The University of Florida is increasing its focus on artificial intelligence, from the classroom to campus events.
UF is hosting its first AI Days starting Thursday to show how it is building an AI-focused university. The events come as UF integrates AI into its curriculum and offers students a growing number of opportunities to develop AI-related skills to prepare them for the world of work.
“Every job uses artificial intelligence techniques in one way or another, and that’s basically how we prepare our students for this digital world that they’ll find themselves in after they graduate,” said David Reed, Associate Provost for Strategic Initiatives and Director of the UF Academic Initiative Center for Artificial Intelligence.
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Reed said some everyday examples of AI are unlocking an iPhone with facial recognition or the technology used in an Amazon Alexa device.
UF’s first AI Days will take place October 26-28, during which students, faculty and staff are invited to participate in AI-focused events.
An AI pitch competition will be held on October 27th, allowing students to create AI-focused businesses. First place winners of the Pitch Contest have a chance to win up to $12,000, second place winners can win $8,000 and third place winners can win $5,000.
The following day, an AI Days hackathon will take place, where UF students will break into teams and develop a software application that is a solution to a social problem such as poverty, education, and gender inequality.
AI Days also provide UF with an opportunity to welcome new AI faculty and provide students with an opportunity to learn about research and education initiatives.
In an interview with The Gainesville Sun, Reed said UF currently has more than 230 AI courses and over 6,000 students taking the courses within UF. In addition, 110 new AI faculty members have been hired across all UF’s 16 colleges.
For students who want to learn more about AI, UF offers an AI foundation course that any student can take. The course is a stepping stone to certify students in AI.
After the AI foundation course, students can take an ethics, data and technology course, followed by an AI course that is part of their major. If a student is a business major, they can enroll in the Foundations of Business Analytics and Artificial Intelligence.
“Additionally, we’ve started working with the thousands of companies that hire our graduates to talk to them about how our graduates will look differently in a year or two. You’ll come out with experience in artificial intelligence. “Students at other universities won’t have that,” Reed said.
He said the certification shows students understand the fundamentals behind AI and makes them more competitive in the job market.
“A lot of jobs start looking for students who have at least some knowledge of AI, and now they’re looking for students who can do things like that,” said Diego Alvarado, an instructor on the AI fundamentals course.
Alvarado said more than 300 students are enrolled to become AI-certified through the course. He said the course started in 2020 after UF received a supercomputer from Nvidia, a Silicon Valley-based tech company. The company is owned by UF graduate Chris Malachowsky.
Fatima Elfasi, a fourth-year computer engineer, said she’s always been interested in technology. She said when she transferred to UF from Santa Fe College in 2020, all the chatter on campus revolved around UF’s AI initiatives.
“It’s pretty cool because it’s the future… It’s really exciting to be at the forefront and meet both leaders in the AI community and students who are learning about AI and how to integrate it into every aspect.” implemented in our world,” said Elfasi.
Gershon Harrell is an education reporter for The Gainesville Sun. He can be reached by phone at (352) 338-3166, email at [email protected], or on Twitter at @GershonReports.