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Students come from a world away to attend HU’s AI boot camp.

Majid Shaalan at work, teaching at HU’s AI Bootcamp.

Some are fearful of artificial intelligence taking over the world. While it might not be there yet, it is taking over Harrisburg University this summer.

As part of HU’s international outreach program, a month-long Applied Artificial Intelligence International Bootcamp kicked off last week. Twenty undergraduate and graduate students from India traveled the long distance to learn from AI experts and gain hands-on experience.

“We have something special that we can share with the world,” said HU’s Director of Computer and Information Sciences Majid Shaalan.

Students come from different educational backgrounds, some computer science majors and others studying engineering. Shaalan, along with two other instructors and six teaching aides, guide the students through project-based, learning-focused activities.

Throughout the course of the month, they will complete 10 projects—models built by the students themselves that solve fundamental problems in areas such as healthcare, Shaalan explained.

Each Friday, faculty take students on a site visit to a local company to show them a glimpse of their classroom knowledge applied in the real world. Shaalan highlighted their most recent trip to the Harley Davidson factory in York.

“We want to give them a flavor of how AI is theoretically designed and applied,” said HU lecturer in computer and information sciences, Brian Grey. “Hopefully, it sparks an interest or passion in the area.”

After last summer, the first year of AI Bootcamp, two students returned to HU to enroll as students. Others went on to further explore AI at their own schools or in the workplace.

“It’s changing people’s lives and helping them to figure out their ways,” Shaalan explained.

He also pointed out the only other U.S. institution hosting an in-person AI boot camp is the University of California, Berkeley, as most others are online. Shaalan believes HU’s program is “one of a kind.”

Gargi Bagar is a third-year engineering student from Nagpur, India. She heard about the boot camp through professors at her college.

“I wanted to get exposure and learn things,” Bagar said. “There’s a lot of opportunities in this field. I wanted to do something on my own.”

Bagar had no previous experience working with AI. However, it’s something her father always encouraged her to try.

To Shaalan, that is one of the aspects that makes AI camp so successful—the diversity.

“Some people are very educated and knowledgeable [with AI], and others are good at math or programming,” he said.

There are a variety of skill levels and interests amongst students, but everyone can learn more, he explained.

Shaalan sees the bootcamp continuing to expand in the coming years by adding more entrepreneurial, business analysis and engineering aspects to the experience. He’s also looking at the possibility of taking a team of educators to different countries to hold short boot camps for those who can’t travel to the United States.

While AI has been around for awhile, Grey believes its development is still taking off.

“These students have the opportunity of being at the beginning,” he said.

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