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Artificial Intelligence Education: Missouri Science & Technology’s Innovative Programs

By   /  September 27, 2017  /  No Comments

artificial intellience educationThe Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) is one of the nation’s leading technological research universities. It has consistently received a high ranking as a top public research facility, and was recently named the United States 3rd Best Engineering University.

The school was founded in 1870, and originally named the Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy. (Which is why the school’s students and athletes are sometimes called “miners.”) In 1964, it became a member of the University of Missouri System and was called the University of Missouri at Rolla. This was altered in 1968 to the University of Missouri–Rolla (or UMR). Then, in 2008, the name was changed to the Missouri University of Science and Technology (the Missouri S&T, for short), as a way promote its reputation as a top technological research university and to distinguish it from the original University of Missouri. The school currently has a 284-acre campus.

Preparing for the Artificial Intelligence Future

Missouri S&T has put a significant emphasis on Artificial Intelligence education and Information Systems.  In April of 2017, Missouri S&T students hosted a 24-hour Artificial Intelligence (AI) coding competition. This is a twice-annual event, requiring participants to write an AI code used for a computer game. (The game was created by the Association of Computing Machinery students.) This competition has been hosted by Missouri S&T since 2007, and is considered to be one of the largest in the Midwest.

Assistant teaching professor, Dr. Ricardo Morales commented:

“This competition connects to the complete computer science curriculum. Writing code, creating programming languages, data structures, algorithms.”

Two Missouri S&T professors are described as being among the best in information systems, Dr. Fiona Nah and Dr. Keng Siau. (Both are professors at the Department of Business and Information Technology, also known as BIT.) Dr. Nah was recently selected as one of the Top Women to Watch in Virtual Reality by Girls in Tech, a non-profit group supporting the education, engagement, and empowerment of women and girls with a passion for technology.

Dr. Nah is a co-founder of the Special Interest Group on Human-Computer Interaction (SIGHCI) and serves as a member of group’s advisory board. She has received an Outstanding Service Award (2005), as well as a Special Service Award (2011) for her service and contributions to SIGHCI. She has also received an Outstanding Teaching Commendation Award (2015).

Dr. Nah and Dr. Maggie Cheng (of the Department of Computer Science) recently researched the unintended impact of individuals on cyber-security when interacting with computer networks. The National Science Foundation, awarded the two a grant to better understand the consequences of user behavior. They are developing experiments to observe the behavior of  people interacting with computer networks during a variety of situations.

Dr. Keng Siau has written over 250 academic publications, and has over 9,200 citation counts. Dr. Siau is the editor-in-chief at the Journal of Database Management. He is also the regional editor for the Requirements Engineering Journal. Dr. Siau received the International Federation for Information Processing’s Outstanding Service Award (2006), and IBM Faculty Awards (2006, 2008, 2010).

During the spring semester of 2017, Dr. Siau added Artificial Intelligence education and Machine Learning to his department’s curriculum (the Department of Business and Information Technology or BIT). His AI, Robotics, and Information Systems Management class examines the latest developments in AI, automation, and advanced information technology.

In a recent DATAVERSITY® interview, Dr. Siau stated:

“The advancement in Artificial Intelligence is going to create an economic tsunami. Some reports are predicting that half of U.S. jobs are at risk of automation. Business managers and executives need to understand and comprehend the impending Artificial Intelligence, robotics, Machine Learning, and automation revolution and its devastating impacts.”

Dr. Siau has also has concerns about the impact of AI on higher education:

“Technology changes are expected to rapidly accelerate. The presence of machines in every area needs to be examined. Not only academia, but business, the economy and humanity all will also be profoundly transformed in the next few decades. The more prepared we are, the better we will be able to minimize and cope with the devastating impact of the tsunami unleashed by the machine age.”

Department of Business and Information Technology (BIT)

BIT focuses on the two factors most critical in operating a successful organization. Developing a knowledge of business disciplines and an expertise in information technology are part of the training. Students in the program develop a solid foundation of knowledge in operations, finance, and marketing and information technology.

BIT offers a unique educational opportunity. Modern organizations consistently rely on technology in day-to-day business transactions, and BIT students are trained to deal with these technologies. Students develop an expertise in using the tools needed to solve business and technology problems. Graduates learn to merge a business mindset with technology skills. Many students intern with well-known employers, and go to work for distinguished corporations.

