ATLANTIC CITY — A group of local high school students wrapped up a week-long artificial intelligence “boot camp” at South Jersey Gas headquarters on Saturday.
From October 22 through Saturday, approximately 25 students in grades nine through 12 participated in the free program launched by the Mark Cuban Foundation in 2019.
“It helps kids get exposed to technology, learn about artificial intelligence while using it, and also find jobs they didn’t know about or wanted to learn more about,” Lisa said. Cottman, senior human resources specialist for South Jersey. Industries, the parent company of South Jersey Gas.
In the United States, 30 camps will be held in 20 cities to teach basic AI skills to a total of 550 students. The foundation’s goal is to have 1,000 students graduate from the program each year by next year.
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The Cuban Foundation — the nonprofit run by billionaire Dallas Mavericks owner and “Shark Tank” investor Mark Cuban — recruits the students and provides mentors, programs and guest speakers. South Jersey Gas provided technology such as laptops and lab equipment, as well as mentors who helped students along the way.
South Jersey Gas mentors had to undergo mentoring and lab training to be able to help the students.
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Each session included a guest speaker, a Q&A session, and lessons on AI-related topics such as machine learning or chatbots, followed by a lab exercise led by South Jersey Industries staff.
“Technology is constantly changing,” Cottman said. “As we mature in AI, we also need to evolve.”
Students didn’t need any computer or programming knowledge to attend, just an interest or curiosity in technology.
Katie, a sophomore from Mays Landing (the program didn’t allow students to give their last name), said she had a general interest in technology.
“I came to training camp with an open mind,” Katie said. “It’s an interesting new experience.”
Marina, a senior at Atlantic City High School, said her sister worked in cybersecurity.
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“I’m going to go to computer school, so it’s a good opportunity to gain experience,” she said.
It was the second year in a row that South Jersey Gas has hosted the boot camp, which company officials say aligns with their commitment to promoting a wider range of opportunities for the future workforce. Atlantic City artwork.
Over four half-day sessions, students learned about AI, the different functions of AI, such as behavior monitoring or program writing, as well as coding and programming. using IT tools to create their own AI applications using Microsoft Azure AI.
“It’s new but interesting, and the programs are fun,” said Marina. She thought the most interesting part of boot camp was learning about facial recognition, how AI can help monitor behavior, and how to code automated responses.
The Atlantic City Initiatives Project Office of the State Department of Community Affairs brought the boot camp to the city as it coincides with the department’s goal of implementing ways to address the challenges of the city, as outlined in the Atlantic City Transition Report written in 2018. One of the issues mentioned in the report was the importance of providing more opportunities for the city’s youth, targeting populations in difficulty and creating new support initiatives around their needs.
Other goals noted in the report included launching new after-school and summer programs and preparing young people for the job market.
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South Jersey Gas was selected to host the camp for its use of AI. A company spokesperson said AI can be used by dispatchers to route or redirect field crews in emergencies, or in chatbots that help customers resolve issues online.
“The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs is thrilled to see South Jersey Industries taking the lead in supporting this year’s Mark Cuban Foundation Artificial Intelligence Boot Camp for young people in Atlantic City and Union Township,” Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, who serves as commissioner of DCA, said in a statement. “Now even more students will be positively impacted by this innovative educational program.”
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