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Introducing NuruNet: Mark Nkugwa's whatsApp e-learning Bot revolutionizing education in Africa
Mark Nkugwa saw the disparity between students to teacher ratio in his community hence he built a chatbot that enables students at all levels access information and revision materials on WhatsApp!
Learning something new can be a frustrating experience. Whether you’re struggling to understand a difficult concept or find the motivation to keep going, learning outside the classroom can be a nerve wracking process.
Driven by his personal philosophy that -as an individual, you must be able to solve problems and you must be able to solve problems en masse-, his experience creating educational based apps and working as an assistant lecturer, he was well aware of the disparity between the number of students to available teachers. Mark Nkugwa was inspired to build Nuru bot–A whatsapp chat bot–to ease the process of learning. We sat down with him to discuss the bot and everything in between.
Using Nuru Bot
How can people access the bot?
Try it by opening WhatsApp and typing a message to +256 750839750.
Be sure to share your experience with @facesofalxse if you like it!
Take us through how the bot works
Step 1: Say hi!
You can actually type in anything but really you first have to say hi to it.
Step 2: Share more about you
The bot will ask you for your name and age.
This will help it tailor the complexity of its responses.
Once the bot has this information about you, it will go ahead and share more about itself and what it does
Step 3: Ask for assistance
Similar to how Chat GPT works, go ahead and ask it to:
Explain a difficult concept to you for example what are pointers?
Provide an analogy of what you are trying to understand eg: Can you give me an emoji to explain what pointers in C are?
Tell us more about the bot, which API are you using?
It’s currently on open AI. We are using DaVinci 031 for the text and currently in the process of converting to Chat GPT Turbo which would help us do more personalisation on how you want the bot to respond to you.
How did you decide to host the bot on Whatsapp?
To me it was a bit obvious because many of the biggest problems as software developers that we face when bringing a new product to board is the user interface. WhatsApp is already a familiar and popular platform amongst our target market as the majority use it on a daily basis.
How many active users do you have?
We have about 150 active users on a daily basis. We can view this on our Twilio account, because Twilio is the API which handles the WhatsApp API to help us to send the messages.
What features can we look forward to in the future?
Summarizing notes. We are working on having a feature where you can send the bot a PDF of your notes and it shares a summarized version
Translation. We understand that while English is the language used to teach in most schools, some of our users may not have great mastery of the language. We would like to have our African users type in their query in the language of their choice and get a response
His journey into AI and ALX
Mark is based in Uganda with a background in Chemical and Process Engineering from Kyambogo University. Before joining cohort 10 at ALX Mark took a large interest in computer programming which inspired him to take certifications in Web development and Java programming where he started mobile and web applications.
How did you get into AI?
I've actually been following AI since 2020, because the first artificial intelligence product that I developed was in 2021. It's still currently on the Google Play Store. It's called GS text extractor. You simply take a picture of let's say your notes on your handout, and it converts them to editable text, which you can add to turn to PDF like that. I have really seen the progressive improvement and when Chat GPT came out I thought it was a game changer.
You had a chance to attend the NVIDIA workshop, what was your experience like?
The experience was beautiful!
I would really like to thank Julien and the NVIDIA team for the opportunity, specifically for the workshop that I attended on the fundamentals of deep learning.
I liked the fact that he really went through the mathematics behind neurons up to neural networks, and took us through practical examples where we managed to build models. I am keen to see how the VDS technology would be applied in the future especially in fields such as agriculture.
What are some of the skills you think you have developed in ALX?
Number one–the ability to push yourself to learn things and not to have fear when you are approaching things you've never approached before.
Number two–this one is more technical. I think it also goes out to people who are self taught developers. Yeah, I'm not 100% self taught. I did watch some schools to learn some things. But my Android app development has largely been self taught.
Now for self taught in many cases there are things which you don't appreciate, such as API's. So by security, working a lot with Linux and with your Cmd on Windows or Mac, whichever operating system you use, and it's very easy to underestimate the importance of such things. But when you get into real projects, realize they're like almost the most important thing on earth. Pushing me to learn Linux a lot has been extremely important. So in terms of understanding packet systems in more detail, I would say that technical skill is so valuable and fundamental, and ALX really pushed me and it really helped me when developing.
What advice would you give someone who is just starting out in the ALX program?
Whenever you're approaching a project, break it down.
Break it down, like for example in the printf project. They gave us a list of macros that we had to use. Now I didn't respect the word macros, neither did I respect the function so much in how they work.
But if I broke them down and like further, there was the right function. If I broke it down and understood, okay, these are the inputs of the right function. This is how it works. This is what it means to do a custom print. If this is why it's important. I feel if I approached it that way, it would be far much easier and if you approach many things that way, throughout your project program and in life, it will be far better.
Secondly, the program is as serious as you take it. If you take the program lightly, it will be light that you may even leave early. If you take it seriously, you will reap the rewards of the seriousness that you've given that you've you know, passed on to it.
Last question, Team Vim or Emacs?
VIM! I don't know why, maybe it was my system but it was the quickest.
Be sure to join this twitter space on Tuesday 9th May 2023 at 4:00 PM (GMT) | 5:00 PM (WAT) | 7:00 PM (EAT) where we dive deeper into his story. You can also leave any questions you have on this link.
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