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NASA awards STEM grant to Mercer University professor for $1 million

The project uses machine learning bots to teach the fundamentals of coding artificial intelligence, and machine learning.

MACON, Ga. — NASA awarded $1 million grants to four projects nationwide and one of them belongs to a Mercer professor. The grants aim to increase accessibility for schools under-served and underrepresented in STEM. 

It was computer engineering professor Anthony Choi's curriculum he worked on that caught NASA's attention. 

Choi says he wanted to be proactive and get ahead of the curve. His curriculum would put put machine learning and artificial intelligence in the hands of k-12 students. 

Senior Caden Hamrick is helping Choi build the curriculum.

"If you got a laptop you can learn about machine learning and make it accessible to you," Hamrick said. "For me I'm really excited about the accessibility of it."

The curriculum they're building creates access for students to experience artificial intelligence, and machine learning without needing the powerful hardware.

Students will be able to learn through a web browser.

"And give them access to very high end computer software in the cloud. Allows anyone to actually log into a Google server and actually request a high end processor," Choi said. 

Their goal is to make this kind of material-- accessible and get kids excited.

"I want students to get to a point where they look at machine learning and artificial intelligence and they say 'hey I can do that. It's not that hard it's not rocket science.' That's what I want," Choi said. 

The project uses machine learning bots to teach the fundamentals of coding artificial intelligence, and machine learning.

"We're trying to use a system so that kids can take what we build and use it out of the box and learn from it," Hamrick said. 

Choi says he hopes to provide curriculum that will remove barriers such as intimidating subject matter.

"I truly believe what we are going to create is going to be transformative it's going to really expand the horizons of the students," Choi said. 

"Creative projects that kids feel like they can do is what I hope to see comes out of this. Because if they become passionate about and start feeling it's accessible. We truly can start to cultivate a generation of students who are able to take on the challenges that AI poses to humanity in the coming years," Choi said. 

Choi and Hamrick say they hope the curriculum gets distributed throughout the U.S. Choi says the proposal will take three years before it actually takes off and we see it here in Central Georgia schools. 


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