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Artificial Intelligence continues to play a larger role in our daily lives, and its vast potential for additional growth in life as we know it helped guide the focus of a first-of-its-kind summer exploration camp that recently wrapped at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology.

Twenty high school and college students from India, and another from Brazil, completed the Summer@HU Artificial Intelligence Camp that immersed them in cutting-edge content and gave them incomparable hands-on experience.

Ian Rodriguez, a third-year university student at the FTC, Faculdade De Tecnologia E Ciencias in Brazil, was awarded a scholarship to attend the AI Camp at HU.

The experience gave Rodriguez, a mecatronic engineering major, a clear understanding of the importance of AI in business. And he said he now knows what he wants to write his thesis about at the end of the year: Artificial Intelligence.

“I didn’t realize how big AI is getting and how important it is. It’s not really known how many companies are using it and the importance of it,” said Rodriguez. “I thought (the camp) was going to be easier to be honest, because it is a summer course. But it was hands-on. You really get a feel for AI in this camp.”

Computer engineering major Arpa Ray, a fourth-year student at St. Vincent Palloti, part of the RTMNU University in India, echoed the same thoughts about her experience attending the camp.

Ray also appreciated the other experiences she walked away with. The group sightsaw in Washington, D.C., visited a local business group to discuss AI in the workplace and got to feel what it was like to attend an American University.

“If you open the website of any major company today, and Google is one of the largest, you will see that they have invested heavily in AI,” Arpa said of why HU’s AI camp was so relevant. “And a lot of us want to come to HU for the master’s program, so it was good to experience an American university.”

The AI camp was part of Harrisburg University’s larger study abroad program for international students during the summer of 2018, dubbed Summer@HU, which has quickly become an important component of HU’s international outreach program. The pilot Summer@HU program combines a high-quality academic offering with an English immersion experience that includes visits to start-ups, tech industry and healthcare businesses.  The program also is hosting about 20 students from Korea who are studying entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley.

“The goal of Summer@HU is to bring international students to our campus, to study with our faculty and to reassure them about the many issues that surround studying in the U.S.  In today’s climate, many international students who once used to come to the U.S. are turning to Canada and Australia for their education. We believe that the best way to reassure them that Harrisburg is a fine and safe place for study is to actually bring them here and show them who we are,” said Preetha Ram, Chief Academic Expansion Officer and Associate Provost for International Affairs at HU.

The AI camp was of pivotal importance due to the hi-tech content, its relevancy and because HU Computer Science Professor Dr. Majid Shaalan teaches the course as an experiential exercise, Ram said.

“Students create their accounts on Anaconda the first day and after that, you can be sure that they are coding furiously every night,” She said. “Of course, we provide ample support, in fact Prof. Shaalan has added a tutorial on Python to help students who are inexperienced in this programming language.  The success of our efforts is evident as students are now asking to transfer to HU! Much of the credit goes to Professor Shaalan.”

“The students were accompanied by three faculty members and the directors of two institutions, St. Francis Institute of Technology and St. Vincent Pallotti,” Ram added. “They were so impressed by the course that they readily signed (agreements to work together in the future), and have invited us to discuss other partnership initiatives, like student recruitment. This was a pilot year, and based on this successful pilot, you can be sure that we will be offering more programs for Summer 2019!”

Looking back, and at the future of the program, Dr. Shaalan recognized everyone who made and will continue to make the program a success.

“If I can add a comment, it would be about how much I appreciate the CISC teaching aids (TAs) and their efforts throughout the four weeks of work, and the four weeks of training before the camp,” Dr. Shaalan said. “They actually ran two sessions every day, one for the study group as a follow up on the concept I taught that morning, and then another one from 3-6 pm on problem solving and writing codes with the students. In addition to that, they were organizing night activities for the students playing games, or watching movies. They took the students to Hershey Park, City Island, and the Food Truck Festival. They will be TAs next year, and I want them to know just how much they are appreciated!”

Get more information about Summer@HU.

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