Big Tech, Community Colleges Partnering in Education

Big Tech, Community Colleges Partnering in Education

Neethi Anand Gangidi came to the United States from India to study chemical engineering. But when the Covid-19 pandemic created problems for her doctoral studies, she changed direction by studying artificial intelligence, or AI, at Houston Community College (HCC) in Texas.

At HCC, Gangidi and a team of students worked on a difficult problem: finding ways to keep people safe in dangerous situations, such as school shootings. Their solution used AI to create a autonomous vehicle to enter areas too dangerous for people. Gangidi’s team won a national innovation award for their project at Intel’s Global Impact Festival in San Jose, California, this year.

Gangidi is one of thousands of students involved in partnerships between major technology companies and community colleges in the U.S. Companies such as Dell Technologies, Intel, Google and Amazon have developed special training programs for students. Some fields of study include artificial intelligence, data science, and user experience design.

Community colleges offer two-year associate degrees in many technical and liberal arts subjects.

The American Association of Community Colleges, or AACC, says there are 1,043 community colleges in the U.S. In the past 10 years, an average of more than 80,000 international students attended community colleges in the U.S. annually

The rise of AI

The use of AI, also called machine learning, is increasing. AI helps computer systems do things that in the past only humans could do, such as identifying faces.

AI is commonly used in jobs that use a lot of data, such as banking, supply of materials and products, and healthcare. But now other areas, such as natural language processing, are also using the technology. AI is even used in artistic work such as music composition.

A 2021 study found that 43 percent of businesses reported increased use of AI in the past year. However, 39 percent of leaders at these companies said that a lack of workers with AI training is a barrier to using the technology.

Intel’s AI for Workforce Program

In early 2020, Intel launched its AI for Workforce program, working closely with 74 community colleges in 32 states. Intel provides content for AI classes, AI lab design and technology, training for teachers, and practical applications for areas such as computer vision.

The company hopes to have partnerships in all 50 states by the end of 2023.

Dell Technologies has partnered with Intel to help pay for the Artificial Intelligence Incubator Network. The network gave $40,000 grants to 10 community colleges to help build AI labs. The network also supports virtual AI training and organizes monthly meetings between Dell, Intel and community colleges to help improve AI education.

Adrienne Garber is a senior strategist for higher education at Dell Technologies. She told VOA Learning English that the AI ​​for Workforce program gives students hands-on training.

“The AI ​​for Workforce curriculum is anchored in portfolio projects, real-world authentic learning experiences, real data sets and problems contributed by a community of practice.”

Previous AI for Global Impact winners are greeted by Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger at the Intel Vision event in May 2022 (Credit: Intel Corporation)

Previous AI for Global Impact winners are greeted by Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger at the Intel Vision event in May 2022 (Credit: Intel Corporation)

Carlos Contreras is the director of Intel’s AI for Workforce program. He noted that the program includes training in ethics, which makes it different from other types of technology training. The AI ​​training asks students to think about when it is right or wrong to use machine learning and how people should use it.

He also noted that students can begin AI training without knowing how to write computer code. He said: “This is a tendency which we see more and more around this technology. So, the entry point to get into AI is lower than if you want to get into, let’s say, cybersecurity.”

While students don’t need to learn how to create AI software, the training helps them use it in useful ways. For example, in Arizona, a team of three students at Maricopa Community College developed an AI model to help identify attacks in patients with epilepsy. Epilepsy is a disease that affects the central nervous system.

Contreras explained that students need to know how to define, identify the problem they are working on and classify the datasets they need to put into the AI ​​computer models, and then run the models.

“And then suddenly I have a trained model, or my process, for the problem I’m trying to solve.”

Garber, of Dell Technologies, noted that each community college can choose how it wants to use the AI ​​for Workforce program. Instead of having one curriculum for all colleges, the program can be modified to meet the needs of each community.

“They are figuring out where in their academic paths they do contents fit. So, it could be a certificate program, it could be an associate degree – in some cases it’s a full bachelor’s degree… And it’s a very responsive learning content package.

