IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Prairie View A&M to Build AI-Driven Q&A System for NASA

Collaborating with Texas Southern and Texas A&M universities, professors and students at Prairie View are working on an artificial intelligence system that would use NASA's data to answer science questions from the public.

The NASA logo on the side of a building.
(TNS) — Prairie View A&M University is receiving $1.5 million from NASA to create an AI question-and-answer system that could make the agency's data more accessible to students and the general public.

Think of it as ChatGPT for NASA.

For instance, a high school student might ask, "What is the impact of climate change on sea level rise?" The system, using artificial intelligence and machine learning, would create an easy-to-understand answer based on satellite data that measures how much water is stored in ice sheets and oceans.

Another student might ask, "How does NASA monitor food growth from space?" The system would answer this question by searching through satellite data on soil moisture and plant health.

"We're building a small but highly specialized ChatGPT," said Lijun Qian, a regents professor at Prairie View who is the lead researcher on this project. "(Our goal is) to bridge the gap between NASA's knowledge database versus the general public's understanding of NASA's mission and scientific discovery."

NASA's databases are organized through very specific, jargony words. And this makes the information difficult to navigate for the general public and current question-and-answer systems such as ChatGPT, Qian said.

The system being created by Prairie View professors and students, collaborating with teams from Texas Southern University (an HBCU), Texas A&M University (a Hispanic Serving Institution) and NASA, will be programmed with the specific key words that NASA uses to organize its databases. That will enable it to provide accurate, easy-to-understand answers.

The universities' three-year project is part of $11.7 million NASA is awarding to Historically Black Colleges and Universities to help spur a more diverse pipeline of talent in data science.

"The increasing use of data science at NASA and beyond really drives home the need for a future workforce with data science knowledge," Mike Kincaid, associate administrator of NASA's Office of STEM Engagement, said in a news release. "With our newest collaboration, NASA created an exciting pathway to find new talent at HBCUs."

In addition to creating the question-and-answer system, Qian said the NASA funding will be used to create new courses, such as using AI and machine learning for Earth science. And it will allow Prairie View, Texas Southern and Texas A&M to co-host a new annual workshop for k-12 teachers on AI and machine learning for science.

"We're able to train our students here at Prairie View to be engaged in AI, machine learning and big data analytics," Qian said, "which you know is the future for the nation. So we hope our students will become the future workforce for this exciting new field."

©2023 the Houston Chronicle. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.