Large Prize

Fast Cycle Feedback within the Formative platform tightens the student-teacher feedback loop by making feedback instant, meaningful, and personalized. Research shows that feedback has the power to drive foundational learning -- but we don't yet know exactly why. Fast Cycle Feedback will make it possible to study how the speed, frequency, and modality of feedback impact student achievement outcomes. The team will share the data collected with the education research community, furthering insights on effective feedback for students and teachers everywhere.

Team Leads
Craig Jones
Co-founder and CEO, Formative

As a science teacher at a struggling public middle school in Los Angeles, Craig Jones built Formative to help understand his students’ strengths and weaknesses. Jones's role in this initiative will be providing executive oversight to the project. Jones will work with stakeholders in the education space to share findings around feedback and ensure that best practices can be implemented in classrooms everywhere.

Sana Gabula
Chief of Staff, Formative

Sana Gabula brings deep experience in her role from executive roles at BrightBytes, a data and analytics platform for education, and is passionate about scaling impact through data-driven operations and technology in education. Gabula's role in this initiative will be to serve as the project manager. In this capacity, she will work with Formative’s engineering and data teams, as well as the project team's research partner LearnPlatform and the education research community to ensure that the insights developed can be used by educators everywhere.


Automated question generation for improving text comprehension

Catalyst Prize

Kvasir generates relevant questions of varying complexity for a given text using Natural Language Generation (NLG) methods and validation by a tutor. While question answering is an effective way of improving reading comprehension, tutors have limited time for asking individualized questions and providing personalized feedback. Through its Human-in-the-Loop (HITL) approach, Kvasir provides tutors and teachers with a resource for making a complex and time-consuming task easier.

Team Leads
Mihai Dascălu
CTO, Clevent

Mihai Dascălu is a Professor of Computer Science at University Politehnica of Bucharest, and has extensive experience in national and international research projects with more than 250 published papers. Dascălu holds the US patent #9734144, as well as 4 Romanian patent applications. Moreover, Dascălu obtained a Senior Fulbright scholarship in 2015 and is a corresponding member of the Academy of Romanian Scientists.

Ștefan Rușeți
Lead Programmer, Clevent

Ștefan Rușeți holds a PhD with the highest distinction in Computer Science. Rușeți has worked on Q&A systems and has developed several applications integrating cutting edge tools for applied NLP in Education. He has experience in 7+ national and international projects with more than 45 published papers, including 11 articles at top conferences in AI in education and NLP, renowned international conferences and Q1 journals.

Smart Paper

Technology to connect paper and digital learning

Mid-Scale/Large Prize

Smart Paper is an assessment technology that analyzes learning data on paper. By leveraging AI and handwriting recognition, it has the potential to impact each and every child in the world who learns on paper, reaching students in high-tech, low-tech and no-tech areas. Smart Paper lowers the cost of administering classroom assessments, reduces teachers’ evaluation time, and improves the learning communication between students, teachers, and parents by using existing community and school resources. The tool will empower educators to better support students by showing their strengths and weaknesses in written problem-solving processes. By connecting paper with digital tools, Smart Paper will enable users to equitably measure learning at scale.

Team Leads
Nirmal Patel
Chief Data Scientist, Playpower Labs

Nirmal Patel is a multi-award-winning edtech researcher and a computing child prodigy. He has close to fifteen years of hands-on work experience spanning across programming, data science, AI, and learning science. Patel started his edtech career as an educational game developer. Later, he started doing educational data research for which he received several awards, including a best paper award at the Intelligent Tutoring Systems conference. Patel has published more than ten peer-reviewed research articles in the area of education technology, showcasing ideas that can impact learners at scale.

Yoshi Okamoto
Director of SHO-zemi Labs, Shonan Seminar

Yoshi Okamoto is a published expert on EdTech, AI, Human-Computer Interaction, and Natural Language Understanding who has worked on collaborative research projects with and in tech startups and universities. His recent projects have applied technology specifically to the classrooms and have included innovative research with some of the world's leading universities and educational institutions. In addition, he has consulted and mentored EdTech startups, communities, and government entities globally.


