Matt Bloom wins 1st Source Bank’s 2022 Commercialization Awards, Alison Cheng runner-up

Author: Olivia Poole

University of Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.; Matt Bloom, professor of management and organization; and Christopher J. Murphy III, chairman of the board and CEO, 1st Source Bank
University of Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.; Matt Bloom, professor of management and organization; and Christopher J. Murphy III, chairman of the board and CEO, 1st Source Bank

Matt Bloom, a professor of management and organization at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business whose research focuses on well-being, has been named the first-place prize winner of the 2022 1st Source Bank Commercialization Award. Alison Cheng, a professor of psychology who researches psychological and educational measurement, was named runner-up. First place carries a $25,000 cash prize while runner-up awards $10,000.

Bloom is the co-founder of Ritual, a mobile platform that offers guided audio practices from leaders in science, faith and culture to help listeners feel grounded and inspired daily. Bloom’s technology assists individuals in understanding their well-being needs and engaging with wellness practices such as gratitude, journaling and contemplative prayer. In addition, the Ritual app provides users with personalized recommendations for their health.

Bloom and his co-founder, Connor Toohill, a 2014 alumnus, worked with the Center for Research Computing at Notre Dame and external engineers to build an early prototype of the Ritual platform. The founders centered the prototype on Bloom’s research: a five-dimensional model of well-being and a framework of wellness practices and assessments. Bloom led the development of new well-being practices on the Ritual app by delivering daily exercises and supporting other partners in developing their Ritual applications. 

“I am very grateful for winning this award,” said Bloom. “I am also grateful to 1st Source, the IDEA Center and the hundreds of pastors, international aid workers, teachers, health care workers and others who participated in our research. The gifts of their time, stories and insights were invaluable and formed the basis for the research that is the core of Ritual. It is a blessing to be part of an effort to return some of the rich gifts these individuals gave us. I have always hoped my research might help people, and this award is a welcome affirmation that we are progressing toward that aspiration.”

The Ritual mobile app launched in 2020 and has raised $2.5 million in seed capital. The app is now available to users across iOS and Android. 

University of Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.; Alison Cheng, professor of psychology; and Christopher J. Murphy III, Chairman of the Board and CEO, 1st Source Bank
University of Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.; Alison Cheng, professor of psychology; and Christopher J. Murphy III, chairman of the board and CEO, 1st Source Bank

Cheng developed Adapta Education, an advanced testing platform powered by artificial intelligence that provides personalized education in STEM teaching and learning. Adapta’s main product is an adaptive diagnostic assessment platform that covers high school and introductory college math curricula. The platform allows teachers to create customized assessments, such as quizzes, homework and exams, in a straightforward manner. This enables competency-based grading with a diagnostic report for each student. These reports help teachers and students quickly identify their strengths and weaknesses and determine where additional clarification or practice is needed. 

Cheng developed Adapta Education from her experience teaching statistics to undergraduates. She realized there was a need for an assessment tool that would allow easy creation and grading and for diagnostic feedback to be provided. The platform stemmed from Cheng’s National Science Foundation CAREER grant project on cognitive diagnostic computerized adaptive testing. She combined her research and interest in teaching to develop a web-based platform for high school AP statistics with a back end powered by cognitive diagnostic adaptive testing technology. The Adapta team has seen great success in its pilot programming and anticipates more success stories as it plans to expand curriculum coverage.

Adapta Education recently secured a $300,000 pre-seed round. Additionally, the company has implemented the platform in 12 schools, including many in the South Bend-Elkhart region.

“I am humbled, grateful and excited for winning this award,” said Cheng. “It is a tremendous honor and encouragement for Adapta to be selected as runner-up. I am very thankful to 1st Source Bank for their support. I am also deeply indebted to the support I’ve received over the years from ND Research, the Center for Research Computing and the IDEA Center. I am also thankful to the Adapta team for working tirelessly to turn our vision into reality and the many teachers and students we have had the opportunity to work with in piloting, validating and fine-tuning our solutions.” 

Established in 2008 with a $1 million gift from 1st Source Bank, the Commercialization Award is presented annually to faculty from Notre Dame or the Indiana University School of Medicine-South Bend who have successfully transitioned their technologies from the lab to the marketplace.