UT Arlington, Microsoft Host AI “Prompt-a-Thon”

Researchers, faculty and educators gather to gain artificial intelligence expertise

Friday, May 31, 2024 • Katherine Egan Bennett : contact


Faculty, staff and researchers from higher education and K-12 schools throughout Texas gathered in Arlington for the state’s first “Prompt-a-Thon” hosted by Microsoft and UTA’s offices of Research and Innovation and Information Technology. Together, educators and researchers learned how to best use artificial intelligence (AI) tools to improve their work.

“This Prompt-a-Thon is a significant step toward promoting AI literacy across multiple universities and establishing UTA as a frontrunner for AI use in the state,” said Jeremy Forsberg, associate vice president of research and innovation at UTA. “It was a great opportunity for educators and researchers to learn, grow and apply AI skills in a collaborative setting.”

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The May 29 event featured experts, including Microsoft Education Chief Innovation Officer M.J. Jabbour, showcasing real-world examples of how faculty, staff and students can use AI tools to aid learning and improve research initiatives to solve critical problems. Attendees also participated in several breakout sessions where they worked together to refine approaches to achieving the best outputs from the AI tools in research, operational and instructional use.

“The Prompt-a-Thon was a unique platform bringing together academia and industry to explore the potential of generative AI,” said Lee Pierce, planning and management director in UTA’s Office of Information Technology. “It’s not just about understanding AI, but about harnessing its power to drive innovation and research.”

In addition to being the first to host a Microsoft “Prompt-a-Thon” in Texas, UTA is the first organization to create a certified AI “train the trainer” program, where faculty and staff are taught AI tools and empowered to act as trainers to other individuals, said Pierce. Called a “Tiger Team,” these UTA professionals are now equipped to help others embrace AI as a way to improve efficiency.

The Prompt-a-Thon is part of UTA’s broader commitment to embracing AI tools and moving the technology forward on campus and in the community. Guided by ethical, responsible research, analysis, and decision-making, UTA aims to strengthen the United States’ competitiveness in the global market by empowering Mavericks with the tools afforded by artificial intelligence.

The University is also making strides in machine learning research, a branch of AI. Recently, UTA researchers published a paper showcasing a new machine-learning technique that is 30% more effective at predicting survival from cancer. This new model will help health care teams better assess who will need additional treatments to be cured.

UTA researchers are also using machine learning to better predict the progression of symptoms in individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The aim of this tool will be to help individuals and their loved ones plan for future care as the disease advances.

“I’ve been impressed with the power of AI in research and administration,” said Forsberg. “It was great seeing so many of researchers and educations come together to learn and embrace these new tools.”