Writing and Feedback Tool

Mid-Scale/Large Prize

USA, Argentina, & Uruguay

ThinkCERCA is developing an assessment and feedback tool trained to identify aspects of an argument. When students compose an argumentative essay, the tool highlights key writing elements, thereby assessing students while they write, enabling formative feedback and providing mini-instructional events to drive learning while writing. As a result, ThinkCERCA provides authentic assessment of learning experiences and assists teachers to provide actionable feedback.

Team Leads
Eileen Murphy
Founder and CEO, ThinkCERCA

ThinkCERCA is a tool designed to support systems-level literacy growth. Eileen Murphy spent 20 years as a classroom teacher, English department chair, and Director of Curriculum and Instruction for 115 schools before founding ThinkCERCA. She is also an NCTE author and a Pahara Aspen Fellow.

Harry Layman, PhD
Senior Engineer, ThinkCERCA

At ThinkCERCA, Harry Layman, PhD, leads the development of the assessment and feedback tool. Previously, he was an Executive Director for the College Board. He has an MBA and a BS in Computer Science from Columbia University, and earned a PhD in Educational Assessment, Testing and Measurement from the University of Leicester. Dr. Layman holds certifications in machine learning and solution architecture and has been CTO for multiple venture-funded enterprises.


Web app to facilitate dyslexia screening and reading assessment at scale

Catalyst Prize

Australia & Spain

Dyscover is an online reading assessment platform that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning to reduce hours of traditional reading assessment into a 5-minute online test. The tool provides normed scores through the use of voice recognition technology, objectively assesses users based on six aspects of reading, and screens for dyslexia. In doing so, Dyscover provides teachers and educators with immediate and accurate measurements of learner reading performance efficiently and at scale.

Team Leads
Hugo Richard
Co-founder and CEO, Dystech

Hugo Richard believes all problems have solutions if we keep looking. He is an entrepreneur doing his best work at the intersection of artificial intelligence, ed-tech and dyslexia. While the work he does matters to him, his ambition is for it to ignite lives around the world, especially that of children. And the first step is through democratising dyslexia & reading assessment.

Kate Bertoncello
Product Owner, Dystech

Kate Bertoncello is a literacy interventionist, ex-primary school teacher and a mom to a dyslexic son. Bertoncello's passion is to support students who have been officially identified as having learning differences as well as those who are casualties of the educational system. Bertoncello is a product owner at Dystech working with the same passion but helping to positively impact many, many more children beyond the boundaries of Bertoncello's city.

Adult Learning Track


A platform for creating interactive online courses delivered inside popular messaging apps

Catalyst Prize

Netherlands & Ethiopia

Botter is a platform for creating online courses delivered through popular messaging apps that many learners use daily. The platform uses chatbots to explain concepts and quiz students using components such as text, images, gifs, audio, or short videos. Botter is available to learners with even low bandwidth, which allows learners with limited access to receive engaging and interactive lessons on any device. Botter's educational chatbots have already helped to support a total of 300,000 learners. In this next stage of the project, Botter will enhance the algorithms that drive the chatbots and make the growing dataset available to researchers.

Team Leads
Nathnael Gossaye Endehsaw
Co-founder and CEO, Botter

Nathnael Gossaye Endehsaw graduated with a degree in Computer Science and has worked as a lead developer at various tech companies for over 8 years building software for clients around the world. Gossaye has also won several awards for different personal projects and given talks on AI in Education at UNESCO panels in Paris and Morocco.

Melikte Paulos
Data Scientist

Melikte Paulos graduated with a Professional Doctorate in Engineering for Data Science from the Technology University of Eindhoven. Prior to a career in data science, Paulos worked as a software engineer and project manager at various companies for 6+ years.

My Academic Pathway Toolkit

Helping college students select an educational pathway based on their personal interests

Catalyst Prize

The My Academic Pathway (MAP) toolkit–a suite of tools to assist college students in selecting an educational pathway based on their personal interests–has successfully helped 83% of community college students enroll in programs consistent with their interests. This project will modify MAP to reach a larger audience, particularly students in continuing education programs, with a goal of reducing both student program changes and the time required to obtain a credential.

Team Leads
Scott Byington
Associate V.P. for Onboarding and Advising, Central Carolina Community College, Central Carolina Community College Foundation, Inc.

Scott Byington oversees onboarding and advising redesign, first year experience courses, and initiatives enhancing college transfer. Byington has served as a consultant for multiple institutions on advising redesign and training, as a reaccreditation reviewer, and has held leadership roles with state and national advising associations. Byington has a B.S. in Biology from James Madison University (VA), an M.S. in Biology from West Virginia University, and an M.S. in Academic Advising from Kansas State University.

Adam Wade
Director of Admissions, Central Carolina Community College, Central Carolina Community College Foundation, Inc.

Adam Wade oversees Onboarding, Advising, and Success Coaching, chairs the Behavioral Assessment Team, coordinates the Safe Zone program, and leads efforts for CCCC's Intake Survey. Wade's experience includes Success Coaching, Academic Advising, Orientation, Admissions, First-Year Programs, Behavioral Assessment, LGBTQ+ programming, Housing and Residence Life, and Student Conduct. Wade has a B.A. in Communication Studies from the University of North Carolina Wilmington and an M.A. in College Student Development from Appalachian State University.


Unlocking education access for incarcerated students

Catalyst Prize

UnlockEd is an all-in-one education access and management platform for correctional environments. Education has been proven to be the most effective catalyst in creating opportunity and reducing recidivism for incarcerated individuals. Yet the vast majority of incarcerated individuals don’t have access to consistent, high quality education. Developed and tested by a team of currently incarcerated individuals, UnlockEd is available without internet access, which will increase access to education and improve outcomes for incarcerated students.

Team Leads
Jessica Hicklin
Co-founder and CTO, UnlockedLabs

Jessica Hicklin came to this role as a formerly incarcerated individual who spent 26 years on the inside during which time she crafted and facilitated many educational initiatives. When she is not working to advance the presence of post-secondary education in the carceral space, Hicklin is also an advocate for the rights of transfolks. Throughout her incarceration she brought and won two landmark trans rights cases (Hicklin v. Lombardi and Kansas birth certificate case).

Haley Shoaf
Co-founder, Unlocked Labs

Haley Shoaf is also the Vice President of Justice Programs for LaunchCode, running coding education programs designed to help current and formerly incarcerated people in Missouri build tech skills. Prior to this role, she worked on national expansion efforts for LaunchCode, and also ran the Georgetown Prison Outreach program facilitating educational opportunities for incarcerated individuals in DC and Virginia.


Integrated solution to prepare, place, and support adult learners into life-changing careers

Mid-Scale/Large Prize

Generation trains and places adult learners into careers that would otherwise likely be inaccessible. Generation’s tool – three interlocking portals for learners, employers, and staff – captures rich data from each of the seven steps of their methodology. To date, it has 20 million data points across 16 countries and 35 professions – linking socio-demographics with learning outcomes, employment, and personal and financial well-being over time. The aim is to yield insights for academics, policymakers, and practitioners seeking to improve global workforce system outcomes.

Team Leads
Mona Mourshed
Founding CEO, Generation: You Employed

Generation: You Employed is a global employment non-profit network that trains and places adult learners into careers that are otherwise inaccessible. Mona Mourshed has decades of experience as a leader in the education and workforce space and has authored widely cited reports and articles. Mourshed previously founded and led McKinsey & Company's global education practice. She was selected as one of Fortune Magazine’s '40 under 40’, and sits on the boards of New America, Teach for All, and Last Mile Health. Mourshed has a B.A. from Stanford University and a Ph.D. from MIT.

