When Erika Hairston and Arnelle Ansong came up with the idea for Edlyft, the duo set out to be a conduit for more Black students who aspire to become engineers — just as they once were.

As previously reported by AFROTECH, Edlyft, created in 2019, started as a way to provide students access to group tutoring and study groups in order to excel in computer science courses. Now, it has a new announcement that will help the startup scale the number of students it can reach.

On Jan. 29, Edlyft announced that Edlyft AI Tutor, its generative AI platform, has been leveraged by Google, according to information shared with AFROTECH. The news comes after Edlyft first partnered with the tech giant in 2022 for Google Tech Exchange. This semester-long academic program teaches applied data structures (ADS) to students at select Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs).

Across the two years of partnership, Edlyft gathered dozens of hours of video data from tutoring sessions, pouring it into the Edlyft AI Tutor. The platform allows students to not only have helpful knowledge at their fingertips but also have “that relatable human touch,” Hairston described.

“Historically, Edlyft impacted students in the Google Tech Exchange program by pairing them with an empathetic peer mentor who has aced the course content before. While a fantastic resource, a peer mentor’s time is a constraint that limits how many and how often students can be supported,” she explained to AFROTECH.

She continued, “From our perspective, in Google’s hands, the Edlyft AI Tutor will support a growing number of talented future engineers as Google scales its programs. Our hope is that every student feels seen when they watch videos of peer tutors who look like them and who’ve been in their shoes explaining complex concepts and answering their questions.”

Students can utilize the tool by typing their questions into a chat box. The AI program will then provide an answer and video snippets from the Edlyft AI Tutor. The mission behind the platform is to aid in making computer science support more accessible, as Edlyft’s blog post details.

“In Tech Exchange, CS basics meet cutting-edge tech to equip students with the skills they need to navigate the ever-evolving tech landscape,” Google’s education equity team leader, Jess Hill, said in the announcement. “Our partnership with Edlyft has already amplified learning outcomes, and we’re thrilled to unlock even deeper impact through their AI-powered platform, which will amplify effective support and ignite every student to thrive.”

Similar to the computer science field, a small percentage of Black people are pursuing AI-focused roles. The lack of numbers could tie into apprehension regarding the popular tool in the Black community. Hairston hopes Edlyft AI Tutor will be an example of how AI can make learning easier. In addition, Edlyft’s platform could further spark Black and brown students’ interest in the overall technology and provide a positive experience.

“AI can be likened to the evolution of the calculator,” Hairston said. “Initially, calculators might have been met with skepticism and mistrust, yet they eventually became indispensable everyday tools. That’s what we see for AI – it’s a tool that’s becoming essential, especially in the workforce.”

She added, “Our hope for Edlyft’s AI tool is that it integrates seamlessly into the daily routines of students to augment their learning. Our collaboration with Google’s Tech Exchange program, which selects students from HBCUs and HSIs, is particularly exciting because many Black and brown students will benefit from Edlyft’s AI tutor. By using the platform, students won’t just boost their computer science skills but also build their proficiency using AI. This hands-on AI experience might encourage students to create their own AI solutions, learn prompt engineering, and inspire them to become the next generation of innovators.”

Hairston further explained, “Younger generations often lead in adopting new technologies. By familiarizing Black and Brown students with AI, we hope they’ll spread the word and skills back home. This way, AI not only becomes a familiar face in more Black and Brown households but also in interests students are cultivating at earlier ages.”