The future is already here: RCCC plugs into artificial intelligence

Published 12:01 am Thursday, November 17, 2022

SALISBURY — Rowan-Cabarrus Community College is joining the ranks of schools participating in the Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) Incubator Network, an initiative to design and build A.I. incubator labs across the United States.

 “There is no question that the artificial intelligence job market is growing rapidly as the demand for products using this technology increases,” said Rowan-Cabarrus Dean of Technical Programs Zackary Hubbard. “Creating a workforce of people with the technical skills to work in these roles will be critical as the field continues to expand.”

Hubbard indicated that many likely think of A.I. as a robotic device. However, A.I. is implemented in computers and machines designed to perform tasks that mimic humans’ problem-solving and decision-making capabilities. Examples of everyday applications include:

  • Parking assist features on motor vehicles.
  • Digital assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa.
  • Products such as popular robot vacuum cleaners.

“A.I. in most cases is a form of computer programming,” Hubbard said. “Engineers design code to help decision making. You see it in industry, healthcare, and manufacturing. It’s the idea of using these massive data sets to improve decision-making in those companies. It could be that they can automate a certain area of their production line or try to improve the quality of a product they are producing.”

For the students, the incubator initiative will provide them with real-world experience.

“When a student goes through the case studies and activities, they are leaving us with actual industry experience,” Hubbard said. “Students could walk into a programmer or programmer analyst role. Instead of just understanding nuts and bolts, they will also have this perspective on A.I.”

According to Hubbard, preparing students for that world takes a different kind of perspective on instruction.

“Typically, A.I. is something that is conceptual in nature, not a skill,” Hubbard said. “What this program is doing is trying to take the concept of A.I. and equip students with skills they need to use it … it is not one specific class, but it is a complete makeover of computer programming and development.”

The A.I. Incubator Network was launched earlier this year by Intel, Dell Technologies, and the American Association of Community Colleges to increase artificial intelligence instruction in community colleges and technical schools by equipping graduates with the skills needed for the growing A.I. job market.

By joining the initiative, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College will partner with member colleges that collaborate and share resources on instructional pathways, economic development opportunities, student engagement, and A.I. best practices. Access to training and curriculum through the A.I. Incubator Network allows Rowan-Cabarrus to incorporate A.I. instruction into its current computer programming track. The college’s information technology program includes computer programming, networking, cybersecurity, and business I.T. support.

“As the demand for an A.I.-ready workforce continues to increase, we know it is important for us to be able to train our students for the next generation of jobs,” said Dr. Carol S. Spalding, president of Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. “We are grateful to Intel, Dell, and the American Association of Community Colleges for access to excellent resources that allow us to bring A.I. instruction into our courses. Our goal is always to help our students build critical skills for competitive job opportunities.”