November 15, 2023

Black Mother-Daughter Duo Raises $1.4M For ChatGPT Alternative That Translates Literature Into AAVE

Tamar Huggins

Tech Spark AI has raised $1.4 million to create a new generative AI platform, Spark Plug, which aims to create a more inclusive, personalized educational experience for students.

The pre-seed funding round was led by TD Bank, with participation from Salesforce, Canada’s government, and NBA Canada.

An educational ChatGPT alternative

Tamar Huggins and her 13-year-old daughter Talia Grant founded the AI company eight years ago to improve the education experience of Black and brown students across North America.

Tech Spark is Canada’s first tech and design school committed to empowering young girls and children of color through innovative tech programming.

They specialize in creating, revising, and teaching inquiry-based, student-centered K-12 curricula through the lens of tech, entrepreneurship, and equity.

Tech Spark’s curriculum is designed and developed to be culturally relevant and responsive and teach with a mentorship-focused approach to build students’ social and emotional skills.

The company’s newest product, Spark Plug, aims to create a more personalized experience for its students.

According to TechCrunch, Spark Plug aims to be a Black-owned alternative to current AI search platforms, mainly ChatGPT.

It has partnered with educational institutions in the US and Canada, focusing on schools within underserved Black and brown communities.

Translating literature into AAVE 

The product’s first feature allows users to translate classic literature text into modern language, with Gen Z as its target audience.

The translation is from standard text to African American Vernacular English (AAVE), the dialect that originated in the Black American community and is now used broadly by Gen Zers online.

Huggins told TechCrunch that Spark Plug’s language model was trained by her daughter, a member of Gen Z, as well as authors from the Harlem Renaissance and activists from the Civil Rights Movement.

Although the focus is on students, the product is available for everyone to use as a web application.

“Historically, Black people haven’t always felt like they belonged, and as a result, we’ve had to create our own spaces. Technology is no different,” Huggins told TechCrunch.

“As long as we are including the voices of those systematically left out of the conversation, AI can take us in the right direction.”

In addition to its language translation, Huggins said Spark Plug has created an assessment tool called LearningDNA to help educators understand how students learn best.

The product also wants to expand how many dialects it can translate, especially since Black voices worldwide are very different.

“A Black child in Canada is very different from the U.S., and it’s very different in Haiti or Jamaica,” Huggins told TechCrunch.

“We believe to see the changes we want to see in our community, we have to redesign the learning experience, and in order to redesign it, we have to personalize it.”

Sara Keenan

Tech Reporter at POCIT. Following her master's degree in journalism, Sara cultivated a deep passion for writing and driving positive change for Black and Brown individuals across all areas of life. This passion expanded to include the experiences of Black and Brown people in tech thanks to her internship experience as an editorial assistant at a tech startup.