NDSU faculty develops artificial intelligence technology to predict onset of diabetes

The project is a collaboration between six universities and several private-sector partners in North Dakota, Alabama and Arkansas.

NDSU faculty
Students and faculty work on a breath test to detect blood sugar levels for diabetics at North Dakota State University.
Image: Justin Eiler, courtesy of NDSU
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FARGO, N.D. • Danling Wang, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, Jen Li, professor of computer science, and Kristine Steffen, professor of pharmaceutical sciences – all instructors at North Dakota State University – have been awarded more than $1.4 million from the National Science Foundation to develop cutting-edge health care technology using artificial intelligence and to improve the area’s workforce.

The school made the announcement in a news release on Tuesday, Aug. 30.

According to the release, the project is a collaboration between six universities and several private-sector partners in North Dakota, Alabama and Arkansas. The team’s goal is to integrate research expertise from several areas including sensor development, nanotechnology, 3-D printing and Edge AI to build a smart, wearable device to predict the onset of diabetes by monitoring a patient's own breath without the need for a doctor to interpret the results.

“This project will enable a transformational advancement in the capabilities of AI in edge devices by developing new algorithms, hardware, sensors and devices,” Wang said in a statement. “Multiple patents and intellectual property are expected from this effort and our team will work with existing industry partners or spin-off small businesses for commercialization.”

It also will provide hands-on opportunities for NDSU students, according to the school, allowing them to apply the knowledge they learn in the classroom to scientific research solving a real-world problem, and creating an education-to-workforce pipeline that can fuel North Dakota’s economy.


“Local companies such as Sanford and John Deere have shown their support for this project,” Li said. “The workforce training program of this project will provide high-quality potential employees for the community and the proposed Edge AI technology can benefit local industries such as agriculture and manufacturing.”

Other workforce development efforts include training high-school teachers in lessons to improve high-school students’ knowledge and skills in AI-integrated curricula and establishing an online Edge AI certificate program designed for industry professionals.

The lead institution on the project is the University of South Alabama; the collaborating institutions are NDSU, the University of Arkansas, the University of North Dakota, Alabama A&M University and Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College.

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