Atlanta, GA, United States

About Us

Our team’s name "emprize" means "a daring adventure". The emPrize team is composed of faculty, staff and students associated with Georgia Institute of Technology's Design & Intelligence Laboratory. Current members include Varsha Achar, Sungeun An, William Broniec, Ida Camacho, Ashok Goel, Marissa Gonzales, Eric Gregori, David Joyner, Rohit Mujumdar, Brady Young, and Qiaosi Wang. Former members of the team include Parul Awasthy, Pramodith Ballapuram, Fredrick Bane, Robert Bates, Christopher Cassion, Bobbie Eicher, Siddharth Gulati, Kaylin Hagopian, Sung Jae Hong, Joshua Killingsworth, Yaroslav Litvak, Swati Mardia, Keith McGreggor, Heather Newman, Sydni Peterson, Lalith Polepeddi, Ananya Roy, Angela Smiley and Shimin Zhang.

The emPrize team is sponsored by the Georgia Tech Research Corporation. It has received funding and support from Georgia Tech, Georgia Tech’s College of Computing, School of Interactive Computing, School of Computational Science and Engineering, Georgia Tech’s Center for 21st Century Universities, and Georgia Tech Professional Education. Our research partners have include Smithsonian Institution’s Encyclopedia of Life, Citsci.org at Colorado State University, NSF’s I-Corps program, NSF South BigData Hub, and Georgia Tech’s Online MS in CS program.


We have developed an AI-powered socio-technical system for making online learning in higher education more accessible, affordable and achievable. In particular, we have developed four novel and intertwined AI technologies: (1) VERA, a virtual experimentation research assistant for supporting inquiry-based learning of scientific knowledge, (2) Jill Watson Q&A, a virtual teaching assistant for answering questions based on educational documents including VERA’s user reference guide, (3) Jill Watson SA, a virtual social agent that promotes online interactions, and (4) Agent Smith, that helps generate a Jill Watson Q&A agent for new documents such as class syllabi. 

The results are positive: (i) VERA enhances ecological knowledge and is freely available online; (ii) Jill Watson Q&A has been used by >4,000 students in >12 online classes and saved teachers >500 hours of work; (iii) Jill Q&A and Jill Watson SA together promote learner engagement, interaction, and community; and (iv). Agent Smith helps generate Jill Watson Q&A for a new syllabus within  ~25 hours. Put together, these innovative technologies help make online learning simultaneously more accessible (by making materials available online), affordable (by saving teachers’ time), and achievable (by providing learning assistance and fostering student engagement).