When we launched UF’s campus-wide AI Initiative, we needed an easy-to-use platform to give our students hands-on experience with several kinds of AI while appealing to a wide range of technical ability. CogAbility is the only platform capable of supporting our AI education goals for all students at UF – not just in Engineering & Computer Science.
Working with CogAbility, the University of Florida (UF) is positioned to become a national leader in artificial intelligence (AI) research, teaching, and application.
As part of the University of Florida’s $70 million AI Initiative, all of UF’s colleges are exploring innovative ways to incorporate AI throughout their curriculum.
However, many UF students and faculty do not have experience in computer programming and are unsure how best to take part in this major AI push.
For help with both AI brainstorming and classroom implementation, UF professors are working with CogAbility to give students hands-on experience with the latest AI technology – no programming experience required.
The lack of programming prerequisite opens the door for students of all interests to learn how to apply AI in a wide range of fields.
To make this possible, CogAbility founder and UF alumnus, Jim Hoskins, and his AI engineers are working with professors from a number of colleges to explore how best to infuse AI into a range of UF courses by leveraging a private cloud-hosted software environment called CogUniversity.
Roles Reversed: UF Students Become Professors, Train AI Students
CogUniversity is the world’s first university dedicated to teaching AI machines rather than humans. And UF is the first university in the world to have its own private campus of CogUniversity.
The students at CogUniversity are custom-trained AIs known as CogBots. During each course, one or more CogBots are trained by UF students, who serve as the AI’s faculty at CogUniversity.
In the same way that a human student at UF can study business, engineering, or astronomy, a CogBot can learn to do anything that today’s AI technology can do – at CogUniversity.
Before a course is launched, UF professors and CogAbility AI engineers collaborate to develop a custom CogBot tailored for the class.
The CogBot is then trained by UF students in the context of the class topic.
At CogUniversity, UF students gain hands-on experience developing practical solutions in their area of study using the best AI technologies from CogAbility, IBM, Google, OpenAI, NVIDIA, the open-source community, and others.
Technically speaking. CogUniversity is a modern cloud-hosted platform that provides a campus-wide collaborative teaching platform to support the diverse AI education needs of all UF Colleges. CogUniversity’s UF Campus is integrated with UF’s single sign-on system to simplify class and course management for UF professors.
Paying for AI education is easy, too. All course CogBots are funded by UF Material & Supply fees and grants, so colleges & departments only have to pay a small one-time setup fee to add a CogBot to their courses.
UF’s First Student-Trained CogBots: Alli Gator & Cammy
The first CogBot built and managed at the CogUniversity UF Campus is Alli Gator (click to see video).
Alli Gator is a student-facing chatbot majoring in “UF Operations” at CogUniversity.
Alli is available on various UF websites and via text messaging. She answers a wide variety of UF questions for prospective, current, and former UF students and their families.
Alli is trained and maintained by a multidisciplinary team of UF students and faculty spanning a dozen university departments. To do this, they collaborate in the CogUniversity UF Campus to train, monitor and optimize Alli over time.
Alli is poised to become the new “face of AI” at UF. She is also the first AI Teaching Assistant in UF’s history.
Another CogBot named Cammy serves as a Digital Lab Assistant for UF’s first hands-on AI Fundamentals course.
In the course’s Sea Turtle AI Class Project, UF students teach Cammy by building & training custom machine learning models on UF’s HiperGator supercomputer. During Sea Turtle project, students learn how to apply three different types of AI to solve three different kinds of problems related to sea turtles:
- A natural language processing chatbot that answers questions about sea turtles
- An image classifier that identifies the species of a sea turtle in an image
- A linear regression prediction algorithm that predicts the weight of a sea turtle given the species and carapus dimensions
At each step during the course, an AI chatbot version of Cammy guides the students as they join a fictitious sea turtle conservation team led by a cranky marine biologist named Dr. Harris (meet Dr. Harris).
UF students do not need AI or programming experience to complete their class project, because Cammy guides them through the process and answers their questions in an intuitive manner.
This opens the door for non-STEM students to also gain hands-on experience with AI, something that most university AI courses do not offer today.
Cammy’s conversational interface is built using CogAbility’s proprietary conversational AI technology, which is designed for use in public sector organizations and also serves as the technology for UF’s campus-wide chatbot for faculty and staff, Alli Gator.
Student feedback on the AI Fundamentals course has been excellent:
- “This was truly a hands-on approach… It taught me so much about AI that I have become even more interested in the field…”
- “I really liked the layout of CogUniversity and how interactive it was receiving our instructions via Cammy…”
- “…allowed me to put my hands on real industry tools that I could apply to anything.”
- “I liked being able to teach the machine learning algorithm instead of just reading about it.”
- “It made it very easy to walk us through the process of machine learning and really focused on the important concepts relevant to what we are learning.”
What’s Next For AI Education at UF?
New AI courses are in development, and existing course CogBots are learning new skills – courtesy of their student faculty.
For example, Cammy is currently learning to operate a fleet of autonomous Mars rovers in the new Robotics Simulation Lab in UF’s CogUniversity Campus.
Meanwhile, over at the UF College of Health & Human Performance, students are teaching another CogBot, a Digital Lab Assistant named “Katherine” to determine the likely outcome of a baseball pitch based on its metrics.
In the course, the running joke is that UF student professors are helping UF baseball coach Fuller find the best pitchers for the UF baseball team.
It’s like UF’s version of “Moneyball” – but no programming is required.
Using CogUniversity, the University of Florida is now building a growing fleet of CogBots that will accelerate AI education, research, and production applications throughout the University.
The following 15-minute video walks you through the student learning experience: