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Majors & Degrees

Competition results will benefit DSU, corporate partner

June 13, 2024

Richard Sanchez is great about answering questions about Dakota State University.

Richard is a digital personality (DP), designed by a Dakota State team of students, with support and resources from Sterling Computers. DPs are tech creations powered by artificial intelligence that mimic human communication to offer customer support services such as sales assistants or trainers. This is the first step in a multi-phase process to create a DP that could answer questions about university life, such as “How do I get to the library?” “Can I still get financial aid?” “What if I want to change my major?”

Sterling and Dakota State instituted a fun and friendly competition to create this DP, giving groups of students and a faculty mentor the chance to work through the process of creating this avatar-like character. The process gave students from all colleges the opportunity to work on an interdisciplinary team to create the character they felt would best represent a typical Dakota State student.

Fifty-eight students signed up for this competition, and were divided into 15 teams of four, working about an hour a week throughout the majority of the spring semester.sterling-computers.png

Sterling software engineer and Digital Personalities maven Elise Falck worked closely with the DSU participants, providing training modules and expertise.

“DSU has prioritized IT as a degree field, positioning themselves to be in the vanguard of computer-science study. This competition was a wonderful opportunity for both DSU and Sterling,” she said.

“We were able to provide DSU students with hands-on experience in cutting-edge AI technology and then watch how they made our Digital Personalities AI solution their own. As digital natives, current college students are naturals with artificial intelligence’s possibilities,” said Falck, “and they prove (again) that it’s human creativity that optimizes machine generativity. To DSU’s participants in this competition: We hope to see IT in your career futures.”

The winning team was announced on May 1, and include Anthony Meyer, a freshman computer game design major from Presho, S.D.; Autumn Meyer, a senior Production Animation major from Harrisburg, S.D.; Garret Leiseth, a junior Business Administration major from Crooks, S.D.; and team lead Sam Martin, a sophomore Computer Science/Software Engineering major from Rapid City, S.D. Each won a gaming computer from Sterling.

Dr. Mary Bell, Dean of The Beacom College of Computer & Cyber Sciences, spearheaded the project on campus. She said, “All teams really did a fantastic job. You should all feel great about what you accomplished and learned through this process.”

The winning team in a digital personality competition include (front left) Anthony Meyer, Autumn Meyer, Garret Leiseth, and Sam Martin. Back left is Dr. Mary Bell, Provost Rebecca Hoey, and the team’s advisor Dr. Justin Schroeder.

Provost Rebecca Hoey was impressed by how the students could incorporate their varied skillsets to create a well-functioning and engaging DP. It provided a good conversational flow that was informal but not too casual, with a soothing voice and visual appeal, she said. She also complimented the faculty mentors, particularly Dr. Justin Schroeder, faculty advisor for the winning team.

He is a first-year math professor in DSU’s Arts & Sciences department, with a focus on technology and game design orientation. “I was pleased to be a part of it, and I’m proud of you all,” he said.

The University and Sterling will be working on additional steps to fine tune the operational abilities of this DP before implementing at DSU, and they look forward to doing more of these kinds of competitions in higher education said Falck.

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