AT&T Donates Netflix Prize Money to Advance Science, Youth Organizations
Prize-Winning AT&T Labs Researchers Aim to Promote Innovation, Education by Selecting Four Community Organizations to Share in Prize Winnings
Florham Park, New Jersey, November 5, 2009
In an effort to support educational programs that advance science and foster growth for the innovators of tomorrow, AT&T* today announced plans to donate AT&T’s share of the recently awarded Netflix Prize to four organizations selected by prize-winning researchers Chris Volinsky and Robert Bell.
Volinsky and Bell, who led a global collaboration of researchers to win the high-profile Netflix Prize research contest in September, plan to work directly with each of the four recipient organizations to help identify specific programs to maximize the value and impact of the donations. The donations extend a long history of volunteer activity and support from AT&T Labs researchers to programs that advance science and education.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for us to ‘pay it forward’ and help support the innovators of tomorrow,” said Chris Volinsky, executive director, AT&T Labs-Research. “Our participation in the Netflix Prize contest was driven by the desire to advance the science behind recommender systems. We are very happy that we were able to meet our scientific goals, and that we’ll also be able to support science and technology programs with AT&T’s share of the prize money.”
The donations will be allocated to the following organizations:
- Young Science Achievers Program (YSAP), which provides high school students in New Jersey and New York with resources, technical support and mentoring to help students succeed in pursuing their scientific curiosity. YSAP offers grants for the purchase of equipment and materials for high school research projects and helps to facilitate mentoring from professional scientists who work in tandem with high school science teachers. This program started in Bell Labs more than 20 years ago and has passionate support from current AT&T Labs Research employees.
- New Jersey Institute of Technology Pre-College and Educational Opportunity Programs, which increase access to scientific and technological education and mentoring among traditionally underrepresented populations and work to improve the teaching of science and mathematics in secondary and elementary schools
- The North Jersey Regional Science Fair, a high school student science competition in which students, individually or in groups, present a wide variety of math, science and engineering projects.
- Neighborhoods Focused on African-American Youth, an Atlanta-based organization focused on positively changing the outcome of African-American youth in Georgia, providing long-term, free, accessible support for the youth of its neighborhood, including after-school programs, neighborhood youth projects and training for community leaders.
The $1 million Netflix Prize award was divided between AT&T and three other research groups who collaborated to develop the winning submission. While the groups have agreed not to disclose specifics of how the award was divided, AT&T’s entire share will be donated to the four charitable organizations, with each receiving at least $50,000.
“AT&T’s long heritage of innovation is matched by a strong commitment to education, including the AT&T Aspire program, which provides grants, job-shadow programs and other activities to promote continuing education for high school students,” said David Belanger, vice president and Chief Scientist at AT&T Labs. “We’re excited that the Netflix Prize research provided us the opportunity to advance both of these key AT&T priorities, and we look forward to helping these worthy organizations in advancing interest in science and continuing education.”
Bell and Volinsky’s participation in the Netflix Prize competition is one of the most recent examples of the continuing innovation being driven at AT&T Labs. Building on a heritage that has produced eight Nobel Prizes, AT&T Labs today plays a leading role in the research that drives new communications capabilities, data management advances and emerging fields like the recommender systems that were the focus of the Netflix Prize contest.
The $1 million Netflix Prize, a high-profile research contest that included more than 40,000 participants from 186 countries, was awarded in September to Volinsky, Bell and other members of the winning coalition. It was launched in 2006 to reward the team that could achieve a 10 percent improvement over the accuracy of the Netflix movie recommendation system at that time. The largest such data set ever released – 100 million anonymous movie ratings ranging from one to five stars – was made available to contestants. All personal information identifying individual Netflix customers was removed from the prize data, which contained only movie titles, star ratings and dates but no text reviews. Netflix members already are benefitting from improvements Netflix Prize contestants have contributed to the recommendations system.
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