MU Student Team Advances to World Finals

March 21, 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.

A team of graduate students in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science has advanced to the world finals in Microsoft’s 2020 Imagine Cup.

Mizzou Engineering students Caleb Heinzman, Kolton Speer and Imad Toubal, along with Ashlyn O’Hara, a senior majoring in data journalism, developed the website, which uses artificial intelligence to predict if a video is real or fake. Their entry won the top prize at the Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) Student Innovation Competition in February, allowing them to advance to the Imagine Cup Regional Finals. The MU team (O’Hara is no longer an active member of the team but occasionally collaborates with them) was selected as one of two U.S. finalists and will now compete in the World Finals against ten other teams for a grand prize of $100,000 and a 30-minute mentoring session with the CEO of Microsoft.

“Winning the RJI competition has given us the chance to try to turn this project into a business, so we have actively been working on that for the past couple of months,” Heinzman said.

He said the team traveled to the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting (NICAR), a data journalism conference, where they talked to investigative reporters and learned about the field of journalism. Heinzman said the team wants to talk to more journalists to get a true understanding of the problem of “deep fake” videos and to feel comfortable their target customers will be journalists and news organizations.

“All of our winnings from this competition are going to Deeptector to help turn it into a business,” Heinzman said. “We will be filing for an LLC and we will be working with Mizzou’s legal clinic to learn more about this process.”

You can follow the journeys of the world finalists on Instagram and Twitter as they prepare for the 2020 World Championship.