Newswise — An Internet search engine developed specifically for use in schools by two University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) professors has received $35,000 from Alabama Launchpad, the largest award received in this round.
Complexity Engine was conceived by Dr. Philip Kovacs, an associate professor of education who is collaborating in its development with Dr. Ryan Weber, an assistant professor of English. Complexity Engine uses a sophisticated algorithm to search websites for content and delivers customized and age-appropriate reading materials to users.
“This means we’ll be ready to sell Version 1, hopefully within 90 days,” said Dr. Kovacs. “The Launchpad money is awesome, but the entire experience and the feedback we got from really successful industry leaders from throughout the state is what is really valuable. We just learned a lot in the past few months.”
Eight teams at Alabama Launchpad competed for a total of $100,000 in awards. The award matched the amount Dr. Kovacs and Dr. Weber had requested for further development. Complexity Engine previously received a $10,000 development grant from the UAH Charger Innovation Fund.
“Ryan and Philip did a great Launchpad presentation,” said Kannan Grant, director of UAH’s Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC). “It was a compelling case.”
Alabama Launchpad is a program of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama to promote, reward and increase the pipeline of high-growth, innovative ventures that have the potential to grow and thrive in the state.The professors have worked for four years developing Complexity Engine and worked closely with OTC on the financial elements for the Launchpad competition, Grant said. “We did the financial analysis, and based on their needs, we determined they needed about $35,000 to get to the stage where they could start deriving revenue,” Grant said. OTC also did marketing research on the demand for the product and a pricing model.
The search engine promises to give teachers, parents and students an efficient, affordable way to promote reading. Teachers and administrators can set parameters for the search results and the reading experience can be either student self-directed or guided by the teacher.
Complexity Engine is currently in testing with 500 gifted fifth and sixth grade students at a mid-sized regional school system. “What we’re developing is a way to get through the nonsense and junk online and get to the learning material,” Dr. Kovacs said in an interview conducted before the Launchpad award announcement.
There has been nationwide interest in Complexity Engine as a way to increase reading abilities in challenged students and help motivate intellectual development in gifted students, while saving schools money on textbooks, Grant said. “We have even gotten feedback from schools as far away as California who say they are interested in this product.”