Black Mother-Daughter Duo Created ChatGPT AlternativeJan 15, 2024 02:00PM ● By Boitumelo Masihleho
After helping Black and female tech founders raise over 1.1 million dollars to launch their tech startups in Canada, Tamar Huggins realized the importance for young girls and children of color to see positive reflections of themselves within the tech industry. Tech Spark is Canada’s first tech and design school committed to empowering children of color, girls, women, and teachers through innovative education. They specialize in creating, revising, and teaching inquiry-based, student-centered K-12 curricula through the lens of tech, entrepreneurship, and equity. The company’s newest product, Spark Plug, aims to create a more personalized experience for its students.
As a result of her endeavors, Huggins was named the Harry Jerome Young Entrepreneur and honored as one of 100 Black Women to Watch in 2015. In 2017, Tamar was honored as one of Canada's top 150 Black women creating an impact across the nation by CBC and Herstory In Black. n 2017, Huggins released her first book, Bossed Up: 100 Truths to Becoming Your Own Boss, God's Way! Huggins and her 13-year-old daughter Talia Grant created a new generative AI platform called Spark Plug.
It seeks to be a Black-owned alternative to current AI search platforms, mainly ChatGPT. Spark Plug has partnered with educational institutions in the U.S. and Canada, with a particular focus on schools within underserved Black and Brown communities. The Spark Plug voice is modeled after the founder’s daughter to relate to young users, but also with the help of authors from the Harlem Renaissance and activists from the Civil Rights Movement.
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The mother and daughter also want people who do not identify as students to be able to use Spark Plug. For example, the platform’s LearningDNA tool can help teachers understand how students learn best. “As long as we are including the voices of those systematically left out of the conversation, AI can take us in the right direction,” said Huggins in a new release.
Fundraising was challenging, though. Huggins came up with the idea in 2019 and started developing the product while she was pregnant with her youngest child in 2020. After the murder of George Floyd, many investors said they were interested in backing more Black founders, including those in the ed-tech space, though Huggins, like many Black founders, found most of these promises fruitless. Things changed, however, after Spark Plug received an investment from TD Bank late last year.
The product’s first iteration allows users to translate classic literature text into modern language, with Gen Z as its target audience. More specifically, the text translation is from standard text to African AmeThe product’s first iteration allows users to translate classic literature text into modern language, with Gen Z as its target audience. More specifically, the text translation is from standard text to African American Vernacular English (AAVE), a dialect that originated in the Black American community and is now used broadly by Gen Zers on the internet. ity and is now used broadly by Gen Zers on the internet.
“Spark Plug stands tall on the shoulders of giants,” said Huggins. “It is important for us to build a technological product that stands on the foundation of the ancestors, who reflect the communities that are often intentionally left out of the design process, and to create a voice using the vessel of their descendant.”
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Boitumelo Masihleho is a South African digital content creator. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Rhodes University in Journalism and Media Studies and Politics and International Studies.
She's an experienced multimedia journalist who is committed to writing balanced, informative and interesting stories on a number of topics. Boitumelo has her own YouTube channel where she shares her love for affordable beauty and lifestyle content.
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