Build-a-Bot: Teaching Conversational AI Using a Transformer-Based Intent Recognition and Question Answering Architecture


  • Kate Pearce Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Sharifa Alghowinem MIT Media Lab
  • Cynthia Breazeal MIT Media Lab



Natural Language Processing, Chatbot, Transformers, Ai Education, Intent Recognition, Question Answering


As artificial intelligence (AI) becomes a prominent part of modern life, AI literacy is becoming important for all citizens, not just those in technology careers. Previous research in AI education materials has largely focused on the introduction of terminology as well as AI use cases and ethics, but few allow students to learn by creating their own machine learning models. Therefore, there is a need for enriching AI educational tools with more adaptable and flexible platforms for interested educators with any level of technical experience to utilize within their teaching material. As such, we propose the development of an open-source tool (Build-A-Bot) for students and teachers to not only create their own transformer-based chatbots based on their own course material but also learn the fundamentals of AI through the model creation process. The primary concern of this paper is the creation of an interface for students to learn the principles of artificial intelligence by using a natural language pipeline to train a customized model to answer questions based on their own school curriculums. The model uses contexts given by their instructor, such as chapters of a textbook, to answer questions and is deployed on an interactive chatbot/voice agent. The pipeline teaches students data collection, data augmentation, intent recognition, and question answering by having them work through each of these processes while creating their AI agent, diverging from previous chatbot work where students and teachers use the bots as black-boxes with no abilities for customization or the bots lack AI capabilities, with the majority of dialogue scripts being rule-based. In addition, our tool is designed to make each step of this pipeline intuitive for students at a middle-school level. Further work primarily lies in providing our tool to schools and seeking student and teacher evaluations.




How to Cite

Pearce, K., Alghowinem, S., & Breazeal, C. (2023). Build-a-Bot: Teaching Conversational AI Using a Transformer-Based Intent Recognition and Question Answering Architecture. Proceedings of the AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, 37(13), 16025-16032.



EAAI Symposium: Resources for Teaching AI in K-12