F&M Stories

Student Startup Promotes Responsible AI Use

As the use of artificial intelligence becomes increasingly common, a recent F&M grad and a current student hope to harness the power of AI to help students learn.

Kirin Sawasdikosol ’24 said the launch of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in 2022 caught his attention and made him consider the impact that AI chatbots could have on students.

“It’s very clear that this is going to be a very impactful technology on the world as well as education,” Sawasdikosol said. 

He noted that students are already using AI chatbots to complete assignments. As the large language models that the chatbots run on improve, AI-generated text is increasingly difficult to spot. 

Sawasdikosol and his collaborator, rising junior Dilrabo Kodirova, wanted to develop a product that encourages students to use AI responsibly. The result is a software startup, UniMind, which Sawasdikosol plans to launch publicly now that he has graduated.

The software gives professors more control over whether and how AI is used by students. Faculty set parameters on the use of AI to complete assignments; the software warns students if they violate those guidelines, and alerts professors to the presence of AI-generated text.

Sawasdikosol and Kodirova don’t want to discourage the use of AI entirely, though. Their product also includes AI tools to support students by answering questions or helping them find information from assigned materials. 

“We’re creating a fine-tuned AI that responds in a specific way for their specific class,” Sawasdikosol said. 

UniMind’s AI tools would be trained on specific course materials to provide more accurate information, and educators could choose specific ways that the AI would respond to students’ inquiries. 

Sawasdikosol and Kodirova began work on the project in October 2023. Kodirova, a computer science major, was eager for an opportunity to apply what she was studying.

“I thought, whatever happens, I’ll improve my technical skills,” she said.

In spring 2024, the project became an internship for credit. Alan S. Glazer, Henry P. and Mary B. Stager Professor of Business, was the faculty sponsor.

“The internship structure accelerated the work that we would have been doing already,” Sawasdikosol said. The pair were also advised by Eileen Ellis ’95, a sales executive at the cloud technology company Oracle, who offered insight into the educational technology industry.

While students and instructors will need to adapt to the presence of AI, both in the classroom and on the job market, Sawasdikosol doesn’t think the use of AI makes education any less vital. To use AI effectively and ethically, students still need critical thinking skills and the ability to demonstrate their knowledge of a subject. 

“We’re focusing on how we integrate AI as a tool for the learning process, rather than just how we get your assignment done as quickly as possible,” Sawasdikosol said.

While he and Kodirova are optimistic about the potential of AI, they are aware that decisions made now will determine how AI will shape the future. 

“I’m very concerned about the transition,” Sawasdikosol said. “What we’re trying to build at our company is part of that. We’re trying to ensure the proper transition to an AI world, and that’s about using AI responsibly.”

Kodirova agreed that, as with any new technology, the positive or negative effects of AI will depend on how it’s used. 

“I think that with AI, if we’re able to regulate and make sure that people use it ethically, we’ll be able to take the advantages without worsening our situation,” she said.

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