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Dell, Intel Award 15 Colleges With $40K Grants for AI Labs

Major tech companies are working with the American Association of Community Colleges to strengthen AI programming in institutions across the country by offering funds to build labs and develop courses.

digital illustration of an AI brain
According to the World Economic Forum, advancements in artificial intelligence are expected to displace 85 million jobs while creating 97 million new jobs by 2025. Noting the need to prepare students for increasingly digitized workplaces, 15 higher education institutions have each received $40,000 grants from the tech companies Intel and Dell Technologies and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) to build AI labs and support the growing AI talent pool, a recent announcement said.

The funding was awarded as part of Intel’s AI for Workforce program, launched in 2020 to support training on AI technologies and give students more access to technology for related courses, according to the announcement. The winning schools include Austin Community College in Texas, BridgeValley CTC in West Virginia, Broward College in Florida, Edmonds College in Washington, Grand Rapids Community College in Michigan, Houston Community College/Houston Community College Foundation in Texas, Howard Community College in Maryland, Ocean County College in New Jersey, Rockland Community College in New York, Southeast Community College in Nebraska, Stark State College in Ohio, Tulsa Community College in Oklahoma, Umpqua Community College in Oregon, Wayne Community College in North Carolina and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.

According to an email from Intel’s Senior Director of AI and Digital Readiness Carlos Contreras, the funding also marks the beginning of the AACC AI Incubator Network, an 18-month initiative for schools to network and strengthen their AI programming. There are currently 70 schools across 32 states participating in the network, which the announcement said is open to schools that didn't receive grant funding.

Besides being eligible for grants to build AI labs, Contreras said participating community colleges will engage in peer discussions, collaborate on economic development projects, build strategies for AI programming and share lessons about student projects between the participating colleges.

He noted that the labs in particular will also provide students with more access to AI equipment, tools and resources through courses on data collection, computer vision, AI model training, coding and the societal impacts and ethics of AI technology, among other subjects. 

“AI technology is rapidly evolving with new tools, technology and applications requiring workers to learn new skills,” Contreras wrote in an email to Government Technology. “Community colleges have served as the go-to place for workers to acquire new skills, and by partnering with community colleges across the nation, Intel’s AI for Workforce program and the AI Incubator Network Initiative will help address long-term AI skilling and education gaps while democratizing AI skill sets and mindsets to the larger workforce.”

Contreras said the AI for Workforce program had 31 participating schools across 18 states prior to the start of the incubator program, but hopes the incubator will grow the program.

“Our goal is for the program to continue to expand to reach all 50 states by 2023, spurring a national AI skilling initiative and bringing coordinated resources to the broader community college system,” he said.

To receive the $40,000 grants, Contreras said, colleges were asked in January to submit proposals for AI programming strategies and identify local industry partners in sectors such as health care, cybersecurity and advanced manufacturing, where AI technologies are expected to play increasingly important roles in daily operations.

“When we announced the AI Incubator Network initiative, we initially planned to grant 10 schools with the $40,000 but ended up selecting five additional schools because it was such an impressive applicant pool,” he wrote.

According to Contreras, Intel will work with the AACC moving forward to support community colleges by providing 200 hours of comprehensive content for AI-related tech courses, industry use cases for using the latest AI technology trends and applications, and ongoing support for faculty and peers.

He added that Dell Technologies will also provide technical expertise to the 15 selected schools to configure AI labs for teaching in in-person, hybrid or virtual learning environments, while the AACC will lead monthly discussions to give faculty strategies on student engagement relating to AI programming, among other goals.
Brandon Paykamian is a staff writer for Government Technology. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from East Tennessee State University and years of experience as a multimedia reporter, mainly focusing on public education and higher ed.