Ali Jaffer
Chief Operating Officer, Generation: You Employed

Ali Jaffer has been with the organization since 2015. Prior to Generation, Jaffer was an Associate Partner with McKinsey & Company, where he worked with public, private, and non-profit clients. Jaffer has also spent time at global development organizations, including the Aga Khan Development Network and the World Health Organization. Jaffer holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, as well as a B.Sc. and a B.S.N from the University of Pennsylvania. He currently lives in Toronto, where he volunteers with several community organizations.


Leveraging technology to upskill youth in rural India

Mid-Scale/Large Prize

YouthNet is a remote learning program that is aimed at driving a community mission led by Youth who work towards education, environment, health and livelihood. The program is a one-stop solution for learners ages 14-25, allowing them to register for the program, enroll in courses, take assessments, earn certificates, collect data and much more. The tool’s features are offered in 6 regional languages through an integrated, easy-to-use and customizable interface which makes the platform scalable according to contextual needs. Working across 20,000 communities in India and 16 states, YouthNet aims to upskill youth and prepare them for higher education, work and life.

Team Leads
Nishant Baghel
Director of Technology Innovations, Pratham Education Foundation

Nishant Baghel leads digital initiatives that typically connect the disconnected across rural parts of India. He specializes in leveraging advanced technologies for rural EdTech and creating learning opportunities for all. He oversees programs that reach more than 500,000 children and have been recognized by the World Economic Forum as the only ‘School of Future’ from India.

Annapoorni Chandrashekar
Senior Manager, Pratham Education Foundation

Annapoorni Chandrashekar works with digital content, technology, and implementation teams to transition pilots to scale and offer open learning initiatives to diverse learners. Prior to Pratham, Chandrashekar bootstrapped an EdTech startup incubated at IIM Bangalore that helps young learners pursue their passion through mentorship. She is an Alumnus of the Young India Fellowship at Ashoka University, and has a bachelor’s degree in automobile engineering. She has been a speaker at TEDx, an IIEP author of learning sciences and a Bharatnatyam dancer.


Upskilling through conversational learning on WhatsApp and Instagram

Mid-Scale/Large Prize


ChatClass is a conversational learning platform which upskills workers through an interactive chatbot, engaging content, and AI feedback. Using popular chat apps, ChatClass is able to reach and engage many underserved frontline workers that lack access to typical learning platforms or formal professional development programs. This project will facilitate ChatClass to expand capacity for customization by any teacher or HR professional who seeks to use their own content to train and assess more learners.

Team Lead
Jan Krutzinna
Founder and CEO, ChatClass

Jan Krutzinna graduated in Computer Science and Psychology from Harvard University, and holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School. Krutzinna co-founded a fintech venture in New York and led data science at a gaming startup in Brazil. Krutzinna also worked at McKinsey & Company and the United Nations, co-authoring a report on entrepreneurship in developing countries for the Secretary General.

Learning Science Research Track

Automated Assessment of Classroom Discussion Quality

Web-Based app to advance learning science research

Catalyst Prize

University of Pittsburgh's Learning Research and Development Center

Automated Assessment of Classroom Discussion Quality will create a web-based application that uses natural language processing and machine learning methods to analyze classroom discussion quality at scale. Discussion quality measures will look at both teacher and student talk moves, will be fine-grained enough to test theory-driven hypotheses around the role of talk and learning, and will facilitate longitudinal studies to better understand trajectories of growth toward ambitious and equitable teaching practices.

Team Leads
Diane Litman
Professor of Computer Science, Senior Scientist the University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Research and Development Center

Diane Litman's research focuses on enhancing the effectiveness of educational technology through Artificial Intelligence, particularly Natural Language Processing. Litman is the past Director of the Intelligent Systems Program at the University of Pittsburgh.

