Nation’s First Public School AI Program Launched in Partnership with CMU

 Nov 8, 2018   |    Black Box Corporation

In commemoration of National STEM/STEAM Day (November 8), this seems like a good time to talk about the country’s first public school program for artificial intelligence (AI).

This fall, Montour, a suburban Pittsburgh school district, launched the nation’s first AI program for K–12 public school students. The district partnered with robotics and AI powerhouse, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), also located in Pittsburgh, to get the curriculum off the ground. Note: In May 2018, CMU because the first university in the nation to offer an undergraduate degree in AI. Read more.

"The Artificial Intelligence field was invented, nurtured, and developed at Carnegie Mellon University in the 1950s,” said Montour Superintendent Christopher Stone. “Since then, Pittsburgh has proudly stood at the forefront of relevant developments and scholarly discussions surrounding AI. It’s only instinctive, then, that the Montour School District would offer the nation's first public school program in Artificial Intelligence."

Although the program will be taught in a 3,000 square-foot classroom housed in the district’s middle school, every K–12 student will participate in the program, not just those in middle school or enrolled in special classes. The students will get a hands-on introduction to AI topics such as computer vision, path planning, speech recognition, autonomous robotics, AI virtual assistants, as well as lessons in music, the arts, and ethics.

“The Artificial Intelligence curriculum is about more than just teaching students to code or build a robot,” said Justin Aglio, Director of Academic Achievement & District Innovation at Montour School District. “The district hopes to use the curriculum to teach students skills like data literacy and to expose them to careers in robotics and automation. It’s the people that program Artificial Intelligence and technology that will change the future.”

Dr. Jordan Mroziak of the CREATE Lab of Carnegie Mellon University explained some of the thinking behind the program. "In far too many schools, and for far too long, we have been advancing an antiquated model of education, emphasizing compliance and replication. By meaningfully engaging with the considered use of technology and data in our classrooms, we can aid in supporting students who are creative, empathetic, and critical thinkers—better able to work together to solve the known problems of today and the unknown problems of tomorrow."

In addition to CMU, the Montour curriculum has other partners including Carnegie Learning, AI4All, Aethos, Ascender, Amper Music, Promethean, and more. Some are located just a 20-minute drive away in Pittsburgh’s “robotics row”—home to at least 20 tech companies in robotics, autonomous manufacturing, and self-driving cars.

See related article: Recognizing Intelligence at the Edge: AI Earns a Degree at CMU.

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