UF offers AI certificate for undergraduates

UF students from any major can now pursue a certificate that teaches them the basics of artificial intelligence, a field likely to uniquely position students for the future workforce. 

The AI Fundamentals and Applications Certificate gives students the opportunity to learn fundamentals of artificial intelligence, its applications to real-world problems in various disciplines, and ethical and professional responsibilities of these technologies.

“AI is utilized across the entire swath of employment opportunities students are going to see, so we wanted to do something unique and different. We decided to incorporate AI training right into the disciplines the students are already in,” said associate provost David Reed.

The certificate consists of a required fundamentals course, an ethics course, and a course specific to the student’s college. 

In EEL 3872: Artificial Intelligence Fundamentals, students will learn how to use existing applications and tools through hands-on projects. Hans van Oostrom, the founding chair and an associate professor in the Department of Engineering Education, said students will not need any prior knowledge to take the class and will learn practical applications of AI tools.

“We looked at where AI is being used in industries and how is it being used, and the answer to that is basically everywhere,” he said. “UF students will graduate and go into their careers with an understanding of applications of AI.” 

One project students will work on in the new course involves using machine learning to properly identify sea turtles in pictures and then using those images to estimate the length and weight of the sea turtles. Applications like these free biologists in the field so they can dedicate more time and skills to research instead of data entry. 

In the ethics course, students will also deliberate moral questions rising from fast-evolving AI technology. 

“There can often be features of new technologies, including AI or machine learning, that turn out to be in some way in conflict with certain of our core social and moral commitments,” said Duncan Purves, assistant professor of philosophy, who will teach PHI 3681: Ethics, Data, and Technology in the Fall semester. “We’re all going to be using new technology at some point, so we want to spend time thinking about what those core social and moral commitments are that might be in tension with novel technologies and asking when and how those conflict.”

As an example, he plans to have students examine basic questions of how data and AI are used to inform predictive policing. Using data of where crime has occurred in the past can make law enforcement easier. But when law enforcement agencies partner with private companies to process this data, the data might be shrouded by intellectual property policies and no longer appear in public information. This foundational question is a jumping off point for other conversations on policing, such as whether and when AI should be used in policing. 

If a student is interested in the principles of artificial intelligence but does not want to pursue the certification, UF will also offer a survey course, EGN 1935 Frontiers of AI, in the Fall semester.

This story originally appeared on UF News.

Check out other stories on the UF AI Initiative.