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ETS Receives Nearly $3.25 Million for AI Research Institute to Advance STEM Learning Among Marginalized U.S. Students

Media contact: Alescia Dingle


PRINCETON, N.J. (May 4, 2023) — ETS announced today that it has been awarded nearly $3.25 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support the research and development of new AI technologies to advance the inclusion and growth of U.S. students who have been traditionally underrepresented in STEM. The grant is part of a larger, 5-year $20 million award received jointly by ETS, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (U. of I.), Temple University and the University of Florida to fund the development of the Inclusive and Intelligent Technologies for Education (INVITE) Institute that will be based at U. of I. and focus on supporting education for all students.

“I am proud that ETS is a recipient of this historic NSF grant along with four other renowned institutions that will support new discoveries in STEM learning to better serve students who are most in need of these learning opportunities,” said Kadriye Ercikan, Vice President for Research at ETS. “This funding will advance transformational research that holds the power of increasing students' interest, participation and engagement in STEM for the rest of their lives. Together, we will pave new pathways for U.S. students to gain the knowledge and skills they need to become future leaders in STEM.”

The project will be led by Dr. H. Chad Lane, Principal Investigator, U. of I.; Dr. Diego Zapata-Rivera, ETS Distinguished Presidential Appointee, will serve as Co-Principal Investigator and Research Co-Director; and Dr. ChengXiang Zhai of U. of I. will serve as Co-Principal Investigator. Dr. Kristy Boyer of University of Florida and Dr. Jamie Payton of Temple University will serve as Co-Principal Investigators. The INVITE Institute will seek to usher in a new generation of AI-augmented learning that is inclusive and adaptable to the needs of all learners, especially those who have been historically marginalized including students of color, those from low-income backgrounds and English-language learners. 

“I am excited that ETS will co-lead the INVITE Institute — we have an opportunity to explore the latest advances in foundational AI by taking a holistic look at a learner’s cognitive, inter- and intrapersonal skills,” said Zapata-Rivera. “This groundbreaking research has the potential to provide critical insights to enable educators to adapt learning to meet students where they are and empower learners with information that will support their growth and help them achieve their educational goals.” 

The INVITE Institute alliance includes more than 96,000 youth across 24 school districts who will be engaged in enhanced STEM learning using INVITE platforms designed to promote persistence, academic resilience and collaboration. Formal and informal learning opportunities which emphasize hands-on activities related to real-world challenges, will be provided through schools, universities, community organizations and museums. 

The research teams will collaborate to collect large-scale datasets from diverse student populations to create digital environments that are both welcoming and inclusive for underrepresented groups. The data will be leveraged to develop intelligent learning systems that will surpass current technologies by inferring an individual student’s needs and dynamically adjusting instruction to meet those needs. 

The INVITE Institute (NSF Award No. 2229612) is one of seven National AI Institutes funded in 2023. The collective support of the National AI Institutes represents the most significant federal investment in AI research and workforce development to date. More than $500 million has been invested to date by NSF and its funding partners which include the U.S. Department of Defense Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering; the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences; the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; the National Institute of Standards and Technology; the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture; and IBM®

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About ETS

At ETS, we advance quality and equity in education for people worldwide by creating assessments based on rigorous research. ETS serves individuals, educational institutions, and government agencies by providing customized solutions for teacher certification, English-language learning, and elementary, secondary, and postsecondary education, and by conducting education research, analysis, and policy studies. Founded as a nonprofit in 1947, ETS develops, administers and scores more than 50 million tests annually — including the TOEFL® and TOEIC® tests, the GRE® tests and The Praxis Series® assessments — in more than 180 countries, at over 9,000 locations worldwide.