Gangidi’s path of study

Neethi Anand Gangidi (Courtesy, Neethi Anand Gangidi)

Neethi Anand Gangidi (Courtesy, Neethi Anand Gangidi)

Neethi Anand Gangidi explained to VOA Learning English some of the details of AI training at Houston Community College. Students first learn to analyze and organize information. Python is the most commonly used software and is a starting point for classes in basic data science.

“And it is very easy for any individual from any country to learn about this. You have many videos about it… Just install it; download it That’s all you need. You need access. Start exploring.”

Gangidi said knowledge of statistics is useful for working with data, but that students usually do not need high-level mathematics such as calculus.

For the class, Introduction to Machine Learning, Gangidi learned how to build models to handle a larger amount of data. She said tools from Amazon Web Services, Nvidia and software like Jupyter Notebook help students work with data faster and at a higher level.

HCC gave her a real data project to work on to help her use the AI ​​training. Gangidi said that working on a real project helps students gain experience, which employers value.

From left: students Igor Lucic, Denzel Wilson, Clark Horak, Dina Marie Stager, Neethianand Gangidi, and Ayomide Sofunwa, and Samir Saber, dean of Houston Community College Digital and Information Technology/Center of Excellence.  (photo courtesy of Houston Community College Southwest Communications)

From left: students Igor Lucic, Denzel Wilson, Clark Horak, Dina Marie Stager, Neethianand Gangidi, and Ayomide Sofunwa, and Samir Saber, dean of Houston Community College Digital and Information Technology/Center of Excellence. (photo courtesy of Houston Community College Southwest Communications)

Advice for students

Gangidi says students should focus on their passion, or strong interests, rather than worrying about the name of the university they choose to attend in the US

“It doesn’t matter if you’re from Stanford, or Harvard, or community college. It all depends on each individual.”

She was interested in HCC because it gave her the opportunity to work in teams on real problems, use innovation and gain leadership experience.

She added that community colleges cost less to attend than four-year universities. In Texas, international students can also qualify for in-state tuition, the amount someone who lives in the state pays to attend. That, along with scholarships, reduced her tuition costs from about $12,000 per semester to about $2,000 per semester.

In addition to Neethi Anand’s team, another team of students at HCC won a global award at this year’s Global Impact Festival. The team used AI to develop an autonomous drone to enter dangerous places.

Gangidi thinks there are many job opportunities for people who learn to work with data. She said: “If you know how to deal with data, and if you have a passion … anything in AI, how to deal with this data, analyze it and make a good story from the data – that’s easy, you can end up working in an AI in any big company out there.”

I’m Andrew Smith. And I’m Caty Weaver.

Andrew Smith wrote this story for VOA Learning English.

Quiz – Big Tech, Community Colleges Collaborating in Education

Quiz - Big Tech, Community Colleges Collaborating in Education

Take the quiz to find out


Words in this story

doctoral -adj. relating to the highest degree awarded for the completion of a course of study at a university

autonomous -adj. can act separately on its own

innovation -a. a new idea or device; the process of making new things

seizure -a. an abnormal condition in which a person loses consciousness and the body moves uncontrollably

tendency -a. the general movement of change

classify -v. to put something in a particular group in an attempt to organize things

curriculum -a. the study plan and a school, college or university

contents -a. ideas and information in the media

access -a. the ability to get or get into something

statistics -a. a mathematical field that deals with the collection, organization and understanding of numerical information


We would like to hear from you.

We have a new comment system. Here’s how it works:

  1. Write your comment in the box.
  2. Below the box you can see four images for social media accounts. They are for Disqus, Facebook, Twitter and Google.
  3. Click on one image and a box appears. Enter the login for your social media account. Or you can create one on the Disqus system. It is the blue circle with “D” on it. It’s free.

Each time you return to comment on the Learning English site, you can use your account and see your comments and replies on them. Our comment policy is here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *