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DMC's A.I. program hopes to shape Corpus Christi's tech industry

Posted at 4:46 PM, Oct 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-07 21:23:56-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Fall semester is the first time Del Mar College is offering students the chance to learn about artificial intelligence. Students can now earn a certificate for artificial intelligence in Geographical Information Systems (GIS).

Del Mar College is the first two-year school to have a certificate of this kind.

"This gives us opportunities that a lot of other smaller colleges don't have," Dr. Phillip Davis said, professor of computer sciences at Del Mar College. "And we just have the right set of researchers on staff that do this."

The 14-hour course will award students with an occupational skills award. The introduction class teaches students about A.I. and machine learning.

“I like understanding more of the terminology," said Miranda Barrett, one of the students in the course. "So, that’s been interesting. And its helped obviously, since I’ve already taken GIS course that some of it’s already integrated into the software itself. You don’t really realize that you’re using it, but know that we’re learning more about it, it’s like 'oh yeah I remember we did do this.'”

A.I will be used to help with decision making and finding trends that aren't so clear to humans. Barrett said they are working towards predicting weather patterns.

“Everything that we do, when you grab your phone, it recognizes you and your face," said Barrett. "Heck, you go into Facebook it can tell who your friends are and different things. So obviously, we’re not going to get away from artificial intelligence. In my opinion if something is emerging, you may as well jump on the train and at least figure out where you fit into it.”

“What we want is people that can—that are professionals in different skills like engineering, civil engineering, marketing, management to be able to incorporate these AI and machine learning skills into their daily work,” Davis said, the man that planned the curriculum.

The program is not just drawing new students, but students like Barrett. Those who return to school for a specialization in their field.

“I use drone technology, actually, on our farm," she said. "And so, I was hoping that if I learned some of this artificial intelligence it would help me with the maps that I produce. Being able to recognize certain objects and create these prescriptions for the tractor versus me having to hand do it.”

The program is funded for the next five years through a new partnership with the National Science Foundation. Del Mar and Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi are collaborating on A.I with the funding of $3.2 million.

Davis feels like five years is plenty of time to establish the program and strive for the ultimate goal. That is having Corpus Christi join the other Texas cities thriving in the tech industry.

“Corpus has always been a little behind the times in terms of job growth especially in technology," he said. "Oil and gas ports (are) huge here, gas transportation, production, agriculture are big here. But we haven’t had those industries like you see around Austin. Civic conductor industries or the automotive assembly.”

This program does that by setting these students apart from the rest.

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“The graduates, I think, having these skill sets, the A.I. and the machine learning which is what we’re teaching them in the program, being able to apply this automatically puts them heads and tails above any competitors that might be looking for that job," said Davis.

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To accommodate the high CPU power needed to work with A.I, Davis said the college is bringing in new computers. He's hoping that A.I. can be in every major at Del Mar as an introductory class.

Anyone interested in learning more about the certificate program should contact Dr. Davis at Del Mar College.