Bachelor of Science in Information, Science, and Technology

Missouri S&T’s Bachelor of Science in Information, Science, and Technology program provides courses in Big Data, cybersecurity, Business Analytics, Business Intelligence, to name a few. Courses are rigorous and students work in a world-class computer environment. Students in this program are encouraged to take a summer internship with companies, before graduating. This experience provides opportunities for making professional contacts and provides the benefits of a real-world education.

Master of Science in Information, Science, and Technology

BIT’s Master of Science in Information, Science, and Technology is designed to educate students about the design, development, and successful application of information systems in organizations. Research experiences are integrated into the classroom experience, with specially equipped research laboratories available to support studies in human-computer interaction and experiments with computer networks. A large number of computing languages and special-purpose software tools are available on various platforms.

All of BIT’s graduate courses moving toward a Master’s of Science in Information, Science, and Technology are available online. Students in the program can choose to participate directly with their professors and classmates in real-time, or watch the lectures at a more convenient time. Additionally, opportunities become available to work as research assistants for faculty, as grading assistants, and in the labs, once studies have begun.

Certificate Programs

BIT and the Computer Science Department offer many graduate certificates. These programs offer students the opportunity to broaden their knowledge of a particular subject or industry. Each certification program requires completion of four courses and are available to students with a bachelor’s or master’s degree, or a Ph.D. in fields such as the sciences, medicine, law, the humanities, computer science, business, and the arts. Each graduate certificate has different requirements. Many (but not all) are available as online “distance education” classes. Graduate certificates offered include:

The certification program “does” seem to be designed for professionals simply wanting to increase their knowledge and experience. These programs communicate the latest changes in developing fields, providing cutting-edge knowledge about today’s marketplace. Taking a few additional classes provides a focused learning experience, without having to return to school and complete a second degree.

The certification programs may also provide a means for gaining access to a graduate program. Acceptance into one of the graduate certificate programs offers an opportunity to be admitted into the corresponding master’s program. Completion of a certificate program with a B average, or above, in each of the four courses, is needed to be accepted into a master’s program. However, this path to a master’s program does not eliminate the need to complete other prerequisites for advanced required courses.

The Department of Computer Science

Missouri S&T began offering computer classes in the 1960s, and was one of the earliest universities to offer an education in computer science. Smart Environments (smart offices, smart homes, and smart cities) are fast becoming a reality. Embedded sensors, smart devices, and the Internet of Things support these developing smart environments. They can autonomously collect and apply information about people, and adapt to improve the users’ experience.

Currently, the Department of Computer Science has developed a strategic plan for its educational goals. With Big Data and Smart Environments in mind, the Computer Science department wants to produce talented, highly qualified, and entrepreneurial graduates, who possess leadership skills in computer systems.

The Department of Computer Science offers a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, with minors in Computer Science and Bioinformatics, and a Master of Science focused on advanced research. Advanced undergraduate work can be chosen (with faculty guidance) to research:

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Machine Learning
  • Computational Science
  • Wireless Computing
  • Distributed and Embedded Computing
  • Security
  • Parallel Computing
  • Data Mining
  • Graphical User Interfaces
  • Graphics
  • Internet Computing
  • Software Engineering
  • Multimedia Information Systems

The Computer Science Department also offer a Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science. The program requires a robust understanding of algorithms, computer organization/architecture, database structures, file structures, discrete mathematics, software engineering, and operating systems.

The Ph.D. qualifying examination has two parts, a written examination and oral examination. Each examination cannot be taken more than twice. A research proposal must be presented and approved before the research phase of the dissertation begins. It is considered efficient to make this presentation during the oral part of the qualifying exam. Permission must be requested, at least two weeks in advance, to present the final dissertation. This provides time for an announcement to be sent to the appropriate graduate faculty. More information on dissertations is available in the dissertation rubric.

About the author

Keith is a freelance researcher and writer.He has traveled extensively and is a military veteran. His background is physics, and business with an emphasis on Data Science. He gave up his car, preferring to bicycle and use public transport. Keith enjoys yoga, mini adventures, spirituality, and chocolate ice cream.

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