Lindsay Clare Matsumura
Senior Scientist, University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Research and Development Center

Lindsay Clare Matsumura is a Professor in the School of Education’s Learning Sciences and Policy program and a Research-Practice Partner with the Institute for Learning. Matsumura’s research centers on literacy learning, measurement of classroom instruction and teachers’ professional development.

Richard Correnti
Research Scientist, University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Research and Development Center

Richard Correnti’s research interests have centered on the measurement, determinants and consequences of high-quality teaching practice. He has examined causal models of how interventions have improved teaching practice. Correnti is an Associate Professor in the School of Education.

OpenCurriculum Flow

From hypothesis to learning science experiment in less than 10 minutes

Catalyst Prize

OpenCurriculum Flow is a free and open-source learning science experiment builder for researchers and teachers. It comes with ready-made, vetted curricula with which to run A/B tests and Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs). It takes less than 10 minutes to create a ready-to-go experiment using code-free tools and generate easy-to-share datasets, making experimentation with learning as easy as making a website on Squarespace.

Team Lead
Varun Arora
CEO, OpenCurriculum

OpenCurriculum is an education technology nonprofit which uses expert systems and NLP to help K-12 teachers design pedagogically effective curriculum and instruction, using research and evidence from classrooms around the world. Previously, Varun Arora worked as a Senior AI Product Leader at Baidu’s Silicon Valley AI Research Lab, and held several edTech product, engineering, and business intelligence roles at Inkling, the United Nations, and on a One Laptop Per Child deployment in Polynesia, apart from brief teaching stints. He received his Bachelors and Masters from CMU.

Understanding Mind Wandering During Learning

Creating a large dataset for more generalizable and equitable research

Catalyst Prize

This large-scale dataset will provide opportunities for researchers to develop more accurate and generalizable detectors of mind wandering. Research shows that when a student misses critical information due to mind wandering, it can inhibit their ability to make further connections as the learning session unfolds. Using an unobtrusive, equitable, and low-cost device, a dataset including interaction data, webcam-based eye-gaze features, and self-reports of mind wandering will be collected.

Team Leads
Caitlin Mills
Assistant Professor of Educational Psychology, University of Minnesota

Caitlin Mills has a PhD in Cognitive Psychology, and her research focuses on constructs related to mind wandering and engagement during learning and in everyday life contexts. She aims to characterize when mind wandering occurs, how it influences learning, and ways to automatically detect it in real-time. Other research interests include the influence of mind wandering in ubiquitous tasks such as driving and how it relates to functional aspects of our lives such as affect, mental health, boredom, and creativity.

Ryan Baker
Associate Professor, University of Pennsylvania

Ryan Baker is the Director of the Penn Center for Learning Analytics. Baker’s lab conducts research on engagement and robust learning within online and blended learning, seeking to find actionable indicators that can be used today but which predict future student outcomes. Baker has developed models that can automatically detect student engagement in over a dozen online learning environments, and has led the development of an observational protocol and app for field observation of student engagement.

Open Game Data

Accelerating learning science research with games

Mid-Scale/Large Prize

Open Game Data is a platform to accelerate research of educational games for learning and assessment. Developed by a growing community of studios, researchers and designers, the tool will reduce a significant barrier for learning science researcher participation with learning games by eliminating the cost associated with common tasks required for data collection while freeing users to concentrate on innovation and discovery. As a result, it will broaden participation in educational data science by making datasets and analysis code openly available.

Team Lead
David Gagnon
Director, Field Day

Field Day is an education research laboratory at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research. Composed of a diverse team of educational researchers, software engineers, artists and storytellers, David Gagnon's lab is focused on the intersection of situated and sociocultural learning theories with digital media, specifically video games, virtual reality and educational data mining. Field Day’s games have won numerous awards and are used by millions of learners yearly.

