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Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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Senator Chuck Schumer celebrates federal AI funding for UB with campus visit

The $20 million NSF grant will fund research on speech and language processing challenges in children

<p>Federal and university officials cut the ribbon on UB’s National AI Institute for Exceptional Education on Tuesday. &nbsp;</p>

Federal and university officials cut the ribbon on UB’s National AI Institute for Exceptional Education on Tuesday.  

Senator Chuck Schumer and National Science Foundation (NSF) Director Sethuraman Panchanathan celebrated a $20 million grant for an AI research institute at UB with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Baldy Hall Tuesday. 

The grant — originally announced in January 2023 — funds UB’s National AI Institute for Exceptional Education, which is tasked with creating AI systems capable of screening school-aged children for speech and language disabilities within the next five years. UB President Satish Tripathi said during his remarks that the research would help address the nationwide shortage of speech-language pathologists. 

“Impactful interventions developed here will prevent young learners from falling behind at a formative stage in their education. These breakthroughs will build children’s self esteem, enhance their academic performance and set them up for future success,” Tripathi said. “I consider this work nothing less than noble.”

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Senator Chuck Schumer put solar eclipse glasses on the "head" of UB's robot dog, "Spark."

UB is one of 25 universities nationwide to receive federal funding for an AI institute. Schumer said that investment would allow Western New Yorkers to “be the ones guiding innovation of AI.”

“Buffalo and its amazing workers are the ones who built America. And right now we have a golden opportunity to breathe new life into that legacy, to make sure Buffalo is once again the center of building our future, and to make sure that AI’s future is built in places like Buffalo, not Beijing.”  

At the start of the ceremony, Schumer walked to the lectern alongside “Spark,” UB’s AI-powered robot dog. The senator commanded the dog to sit and stand up, suggested he might take the dog home and put solar eclipse glasses on Spark’s “head.” 

“Alright, Spark, walk over to these nice people — don’t bite them,” Schumer said, eliciting laughter from the crowd. 

UB could receive an even larger infusion of funding for AI research from New York State. Gov. Kathy Hochul selected UB as the “home” for a proposed “Empire AI” research consortium in February and is now recommending that the state give the consortium $275 million. The state legislature would have to approve that funding in its 2024 budget. Negotiations are ongoing in Albany. 

Sol Hauser contributed reporting to this article. 

Grant Ashley is the editor in chief and can be reached at grant.ashley@ubspectrum.com 


GRANT ASHLEY
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Grant Ashley is the editor in chief of The Spectrum. He's also reported for NPR, WBFO, WIVB and The Buffalo News. He enjoys taking long bike rides, baking with his parents’ ingredients and recreating Bob Ross paintings in crayon. He can be found on the platform formerly known as Twitter at @Grantrashley. 

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