IBM has announced a successful conclusion to a special competition it ran recently with students at the University of Southern California to generate creative ideas for applying the unique Watson natural language cognitive system to real-world problems.
More than 100 University of Southern California students gathered in the debut West Coast competition to meet the challenge of creating business plans for applying Watson to pressing business and societal challenges. They presented business cases for applications ranging from providing insights to help doctors identify patients suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, to providing lawyers with faster research capabilities, to helping businesses hire the best talent in the job market.
IBM partners with thousands of universities to develop curriculum, internships, and hands-on learning experiences. It is a leader in creating a new workforce of professionals trained in Big Data with initiatives such as:
- IBM’s collaboration with Cleveland Clinic to provide Watson as a collaborative learning tool for medical students.
- IBM’s public-private partnership with the New York City Department of Education and the City University of New York, mentioned in President Obama’s recent state of the Union Address, to create the free Pathways in Technology Early College High School program (P-TECH), a six-year science and technology program that leads to an Associate degree in computer science and engineering.
The Watson Academic Case Competition kicked off with a crash course on Watson’s capabilities, including a demonstration of how Watson is helping Wellpoint Inc. and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center improve the speed and quality of treatment for cancer patients. Watson is unique in its combination of abilities to understand and process the subtleties of human questions, sift through vast amounts of data, and use sophisticated analytics to generate fast, accurate answers for human users. It also learns from its interactions, improving with each use.
As part of the competition, students were assigned to 24 teams and given 48 hours to define a new purpose for Watson, develop a new business plan, and present it to a panel of judges including school officials, IBM executives, and local business leaders including representatives from Bank of America and Ernst & Young. Students worked with peers from other disciplines, similar to how IBM combines the talents of business leaders and research scientists to develop its patented innovations.
Three winning ideas were selected:
- First Place: Legal research — Let Watson do the Discovery for Your Next Legal Case.
- Second Place: Employee Training — Watson Uncovers the Keys to Success for Your Employees.
- Third Place: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder — Watson Helps Doctors Find Patients.
The USC Competition, the third in a series hosted by IBM, is part of the company’s work with academia to expand interest among students in Science Technology Engineering and Math curriculums leading to high-impact, high-value careers.