Banner image for the National AI Institute for Exceptional Education with robot logo.

2023 | Read all About Our Inaugural Year

Transforming Education for Children with Speech and Language Processing Challenges

Explore our institute’s research, outreach program, and broader impact toward advancements in the fields of education and artificial intelligence. Learn about our interdisciplinary venture to transform education for children with speech and language processing challenges, and beyond.

2023 Year in Review: Noteworthy Events

Photgraph of Srirangaraj Setlur, Jinjun Xiong, Venu Govindaraju, and Letitia Thomas standing in the Davis Hall atrium at the University at Buffalo.

$20 million NSF Award to Establish AI Institute for Exceptional Education

Our institute reflects the collaborative work of researchers in both Artificial Intelligence and Speech-Language Pathology from 9 university partners. We are developing advanced AI technologies for universal early screening and intervention for children with speech and language related learning disorders.

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AI Institute leadership standing together wearing matching blue shirts.

Kickoff Retreat a Resounding Success

More than 60 faculty, staff, students, and external partners converged for UB's kickoff retreat. This 3-day hybrid event hosted presentations centered on speech-language pathology, behavioral analysis, and artificial intelligence. Faculty presented work plans on specialized areas of the project and engaged in group discussions. 

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AI Institute faculty and students standing in front of colorful digital displays showing AI messaging.

Photographer: Douglas Levere

Summer Programs for Young Students

We hosted summer programs for K-12 students from diverse backgrounds.  Sessions were designed to excite students about STEM, and to provide career paths. Activities included hands-on demonstrations of biometrics and robotics technology and presentations by institute leadership.

Learn more about our partners:  BEAM (Buffalo Engineering Awareness for Minorities), UB Cybersecurity Summer Camp, STEP (Science and Technology Entry Program), LSAMP (Louis Stokes Alliance of Minority Participation), REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates), and (Liberty Partnerships Program).

ES Director Mark Schneider and UB professors and NSF faculty Jinjun Xiong, Srirangaraj Setlur.

Pictured: IES Director, Mark Schneider (center) with UB faculty members and institute leaders Jinjun Xiong (left) and Srirangaraj (Ranga) Setlur (right)

ED Games Expo and IES Innovation Day

The ED Games Expo, an annual public showcase of game-changing education technology in Washington, DC, welcomed more than 1,000 students and 400 adults. Institute of Education (IES) Innovation Day sessions focused on investments in transformative education research.

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NSF Institute members and government leaders standing behind a table draped with the NSF logo.

NSF Hill Day and Congressional Show

Capitol Hill welcomed the 25 NSF-supported Artificial Intelligence Institutes to showcase their research, vision, and accomplishments to members of Congress including UB’s Venu Govindaraju and Jinjun Xiong. They discussed the potential of AI within the classroom and how it can assist children with speech and language challenges with government leaders.

Read more about the national AI Institutes in the AI Institutes Hill Day Booklet.

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People viewing a technology demonstation at an AI Institute display table.

UB AI Chat Series

We launched a two-year panel series for discussions on responsible use of artificial intelligence and its potential benefits across disciplines and multiple industry applications. UB President Satish Tripathi and SUNY Chancellor John B. King Jr. helped kick off the first event, “Harnessing AI for Public Good.”

Read more:  Chat 1 Chat 2 Chat 3

News coverage of the second event by WKBW including a video of the broadcast can be seen here.

For more information and upcoming events, visit the landing page for the UB | AI Chat Series.

News clipping of children watching a robot dog.

Libby March photos, Buffalo News

Making News: Front Page Feature

Buffalo News higher education reporter Janet Gramza spoke with our leadership about how researchers plan to drive AI tools for early screening and intervention of speech-language processing challenges. Read her front page story here.

AI Institute faculty standing at their information booth at the ASHA convention.

