Computing students win the Most Innovative Use of Modern Tech prize for chatbot to help and guide new students

The Kent Bot Team

Congratulations to School of Computing students Costi Flavius Lacatusu, Yacoub AlKaradsheh, Iftekharul Islam, and Stylianos Gavriel, who won the Most Innovative Use of Modern Tech prize, chosen by Katy Parsons and Mark Terry of Holiday Extras, at this year’s Computing Poster Fair.

The project, Hello World! My name is EverythingIsAwesome Bot and I am here to help was produced by the team as part of the COMP6000 Group Project module, and was supervised by Dr Jason R. C. Nurse.

Costi, Yacoub, Iftekharul and Stylianos have developed a chatbot that can help and guide new students as they traverse around campus. The goal of the chatbot is to support students as they go around the university and guide activities such as finding lecturer office locations, on-campus restaurant menus, bus schedules and city club events. The chatbot would also carry out minor tasks and has features that can entertain the students using it. Building on the original plan, the team expanded and broadened the bot’s use of the information on Canterbury, allowing for more people to use and interact with it, and accommodated a wider range of users by offering some accessibility features such as voice input and output.

The resulting chatbot is able to converse and provide users with information when requested, which it acquires from a remotely hosted database. Using the Natural Language Processing library in node.js the team managed to make the bot understand certain sentences and questions by assigning them with specific, programmable intents. By giving the chatbot a set of preset questions and terms, the bot is then able to learn and understand specific questions depending on key words. Intent assignment for each user input is based on identifying key words and using a probability-based approach to relate the input to one of the pre-set intents. If user input is not recognised, this is displayed to the user along with alternative input suggestions.

The team says: ‘We hope that KentBot (everything is awesome bot) will be used and be found helpful by many new coming students at Kent. We feel euphoric as a group to have our work be recognized as Most Innovative Use of Modern Tech prize. Winning the prize has brought back confidence in our work we never knew we lost’.

Congratulations again to the team and thank you to Katy Parsons and Mark Terry of Holiday Extras!

KentBot poster
The team’s winning project poster