M-Powering Teachers

A machine learning tool for mathematics instruction measurement and feedback

Mid-Scale/Large Prize

  • Harvard University
  • University of Maryland College Park
  • Stanford University

M-Powering Teachers (MPT) uses natural language processing to analyze recordings of mathematics teaching for information on student mathematical reasoning, teacher-student mathematical language, and equity-centered classroom practices. Teachers use the MPT tool to receive feedback on their teaching, and researchers can use it to replace or augment human scoring, allowing learning designs to scale more quickly and efficiently.

Team Leads
Heather Hill
Hazen-Nicoli Professor of Teacher Learning and Practice, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Heather Hill studies policies and programs designed to improve teacher and teaching quality.

Jing Liu
Assistant Professor of Education Policy, University of Maryland, College Park

Jing Liu's research centers on student well-being and human resources policy in K-12 education, with a particular focus on the intersection of data science and education policy.

Dora Demszky
PhD candidate in Linguistics, Stanford University

Dora Demszky works on developing natural language processing methods to support equitable and student-centered education.

Scalable Methods for Customized Digital Learning

A toolkit that enables developers to create personalized in-app student experiences and guide teachers to track progress

Mid-Scale/Large Prize

Scalable Methods for Customized Digital Learning is a toolkit that provides education application developers with algorithms for assessment of student proficiency. Precise assessment of students' strengths and weaknesses makes it possible to customize learning modules, find the right balance between easy and difficult materials, and substantially improve learning outcomes. These algorithms will make this type of personalization possible, and the accompanying toolkit includes notebooks that guide developers through comparing methods, evaluating performance, and creating teacher dashboards.

Team Leads
Susan Athey
Professor, Stanford Graduate School of Business

Susan Athey is a member of the National Academy of Science, and is the recipient of the John Bates Clark Medal. Her research focuses on the economics of digitization, marketplace design, and the intersection of econometrics and machine learning. She leads the Golub Capital Social Impact Lab, a lab that leverages social science research and technology to improve social sector effectiveness and has several collaborations with educational technology providers.

Ayush Kanodia
Fourth year PhD Student in Computer Science, Stanford University

Ayush Kanodia is supervised by Professor Susan Athey. His research lies in the intersection of Machine learning and Economics, and specifically Economic Structural Modeling, Recommendation Systems and Experimental Design. He has modeled human choice in a variety of settings such as education, retail and labor markets. Kanodia holds an undergraduate degree in Computer Science from The Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay.

EIDU Contributor Platform

Accelerating research on personalization algorithms

Mid-Scale/Large Prize

Germany & Kenya

EIDU has developed a mobile learning platform and an implementation program for low-income countries, focused on improving numeracy and literacy. The new open EIDU Contributor Platform will enable researchers to contribute and research personalization algorithms. Moreover, it will allow for education research on underserved communities, such as schools in informal settlements and remote villages, in turn helping to narrow opportunity gaps. EIDU Contributor provides a quick feedback cycle of build, measure, and learn using an automated submission and evaluation system.

Team Leads
Bernd Roggendorf
Founder and CTO, EIDU

For 25 years, Bernd Roggendorf has been founding and leading successful market leader tech companies. Then 9 years ago he turned his focus to the underprivileged and lived with his wife and his two daughters for several months in Kibera, one of the biggest slums in Africa. There he learned firsthand how quality education could make a fundamental difference in the lives of millions of children. Combined with the proliferation of mobile devices even in the most remote areas, he saw the chance to improve learning outcomes on a global scale: EIDU was born.

Nina Bolte
Head of Learning, EIDU

Nina Bolte holds a MSc. Developmental Psychology (with specific focus on school psychology), and MSc. Pedagogical Science from the University of Reggio Emilia (with special focus on the Reggio Emilia approach in ECDE settings). Bolte has over eight years of experience in the ECDE sector, and worked as a consultant, teacher trainer, evaluator, and head of several early childhood institutions before joining EIDU in 2016. Bolte loves spending time in Kenya and seeing EIDU's work in action.



Schmidt Futures
Walton Family Foundation
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

“Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation” is a registered trademark of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in the United States and is used with permission.