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AI Comes of Age in the Department of Power Mechanical Engineering
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) President and co-CEO Mark Liu and founding chairman of the ADATA Technology Company Simon Chen recently urged that NTHU should be at the forefront of artificial intelligence (AI) education. In response to such an encouragement, the Department of Power Mechanical Engineering at NTHU, ranked first in the field of mechanical engineering in Taiwan, has recently decided to augment its existing strengths in the areas of machinery and optics by adding a group of core courses in AI.
 
Last month when TSMC President and co-CEO Mark Liu attended the inauguration of the Artificial Intelligence for Intelligent Manufacturing Systems (AIMS) Research Center at NTHU, he pointed out that previously science and engineering students had to learn computer programming, but today they would have to understand AI. Also last month, Chairman of the ADATA Technology Company, Simon Chen, who graduated from NTHU and is also the president of NTHU’s Tsing Hua Club One Hundred (THCOH), stated that AI should be a required area of training in order to meet the needs of future industries.
 
Knowing that AI and big data have a great development potential, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of students applying for the admission to the programs related to computer science. According to Tsai Hung-yin, the Director of the Department of Power Mechanical Engineering, in order to move toward smart manufacturing, besides programming a robot’s “brain,” it is also necessary to understand how its sensors and activators work—and these are precisely what students in the Department of Power Mechanical Engineering focus on. With opto-electro-mechanical-system integration and comprehensive AI training program, the Department hopes to firmly establish an effective AI program.
 
In February of this year the Department of Power Mechanical Engineering appointed Professor Ting Chuan-kang, an expert in both mechanical engineering and information technology, to teach a course titled Artificial Intelligence. Prof. Tsai said that the course is part of the Department’s core curriculum which includes such topics as optimization technology, machine learning, data mining, and big data analysis, and emphasizes manufacturing production systems and the cultivation of practical skills.
 
Prof. Ting Chuan-kang, who is also an alumnus of NTHU’s Department of Power Mechanical Engineering, specializes in artificial intelligence and evolutionary computation, currently serves as an editor of several well-known journals, such as IEEE Computational Intelligence Society, and is also the executive director of the Taiwanese Association for Artificial Intelligence. After obtaining a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Paderborn in Germany, he spent 12 years teaching information engineering before returning to NTHU.
 
The other teachers in the Department with a background in AI include Prof. Li Sheng-shian, an assistant director of the Department and the Director of the Institute of NanoEngineering and Microsystems, who will teach an AI core course titled “Microsensor and Microinstrument Systems,” while Prof. Hung-Min Cheng will offer a robotics course.
 
Prof. Ting said that many students specializing in information engineering have difficulties dealing with AI systems because they are not familiar with mechanics and manufacturing. For example, when he teaches his students to design an AI system for cracking a Rubik’s cube, those specializing in information engineering can easily write a good algorithm, but they have difficulty designing a robotic arm which can accurately and efficiently rotate the cube, since this requires considerable skill in mechanical design, mechanics, and other related fields.
 
In the 2017 Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings, NTHU’s Department of Power Mechanical Engineering was ranked 38th in the field of mechanical engineering—the highest in Taiwan. In order to continuously improve its international competitiveness, the Department has adopted a new curriculum based on those offered at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Tokyo. In response to the latest technological trends, the Department has appointed a number of top professors, expanded its scope of research, and strengthened its cooperation with industry.
 
This year the average score of the students who were admitted to the Dept. of Power Mechanical Engineering is higher in comparison to previous years. In order to encourage more outstanding students to apply to the Department, alumni of the Department have set up a scholarship which will distribute NT$5 million to talented students each year. Furthermore, Prof. Tsai Hung-Yin also pointed out that new students whose first choice are the Department of Power Mechanical Engineering will be eligible to apply for the First Choice Scholarship, which has recently been doubled to NT$20,000 in the first year of their enrollment. Afterwards, those who remain in the top 25% of their class are eligible to receive an international exchange grant worth NT$150,000.
 
Tsai, who earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from the Department of Power Mechanical Engineering, said that when he was a student in the Department there were few female students, but at present the number has risen to 25, accounting for about a quarter of the first year students in the Department. He also indicated that with the scholarship programs, he hopes to see more outstanding students join the Department in the future.
 

Various faculty of the Department of Power Mechanical Engineering will be teaching courses in AI, including (right to left) Ting Chuan-kang, Hung-Min Cheng, and Li Sheng-shian.

Various faculty of the Department of Power Mechanical Engineering will be teaching courses in AI, including (right to left) Ting Chuan-kang, Hung-Min Cheng, and Li Sheng-shian.


Prof. Ting specializes in artificial intelligence and evolutionary computation.

Prof. Ting specializes in artificial intelligence and evolutionary computation.


The Department of Power Mechanical Engineering has recently added a group of core courses in AI.

The Department of Power Mechanical Engineering has recently added a group of core courses in AI.


Designing a robot which can quickly crack a Rubik’s cube requires expertise in such areas as programming, sensor technology, and actuators.

Designing a robot which can quickly crack a Rubik’s cube requires expertise in such areas as programming, sensor technology, and actuators.


Assistant Professor Hung-Ming Cheng supervised a student group which created a robot capable of climbing steps.

Assistant Professor Hung-Ming Cheng supervised a student group which created a robot capable of climbing steps.

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