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GA Tech, Facebook partner to engage Black, Latino students in AI education

A detailed article on the Georgia Tech and Facebook partnership aimed at building diversity in the AI field appears in the January issue of University-Industry Engagement Advisor. For subscription information, click here. 

In the initial steps of a program of collaboration with U.S. universities “that serve significant populations of Black and Latino students,” Facebook has partnered with Georgia Tech to develop, co-teach, and fund graduate-level online deep learning courses. The program will be expanded in 2021 to include additional institutions.

The collaboration at Georgia Tech came about through discussions between Facebook and the university’s Machine Learning Center and the School of Interactive Computing, says Zsolt Kira, PhD, associate director of the Machine Learning Center at Georgia Tech and an assistant professor in the School of Interactive Computing.

This is not the first collaboration between the two partners, says Paco Guzmán, research scientist manager at Facebook and a lecturer for Facebook’s Co-teaching AI Program. “We’ve engaged with Georgia Tech for a number of years now — most recently with the Align Program and Co-teaching AI Program,” he notes.

The partners, Kira explains, had common goals and objectives. “We wanted to have an industry collaboration in order to better expose our students to industry relevance, and to problems in deep learning,” he says. “We teach the fundamentals in terms of theory, but we also wanted to expose them to how these methods are actually used in the real world, and problems they might encounter.”

Another objective, he says, was to increase inclusion and diversity — “democratizing” AI, if you will. “One of the key aspects of that is obviously incorporating materials into classes where you do have diversity,” he adds.

“Our vision is to engage with more minority-serving institutions and universities that reach the diverse population we are working to serve across the United States, so that we can provide scalable AI educational content to drive a bigger and broader impact within the community,” says Guzmán. “With this co-teaching program, we aim to make AI education more inclusive, and close the gap between what’s being taught in graduate-level CS courses and the deep learning techniques that are applied today by scientists and researchers. Georgia Tech is one of the most diverse institutions in the country and has established the OMSCS (online Master of Science in Computer Science) program, which particularly attracts people from diverse pathways.”

 “The collaboration started with the objective to complement Georgia Tech’s existing course in deep learning,” notes Guzmán. “We aimed to provide insights from Facebook AI’s researchers and engineers that demonstrated how to solve large-scale problems in an end-to-end approach (from data to deployment), [using] state-of-the-art models and emphasizing the importance of using/developing AI responsibly. We then worked with Georgia Tech to turn the on-campus course into an online class for bigger and broader impact within the community. The co-taught online course includes theoretical and real-world applications, so we can move in a direction of closing the gap between what industry is asking for and what universities are teaching in the classroom.”

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