A team of student tech innovators from USIU-Africa in Kenya have won the 2023 Microsoft Imagine Cup World Championship competition after a final round judging of three finalists was completed during Microsoft Build last week.
The Imagine Cup is an annual technology innovation competition for students from around the world, where students can come together to push the boundaries of what’s possible and bring their ground-breaking solutions to a global stage. Over the past 21 years, more than two million students have signed up to build and learn together, make a difference in their communities, and innovate for impact.
This year’s competition witnessed an unprecedented level of ingenuity and creativity, as teams from diverse backgrounds and cultures set out to redefine the limits of technological innovation. The TAWI team – John Onsongo Mabeya, Muna Said, Syntiche Musawu Cishimbi, and Zakariya Hussein Hassan – met at a school hackathon, where they discovered they had common goals and complementary skills.
The TAWI team wanted to ensure that children with Auditory Processing Disorder (APD can seamlessly integrate with their peers and feel included. With expertise in software development, machine learning, data analysis, and human-computer interaction, members of the team worked to develop innovative solutions. By fostering collaboration, conducting research, and employing user-centric design, they have created impactful and inclusive software applications with a global reach.
Helping children with auditory processing difficulties
TAWI is a software app that helps children with APD improve their auditory skills. Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) is a hearing condition in which your brain has challenges processing sounds.
By leveraging real-time speech recognition technology, TAWI suppresses background noise, enhances speech quality, and converts speech-to-text, all tailored to each child’s specific needs. Users can connect the app to regular earphones, making the solution more affordable, accessible, and discreet than traditional hearing aids. They can also read the transcribed speech on their phone.
With just earphones and a smartphone and the use of AI for the speech to text and audio enhancement, the application will suppress ambient noise in loud environments so that the user can hear the speaker clearly and focus on what they are saying. Users will also be able to read along with speech-to-text, all occurring in real time. TAWI empowers children with APD to overcome communication barriers, confidently navigate the world and achieve their full potential. It provides a more affordable and practical alternative to traditional hearing aids, while also giving children with APD the tools they need to communicate effectively and confidently.
The app leverages GitHub CoPilot, Visual Studio IntelliCode, and speech recognition tools from Azure Cognitive Services and OpenAI Whisper and includes speech enhancement, speech-to-text conversion, and gamified auditory training exercises.
In addition to being crowned the 2023 Imagine Cup World Champions, the team has won a USD $100,000 cash prize, a mentorship session with Microsoft’s Chairman and CEO, Satya Nadella, and Level 2 access to Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub.
“We are so proud that the winning Imagine Cup team hails from Kenya. This is a wonderful achievement using Microsoft technology to deliver world-class solutions for local problems and is a testament to the incredible innovation and problem-solving skills our Kenyan students are delivering,” says Angela Ng’ang’a, Education Director, Microsoft Africa.