Grading the Future
Checking in with AutoGradr, Incubator Competition Winners of Startup Day 2015
January 26, 2016
Entrepreneurs solve problems. Nishtha Dalal and Tushar Soni created AutoGradr to make completing and grading computer programming assignments more efficient for students and professors. While working as a TA in the Computer Science department, Tushar realized the grading process on computer programming assignments was unorganized and sometimes unreflective of the student's ability. Many of the homework assignments would not run correctly, partially because of the mistakes students make while learning. Tushar believed that a central, systemized computer program could grade these assignments quicker and streamline the process for both student and professor. He puts it simply, "A computer should be grading a computer program." While some grading programs like this exist, they differ from college to college. AutoGradr offers one standard solution.
Presented with this challenge, Tushar and Nishtha began AutoGradr as an independent project. After hearing about Startup Day, they realized the competition would be a good chance to complete a formal business plan and receive professional feedback on their idea. And upon being accepted, that is all Tushar and Nishtha had - an idea - no prototypes or demonstrated success. With this idea, AutoGradr managed to win the business incubator competition. They believe their revenue model was a large differentiator from the competition. "We focused on how to make money. Some other projects had more of a question mark on them." Nishtha explains that AutoGradr could use the existing business model that companies like Pearson use with MyStatLab or MyMathLab, guaranteeing revenue if the service is used.
Currently, Tushar and Nishtha, along with a team of other students, work on AutoGradr as their senior design project, with plans to launch and grow the concrete business after graduation. Their team of developers in tow, Tushar and Nishtha believe firmly in AutoGradr's capability. Their unwavering confidence is infectious - and it needs to be. As international students, their future work visas depend on AutoGradr's success and scale. The company needs to grow large enough to qualify for visa sponsorship; a problem they would not face if they had accepted job offers from large, established companies instead of creating their own business. Tushar and Nistha exemplify the entrepreneur that believes absolutely in their product and understands that failure is not an option.
Tushar, Nishtha, and their team continue to work diligently on AutoGradr, waiting to set up shop in the new Baiada Institute when it is finished construction. Once AutoGradr is built and functional, they will pilot the program in Drexel classrooms, gather feedback from professors, and fine tune as needed. Their path uncertain and their confidence unadulterated, Tushar and Nishtha know what the future of grading looks like, they just need to finish building it.
Christian Larsen, Communications, Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship