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First of its kind AI associates degree program launches at Maricopa Community Colleges

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Posted at 5:00 AM, Mar 29, 2022

The Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD), in partnership with Intel, will open the doors to the first of its kind artificial intelligence (AI) incubation lab on Tuesday, providing community college students in Arizona the opportunity to earn an associates degree in artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Artificial intelligence degree programs exist at other colleges and universities, but bringing the developing field to MCCCD allowed for the creation of an incubation lab that will help students collaborate as they learn the fundamentals of AI.

“Collaborative learning is a big part of the process,” Brian Gonzalez, the Executive Director of Government Partnerships and Initiatives at Intel, said. “I love the concept of an incubator. Because in the class, what they're learning is how to creatively think critically, about how to solve a problem and apply technology.”

Through the partnership with Intel, students at CGCC and Estrella Mountain Community College will be able to learn about AI from the ground up, even if they do not have previous experience working with AI. Course offerings include Introduction to Machine Learning, AI for Computer Vision, Natural Language Processing, and AI for Business.

“What's unique about this space is we're creating jobs for the future. Some of the jobs that we're preparing for don't exist yet,” Greg Peterson, the President of Chandler-Gilbert Community College (CGCC), said.

Students can enroll in the Artificial Intelligence Degree Program and earn an associate's degree, or take the AI courses in conjunction with a degree they might be pursuing in another field, according to Peterson.

“The thing about artificial intelligence, though, is it's actually spread in so many different industries. We're seeing it in real estate, we're seeing it in retail, in many different business aspects and finance in addition to IT [information technology],” Peterson said.

In 2020, Intel launched the AI for Workforce Program across the U.S.

Since then, 31 schools across 18 states have joined the program. MCCCD is the first district to enroll students, according to Intel.

“A lot of what we're doing is teaching our students how to think and how to begin to interact with data as we move forward. Many of the skills we're providing are really those critical thinking, are the analysis, the ability to to be open to new ideas, new experiences as they come forward,” Peterson said.

According to Gonzalez, students will be able to take what they learn in the classroom and apply those lessons to real-life scenarios.

“Artificial intelligence is all about enabling a solution to a real-world problem,” Gonzalez said. “You can learn about photography, but at some point, you need a camera. At some point, it's not about the theory. It's about how do you make that project go to the next level.”

It is through the incubation lab that MCCCD and Intel hope to take AI and machine learning to the next level.

“I think artificial intelligence and machine learning can be intimidating. But really, the possibilities are so open,” Peterson said. “This is going to impact so many of us, and we need more of us to be involved in it.”