Houston Community College has launched an artificial intelligence (AI) Associate of Applied Science degree program, making it the first community college in Texas to have such a program.
The launch came on the heels of the approval by Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the regional body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in the Southern states.
“The new AI program is launched online for the fall 2020 semester at HCC Southwest, HCC Northeast and HCC Southeast. The regional offering of the new program will be available to students across the college service area,” said Sean Otmishi, dean of the college Digital and Information Technology Center of Excellence headquartered at HCC Southwest.
HCC Chancellor Cesar Maldonado, Ph.D., P.E., called the new AI program “a game-changer for our college.”
“It is the latest of HCC’s ongoing efforts to embrace new technologies and keep a pulse on the ever-changing needs of the industry,” he said. “Offering an innovative program like AI will allow our students to take advantage of all the accelerated job openings in Houston, in Texas and beyond.”
HCC Southwest President Madeline Burillo-Hopkins, Ed.D., said the new program continues the college’s initiative to develop curricula relevant to the 21st century technological landscape.
“AI has been transforming many aspects of the workplace today and will have a growing impact on our economy and lives,” she said. “I’m excited we have made this leap forward for our students who will help take the technology to the next level in the future.”
The new curriculum will provide students with fundamentals of the best practices in artificial intelligence. AAS graduates can move on to a four-year university to pursue a bachelor’s degree in computer science, cybersecurity or electrical engineering, said G. Brown, Ph.D., program coordinator of Networking and Telecommunications at HCC Southwest.
“Because of a dire shortage of AI specialists, many companies are offering big salaries,” Brown said. “AI specialists are in high demand by companies like Microsoft, Apple and Amazon, as well as NASA and SpaceX.”
Last year, the job site indeed.com placed machine learning engineer on the top of its annual list of the 25 best jobs, citing a 344 percent increase in job postings from 2015 to 2018 with an annual base salary of $146,000. Machine learning is an application of AI.
“AI specialists combine different technologies to enable machines to sense, comprehend, act and learn with human-like levels of intelligence – whether it’s a smart building turning off lights to conserve energy, a robot learning to navigate a path on its own, or a drone using computer vision technology to avoid objects,” Otmishi said.
Josh Bankston with MACE Virtual Labs, a partner of HCC, said the new AI program is a “win for MACE.” The Houston-based company collaborated with HCC Southwest to open a virtual reality lab in 2019.
“The future of technology and the scope of all the industries that HCC services can only stand to benefit from more understanding and integration of things like machine learning and artificial intelligence,” he said.