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PBSC receives $1 million for artificial intelligence and virtual reality training

Palm Beach State College will receive $1 million in federal funding to train faculty and students in artificial intelligence and to buy high-tech equipment for them to get ahead on rapidly growing technology that will transform industries.

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel announced the funding Jan. 17 at the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence on the Lake Worth campus. She secured the funds, along with money for 14 other projects in her district, through the Community Project Funding process for the fiscal year 2023 budget. In addition to providing training for faculty and students through its partnership with the University of Florida, PBSC will be adding augmented reality, virtual reality and powerful virtual desktop equipment for its classrooms.

Bianca Delafuente, Surgical Services program student, demonstrates virtual reality equipment. Click the image to view more photos. Photos credit: Carol McDonald

Students in PBSC’s Surgical Services program demonstrated how virtual reality headsets allow them to learn in a simulated operating room, where they can practice identifying surgical instruments and passing them to a physician.

“This is going to help prepare our students and give them new tools to prosper in a new economy,’’ Frankel said, standing alongside PBSC students and leaders.

PBSC President Ava L. Parker, J.D., thanked Frankel for her continuous support of the College. “I’m happy that you realize that PBSC is such a big part of the infrastructure of our county —that we produce the people that go into the jobs that make our county work. When you support us like you do it gives us unlimited opportunities to make a difference in all communities in Palm Beach County.”

Parker noted that while businesses have said  about 40 percent of their work is shifting to artificial intelligence, their ability to find workers who understand that technology is limited.

Surgical Services student Valendy Cadet demonstrates an augmented reality technology.

“We have to put our students at the forefront of this so that they are prepared to meet the workforce demand of our community and also of our country,’’ Parker said. “We’re not only raising the IT IQ of our students, we’re also raising the AI IQ as we partner with the University of Florida. Today, we are witnessing the power of partnerships. We can join our faculty together and have an opportunity to exchange information and really expand artificial intelligence programming within our community.”

Through the partnership with UF, faculty from the flagship university, a leader in AI development and research, will train a group of up to 25 PBSC faculty. They in turn will teach the concepts to their students, develop an AI module for an existing course in their discipline and train the next group of PBSC faculty. The partnership comes as UF is planning to open a campus in West Palm Beach for graduate programs.

“At the University of Florida, we have been all-in on artificial intelligence for a couple of years now,’’ said David Reed, Ph.D., associate provost for strategic initiatives and the inaugural director of the AI2 Center at UF.

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel announces funding with Roger Yohe, Ph.D., vice president of academic innovation and strategy, David Reed, Ph.D., associate provost for strategic initiatives and the inaugural director of the AI2 Center at UF, and Ken Libutti, chief information officer, student Bianca Delafuente, and President Ava L. Parker, J.D.

He cited a National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence report that indicates that the U.S. lags behind the curve on training students in artificial intelligence. He said if the U.S. wants to catch up with other nations it needs to hurry.

“Artificial intelligence is really going to revolutionize business and industry in all sectors, and that’s why we say from the arts to zoology,’’ Reed added. “It is for every student. Every student can participate in learning about artificial intelligence, and it’s probably going to be relevant for every student. As the state of Florida looks to be a leader in high-wage, high-tech economy we want to make sure that our students are prepared for this new world that they’re facing.”

Ken Libutti, PBSC’s chief information officer, said he is excited about what the College will be able to achieve through the initiative, especially for students. “We want them to have that one step ahead so they will be prepared in the workplace.”

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