N.C. STEM high school to launch new AI program
The North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, a public residential and online high school, has received $2 million in donations to its foundation to create The Ryden Program for Innovation and Leadership in Artificial Intelligence. The program will combine an artificial intelligence (AI) curriculum with a fabrication space.
The North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM), a public residential and online high school, announced that an alumnus has donated $2 million to its foundation–the largest gift in the school’s history–to create The Ryden Program for Innovation and Leadership in Artificial Intelligence (AI) at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, which will empower the students of NCSSM and beyond to take full advantage of the transformative powers of AI and machine learning (ML).
The launch of the Ryden Program will put NCSSM, the only secondary school member of the UNC System, at the leading-edge of public schools in America when it comes to AI learning. The Ryden Program’s goal is to educate the leaders of the future about AI so that they understand this powerful technology’s merits and the ethical considerations it raises. The Ryden Program will place a strong emphasis on ensuring students understand how to merge humanity with ML and how to use AI to solve complex, macro problems affecting society.
The Ryden Program is made possible by a gift from Carl Ryden, NCSSM Class of 1989, and co-founder and CEO of Cary, N.C.-based PrecisionLender, a provider of applied banking insights technology to commercial banks worldwide.
The Ryden Program will bring an interdisciplinary learning approach to the field of AI. Combining an AI curriculum with a fabrication space, the Ryden Program will house student-directed and project-based AI explorations–all designed so that students can immerse themselves in both theoretical study and practical implementation of AI. This approach is the first-of-its-kind in a public high school setting.
AI is widely acknowledged as a discipline that will dramatically influence the workplace of the future. Through the Ryden Program, NCSSM students will be specifically qualified to embrace AI as a tool for augmenting rather than replacing their human capabilities as they enter the workforce, and to understand holistically how to use AI with the explicit goal of bettering humanity.
The Ryden Program will have physical space at both NCSSM’s Durham, N.C., campus, as well as its planned Morganton, N.C., campus. Beyond the students who will have access to the AI curriculum and makerspace tools on campus, the curriculum will be available online, and its output will also be open-source, ensuring students and educators from around the globe can also benefit.
“We believe that NCSSM is uniquely positioned to address the fundamental questions and challenges presented by AI–particularly related to ethics and entrepreneurship,” said Todd Roberts, Chancellor of NCSSM. “A component of our mission is to ‘inspire innovation for the advancement of humankind,’ with which the Ryden Program squarely aligns. We couldn’t be more thrilled to accept this gift from Carl, and our students cannot wait to embrace all that the Program has to offer.”
“We were the first publicly funded residential STEM high school in the nation, and we’re again very proud to be on the leading edge of technology education,” Roberts continued. “An AI Program and related curriculum of this magnitude are unprecedented. I hope that this helps North Carolina to be a leader in providing access to AI for educators and students.”
“Artificial intelligence is shaping our lives, workplace and economy and it is vital that our next generation of leaders know how to harness this tool to improve lives and drive our world forward,” said Margaret Spellings, University of North Carolina System President. “The Ryden Program at NCSSM will help our students do just that and importantly, it will profoundly democratize artificial intelligence education with open access that enables students and educators everywhere to take advantage of its lessons.”
“NCSSM changed my life, and I view it as an equity partner in my future,” said Ryden. “I grew up in a rural community where long-term success was not a ‘given.’ I was good at working with computers and had the opportunity to attend NCSSM. It put me on a path to NC State, to dual degrees from MIT and gave me the tools to be a successful entrepreneur. I can think of no better place to share in my success. The students at NCSSM will change the world, and the Program will give them the knowledge and the ethical insights they need to use AI to make it a better place.”
“As the leader of a company already using AI to solve business challenges in the banking world, I’m keenly aware of the AI talent desert we’ll soon confront if our AI education doesn’t keep pace with the demand for AI tools and solutions,” Ryden continued. “This is my way of not only giving back to a school that I cherish but also helping to ensure that students across our region, our country and beyond can remain competitive in what I believe will be an AI-dominated workplace of the future. It will be a place where human intelligence and AI can merge together to do profoundly transformative things, if students are taught now how to use AI in both ethical and positive ways.”
North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics is a world-class public high school with statewide reach empowering students with the skills and knowledge to design their own future. Specializing in science, technology, engineering, and math, it challenges talented high school juniors and seniors from across North Carolina through a residential program on its historic campus in Durham — and beginning in 2021, on a second campus being built in Morganton. Extensive online program and summer offerings extend the school’s impact to every corner of the state and to younger students. NCSSM gives back to communities through the time, talents, and resources of its world-class educators, dedicated staff, and students. Founded in 1980 as the first of its kind, NCSSM has become the model for 18 such specialized schools around the globe. Its 11,000-plus alumni include local and global leaders in medicine, technology, commerce, education, and the arts, a community of problem solvers who build a brighter future.
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