Ashwin Chembu and Gautham Pandian indoors working on a laptop
Ashwin Chembu, front, and Gautham Pandian work on code for Tallyrus. Tallyrus is a natural language processing app that promises to make it easier and quicker for students to receive writing feedback from teachers. (Steven Trinh/UC Davis)

Undergrad Combines Engineering, Entrepreneurship to Advance Education

For Gautham Pandian, a computer science and engineering junior in the College of Engineering at the University of California, Davis, engineering is about education and using technology to solve problems.

Guatham Panadian
(Courtesy of Guatham Panadian)

"The stories of innovators who used technology to create solutions and shape the future sparked my interest in engineering," said Pandian. "Engineering, to me, represents a discipline where creativity meets practicality, offering a path to directly impact society through innovation." 

A long-term engineering project that Pandian is most proud of is Tallyrus, a web application that uses artificial intelligence to analyze and grade student papers. He co-founded the app and startup about a year ago with fellow UC Davis student Ashwin Chembu. 

Pandian experienced the tediousness of grading first-hand while working as a tutor for over six years, where he often encountered challenges in grading which delayed the feedback students received. Recognizing the issue, Pandian decided to use his knowledge of software development to design a solution. 

The web-based app utilizes natural language processing to analyze student essays, offering swift, detailed and consistent feedback for educators to use in their review process. Pandian hopes this modernization of grading proves to be an efficient and effective answer to this tedious necessity of teaching.  

"Providing in-depth analysis and feedback quickly is challenging for teachers due to the sheer volume of papers they must handle," Pandian said. "We designed Tallyrus for students to receive comprehensive feedback [from their teachers] as quickly as possible, allowing students to learn and improve without this typical delay." 

The team is steadily advancing the platform. Pandian's team took first place in the 2024 Student Creativity Empowerment and Entrepreneurship Slug Tank, a pitch competition at UC Santa Cruz. Tallyrus also recently took first place in the student division of the 2024 Startup Challenge Monterey Bay, a program by the CSU Monterey Bay College of Business. 

Right now, the team is refining the Tallyrus platform's understanding of nuance and context and its adaptability to different writing subjects and grading rubrics. 

Pandian believes that the atmosphere of innovation at UC Davis will help him strengthen his skills and develop Tallyrus further. 

For Pandian, a major draw to UC Davis and the College of Engineering was the Student Startup Center, which provides resources for students developing products and businesses. Uniting entrepreneurship and engineering, the center allows Pandian to become involved in a community dedicated to innovation and supporting students. 

"The opportunity to immerse myself in an environment that encourages taking academic learning beyond the classroom and applying it to real-world entrepreneurial ventures was exactly what I was looking for," Pandian said. 

He currently participates in PLASMA, a 12-week accelerator program at the Student Startup Center that offers students educational and networking opportunities with mentors, industry leaders and other entrepreneurs. 

Pandian is also part of the UC Davis branch of the AI Student Collective, a student organization focused on education about artificial intelligence. In the collective's education center, he teaches high school students about AI and its practical applications.  

Off campus, he interns at IBM as a backend software developer where he is able to apply his technical skills to solve practical engineering issues.   

Through his endeavors in engineering and entrepreneurship, helping people learn and solve problems motivates Pandian to continue innovating. 

"Seeing our projects work in the real world is the kind of impact that makes all the hard work worth it." 

Learn more about Tallyrus

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