Computer Science team in Imagine Cup World Championship

May 19, 2020

Caleb Heinzman, Imad Toubal and Kolton Speer

Mizzou Engineering graduate students Caleb Heinzman, Imad Toubal and Kolton Speer competed in the world finals of the 2020 Microsoft Imagine Cup.

Thousands of teams from more than 100 countries across the globe competed for a spot in Microsoft’s 2020 Imagine Cup World Championship.

In the end, a Mizzou Engineering team was among the final six standing.

Computer Science doctoral students Caleb Heinzman and Kolton Speer and master’s student Imad Toubal participated in the global competition, held virtually May 19. Imagine Cup challenges students to come up with innovative ideas to solve critical challenges.

The Mizzou team developed Deeptector is a website that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to predict whether a video is altered. They were one of two U.S. teams to win at the Americas Regional Final in March.

Ye Duan Portrait

Ye Duan

“This is big,” said Ye Duan, associate professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the students’ academic adviser. “I think this puts EECS at Mizzou on the world map. Microsoft is a big player, and this shows we are doing top-notch research.”

Team Deeptector’s journey to the Image Cup World Championship began in February when the team took first at the Reynold Journalism Institute’s annual Student Innovation Competition. was one of several platforms presented that aimed to help consumers detect fabricated news. uses AI to fight AI. According to the company website, it relies on the power of the same AI methods that generate state-of-the-art DeepFakes. The application has an accuracy rate of more than 90%, the site says.

“This is a huge problem in the field of artificial intelligence, which is why we thought we would be a perfect team for fighting it,” Heinzman said after the RJI win. “We began by doing research on how deepfakes are created, and then began designing our own algorithm based on this information.”

The Imagine Cup World Championship

During the Imagine Cup World Championship, the team competed against groups using technology to mostly solve health issues. Hollo, a team from Hong Kong, took first place. They developed an app focused on mental health—a particularly relevant topic in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hollo team members said during their pitch.

Judges included Microsoft President Brad Smith and Dwana Franklin-Davis, CEO of the Reboot Representation Tech Coalition.

“Congratulations to all of you for making it this far in the competition,” Franklin-Davis said during opening remarks. “All of the efforts you’ve worked on so far are going to make such a difference.” team members plan to continue working on the application, Duan said.

“It’s been a lot of hard work involving AI, algorithms and data application,” he said. “I feel very proud of them and happy for them, and I don’t think they will stop here.”