According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the future of employment in this country is firmly anchored in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills. Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a skill is foremost in demand within STEM and the University of Florida wants to ensure that the state’s K-12 students and teachers are ready to lead the way right from the start.
With that forecast in mind, Nancy Ruzycki, Ph.D., instructional associate professor in the Department of Materials Science & Engineering, is leading multiple K-12 engineering education initiatives to develop the teachers and the students to help fill those prospective job openings.
An Okaloosa County AI-Gulf Triumph Foundation Grant award of $798,000 will support creating an AI, machine learning (ML) and data science program for K-12 schools within the Okaloosa County school district. It will also assist in creating an AI/ML/Data Science pathway for its students.
Additionally, an AI Foundations Framework Professional Development Model award of $409,000 will support creating and implementing a professional development track to teachers across Florida to administer the state’s AI Framework in their classrooms. It will also prepare them with the pedagogical knowledge necessary to teach the course content effectively.
“Both of the projects we’re working on fit under the larger umbrella goal of UF’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) Academic Initiative Center to provide wrap-around services to the state for AI skills, knowledge, practices and applications,” Dr. Ruzycki said. “We’re developing the networks to connect Florida’s teachers and students with the innovative workforce needs of the future and developing the teaching pedagogy and professional development resources to put educators in the best position to help do that.
“In Okaloosa County, we’re developing a high school-level program focusing on computational programming, data science fundamentals and machine learning that will also provide curriculum modules for the courses and avenues for teachers to earn industry credentials,” Dr. Ruzycki said. “The AI Frameworks grant will help high school teachers learn how to implement AI in the classroom with a 40-hour summer boot camp on AI principles and practices, one-on-one coaching and follow-up professional development programs.”
The professional development segments for the AI Frameworks program and the Okaloosa Triumph Gulf Foundation award will use the research-based, highly successful EQuIPD grant’s professional development model as its design base.
EQuIPD uses a system thinking and design engineering framework and pedagogical practices that support conceptual model development in students. The program also prepares teachers to create relevant, engaged, collaborative and technology-enhanced lessons to help students acquire the skills and knowledge needed for complex content.
“We are extremely excited to work with the Florida Career and Technical Education Division and Okaloosa Public Schools on the development and implementation of AI and Data Science Frameworks to provide students with an avenue to the cutting-edge careers of the future,” Dr. Ruzycki said.