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AI Education at NTHU Goes into High Gear
In light of the growing importance of artificial intelligence (AI), NTHU has recently launched a number of campus-wide credit courses in AI, including a 19-credit module for non-science and engineering students titled “AI Application Basics,” and a 21-credit module for science and engineering students titled “AI Advanced Applications.” Moreover, this fall the Department of Computer Science is recruiting ten students for a new specialization in AI.
 
President Hocheng Hong said that at NTHU AI also stands for “added intelligence,” in the sense of interdisciplinary knowledge, and emphasized that expertise in AI is rapidly becoming an essential professional skill in practically all fields, and is especially important for the policy makers of the future.
 
AI Application Basics focuses on programming and machine learning, and also includes courses in computer vision, image processing, digital audio, biological data analysis, robotics, and even introductory courses on the application of AI in music and literature. AI Advanced Applications includes elective courses in cloud computing and graphics theory. President Hocheng said that he hopes that in the near future over half of the students at NTHU will choose to take one of these AI modules.
 
Concurrent development of AI software and hardware
 
Prof. Fred Huang, dean of the College of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, has previously led a research team which has developed various technologies used in “precision agriculture,” including drones, satellite aerial photography, and image analysis, which together can be used to determine the best harvesting period and accurately predict the size of the harvest. Huang said that what’s special about AI research at NTHU is that both the software and hardware are being concurrently developed—a dual skill which is a big advantage when students enter the job market—and the way in which the College of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science cooperates with various other NTHU colleges to broaden the application of AI.
 
Wang Ting-chi, the director of the Department of Computer Science, said that he recently participated in an international seminar on electronic design automation, and noticed that one-fourth of the papers were related to machine learning, adding that large companies in Taiwan and abroad urgently need AI experts. Thus the Department of Computer Science has decided to set up a new specialization in AI, in addition to its existing specializations in electronic information and information engineering.
 
“Twenty years ago, we used to say that ‘programming is the future,’ but now we are saying that AI is the future,” commented Liou Jing-jia, currently the director of the Department of Electrical Engineering, adding that machine learning is developing at such a rapid pace that in the near future writing programs will mostly be done by computers. He also pointed out that in the past few years the courses offered by the College of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in AI related subjects have been fully enrolled, and these new courses in advanced AI are intended to better meet the educational needs of students.
 
AI needs more women
 
At present, the proportion of female students in the various departments of the College of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science is less than one-quarter of the total, which is unfortunate, since women are usually better than men in teaching machines to think like humans. Liou also said that he requires the students in his Embedded Systems course to design a self-driving system, and that women always do it better than men.
 
Liou also said that lots of women are actually very interested in AI. Not long ago he and some of his colleagues gave a talk on AI at the Municipal Taichung Girls' Senior High School, and the students posed a lot of really good questions on such issues as robots making human workers redundant, how to get along with robots, and the legal status of robots. He was very impressed and hopes that more women will go into AI research.
 
Pushing the AI envelop
 
For the past two years Prof. Soo Von-wun of the Department of Computer Science has been teaching a course titled “Introduction to AI in Music” in which students learn how to teach computers to compose music and lyrics. He believes that before long computers will be a lot better at singing and expressing human feelings. In addition to students from his own department, his course has also been taken by a number of students from the Music Department, and this kind of cross-disciplinary cooperation is accelerating the pace of progress.
 
Soo has also offered a course titled “AI in Literature” focusing on how to program computers to produce various types of writing, including reports, novels, scripts, and even poems and jokes. He said that while the poetry written by a computer is still quite stiff, based on the current speed of development, it may soon be impossible to distinguish between poetry written by a computer and poetry written by a real person. Both of these courses are highly popular.
 
Learning through international exchange
 
In addition to providing a wide array of AI courses, the College of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science also helps its students to gain practical experience and to cultivate an international perspective. For example, the Department of Electrical Engineering provides generous funding for study-abroad programs for either summer vacation or an entire semester; the Department of Computer Science has a similar program.
 
Wang Chun-yao, the director of the bachelor’s program of the College of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, said that his department organizes advanced study programs for students during summer vacations. For those who have just finished their freshman year, there is a six-week exchange program with Tsinghua University in Beijing; those who have just finished their sophomore year do an internship; and for those who have just finished their junior year there is a special program preparing students to spend a semester abroad in the United States. The College also offers eight scholarships, each worth NT$260,000.
 
Huang said that all the compulsory courses of the College of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science are taught in two versions—English and Chinese; students are free to choose, and sometimes more students sign up for the course taught in English, adding that strong foreign language proficiency is essential for making the most of any study abroad program.
 
On the interface of gaming and AI
 
Chen Jiaxin, a recent graduate of the College of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, said that she completed all the coursework for her bachelor’s degree in just three years, and then went to the United States to study for one semester at the University of Minnesota. Having graduated in three and a half years, she is now a master’s student in the Institute of Computer Science and specializes in computer vision processing.
 
Chen said that she has greatly benefited from the outstanding teachers and rich learning resources at NTHU. During her semester at the University of Minnesota, in addition to completing courses in such areas as communications and computer graphics, she also took classes in theater and ice skating, and found studying in a multicultural environment to be both enjoyable and stimulating.
 
Hsu Zunlin, a sophomore of the College of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, is a member of the team which won last year’s intercollegiate championship in the popular online game League of Legends (LoL); he has become so well known that while student-teaching at a local high school as part of his coursework, some of the students recognized him. Hsu may look like a slacker, but he’s actually at the top of his class.
 
Hsu said that during junior high school he was rather obsessed with LoL, but by the time he entered senior high school he had learned how to properly manage his time so as to maintain a proper balance between classwork and gaming; these days, he never plays online games when he has a class the next morning. He said that NTHU is rich in interdisciplinary resources, and suggests that those interested in working in the online game industry should consider taking courses in such areas as theater, music, and art design.
 
Chen Jiaxin (right) is a master’s student in the Institute of Computer Science and Hsu Zunlin (left) is a sophomore of the College of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Chen Jiaxin (right) is a master’s student in the Institute of Computer Science and Hsu Zunlin (left) is a sophomore of the College of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Faculty of the College of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (left to right): Wang Ting-chi, Fred Huang, Liou Jing-jia, and Wang Chun-yao.

Faculty of the College of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (left to right): Wang Ting-chi, Fred Huang, Liou Jing-jia, and Wang Chun-yao.

The College of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science is spearheading NTHU’s increasing emphasis on AI education.

The College of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science is spearheading NTHU’s increasing emphasis on AI education.

Wang Chun-yao (second from right) visiting his exchange students at the University of Minnesota.

Wang Chun-yao (second from right) visiting his exchange students at the University of Minnesota.

 

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