Pictured (left to right): EAB Member, Megan-Brette Hamilton with UB faculty members Alison Hendricks, Jinjun Xiong, and Srirangaraj (Ranga) Setlur

ASHA Convention

We hosted a nonprofit booth at the 2023 ASHA Convention in Boston, Massachusetts as a non-profit booth in November. Our participation featured demonstrations, poster sessions, and talks by many of our faculty members. The convention was an excellent opportunity to engage with a national audience of speech-language pathologists and stakeholders.

Visit our Exhibitor Profile.

2023 Faculty Highlights | Our Inaugural Year

Julie Kientz on a video call in her office at the University of Washington.

Julie Kientz, Co-PI Speaks to NAIAC

Julie Kientz, Professor and Chair of the Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering, University of Washington, and a Co-PI for AI4ExceptionalEd, was invited to address the National Artificial Intelligence Advisory Committee (NAIAC). In her talk, she emphasized responsibility toward ethical human-centered design for artificial intelligence systems, especially those intended for educational purposes.

Watch the full recording of the virtual meeting. 

Placard displaying the text Sentence Diversity Priming Task Windi C. Krok, Pamela A. Hadley.

Pamela Hadley and Windi Krok’s SDPT

Institute faculty members Pamela Hadley and Windi Krok designed and released a virtual tool for assessing sentence diversity in young children. The SDPT is a structured elicitation task in the form of an interactive picture book and includes materials for administering it. Available for anyone to use online, this tool will be used to obtain language samples and measure children’s progress for research.

Feature Publications

Website screen capture with headline 'Researchers Partner on AI to Free Up SLPs for Direct Services'.

ASHA LeaderLive

Co-Director and Scientific Director of AI4ExceptionalEd, Jinjun Xiong, and institute Co-PI Pamela Hadley published an article in the September/October 2023 issue of the ASHA LeaderLive. The article highlighted our institute’s mission as part of a feature package on AI application in communication sciences and disorders.

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Children raising their hands in a classroom.

Children with DLD will Benefit from New IDEA Guidance

Major changes in criteria defining developmental language disorders (DLD) under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) will more accurately evaluate children’s speech and language needs.  Researchers from AI4ExceptionalEd released this paper in support of the new changes that will facilitate its research goals.

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Illustration of AI Screener robot interacting with children and teacher.

Survey for Design Activities

This survey, spearheaded by institute researchers at University at Washington, is seeking participants to help inform the design of solutions to enhance the reach of speech and language pathologists through artificial intelligence technologies. The study is primarily recruiting SLPs, early education or elementary school teachers, parents of children with speech/language difficulties, and adults who had speech/language difficulties as a child.

More information is available here

What's Up Next

Office space under construction.

New Headquarters at University at Buffalo

A 3000 square-foot space to serve as the home for AI4ExceptionalEd research and operations is currently under construction. It is centrally located on UB’s North Campus near Lockwood Library, the Institute for Artificial Intelligence and Data Science, and the Level Up ESports arena. It will feature a showcase area for reception and special events, meeting spaces, offices, and a sandbox-style research observation lab configured as a “Classroom of the Future.”

Infographic for AI Education Learning Community Series.

AI + Education Community Learning Series

The 2024 Learning Community series is a collaborative effort among numerous UB centers and institutes focused on various aspect of artificial intelligence. Educators, practitioners, and AI experts from diverse organizations will conduct discussions exploring the future of AI in educational settings and address ethical implications. Learn more and register for upcoming sessions.


Achieving Joy and Mastery in Public Schools: “UB’s new National Artificial Intelligence Institute for Exceptional Education”

UB Driven to Discover: “AI for Social Good with Jinjun Xiong”

  • Discussion about holistic and cross-disciplinary design of AI for the betterment of society, including education and sustainability
  • Biographical interview with institute Co-Director & Scientific Director – how his career path has driven the vision for AI4ExceptionalEd, and various AI applications at University at Buffalo

Tigerhall: “AI and Nonverbal Communication”