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The implementation of artificial intelligence and similar programming has been a hot topic in many sectors and recently, some legislation was introduced to help boost education in the matter.

Thursday, U.S. Senators Jerry Moran and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) introduced the bipartisan NSF AI Education Act of 2024 to expand scholarship and professional development opportunities to study artificial intelligence (AI) with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

“Artificial Intelligence has tremendous potential, but it will require a skilled and capable workforce to unlock its capabilities,” Sen. Moran noted in a release from his office. “If we want to fully understand AI and remain globally competitive, we must invest in the future workforce today. This legislation takes an all-of-the-above approach, investing in STEM education, fellowships and hands-on-learning from kindergarten to college for students in rural areas, at community colleges and from low-income homes. Inspiration to explore and the resources to learn will help make certain the U.S. is an AI leader in the next century.”

“The emerging tech jobs of tomorrow are here today,” Sen. Cantwell noted in the release from Moran’s office. “Seattle has one of the nation’s highest growth rates for AI jobs, AgAID in Pullman is helping our farmers feed the world with AI solutions that overcome crop productivity challenges and the entire Pacific Northwest is on the way to becoming America’s 'Quantum Valley.’ Demand for AI expertise is already high and will continue to grow. This bill will open doors to AI for students at all levels, and upskill our workforce to drive American tech innovation, entrepreneurship and progress in solving the toughest global challenges. This NSF AI Education Act would authorize the agency to award undergraduate and graduate scholarships in AI, quantum hybrid and quantum, including scholarships focused on the use of AI in agriculture, education and advanced manufacturing. It would create fellowships for professional development for those already in the STEM and require NSF to work with educators and academics to introduce AI skills and education in K-12 classrooms and community colleges. It would also create grants for AI research, development and training in agriculture through Land-Grant Universities and the Cooperative Extension Service.”

The Bipartisan NSF AI Education Act:

• Boosts Educational and Professional Development Opportunities to Create AI and Quantum Leaders of Tomorrow: This bill authorizes NSF to award undergraduate and graduate scholarships for students to study every aspect of AI – its development, deployment, integration or application. It establishes scholarships for future educators, farmers and growers, and those in advanced manufacturing to study AI. It also provides professional development opportunities for current educators and STEM workers. The bill leverages financial support from the private sector to support the NSF scholarships and fellowships authorized by this bill.

• Supports Quantum Education: In addition to supporting AI education, the bill will provide fellowships and scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students for quantum information science, engineering and technology. AI can help lead to breakthroughs in quantum and this bill works to support research, development and education for the technology.

• Advances AI Technology to Support Agriculture: This bill propels AI research in agriculture to equip farmers with advanced farming tools for better crop production. It authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture in collaboration with the NSF to make grants for AI research, development and training in agriculture through Land-Grant Universities and the Cooperative Extension Service to reach rural communities.

• Supports Community Colleges to Lead AI Education: In coordination with the Regional Technology and Innovation Hub Program from the CHIPS & Science Act, this bill calls for creating at least five community college and vocational school “Centers of AI Excellence” across the country. These centers will focus building upon the best practices for teaching and researching AI and disseminating those practices across the country. These Centers will focus on topics like AI education and training, manufacturing, agriculture and more.

• Spurs Innovation to Educate Workforce: This bill establishes NSF Grand Challenges to help find strategies to educate 1 million or more workers on AI in the United States by 2028. The bill also supports the creation of an AI education and training framework that does not displace existing workers, including teachers and helps more underrepresented populations such as women and rural residents to receive and benefit from artificial intelligence education and training.

• Supports AI Resources for Classrooms: As AI rapidly develops, this bill instructs the NSF to collaborate with educators and academics and lead research on AI in the classroom. NSF would be tasked with researching teaching tools and creating publicly available education guidance for using AI in classrooms, with a focus on tools for K-12, low-income, rural and tribal students.

Other leaders and experts also praised the legislation.

“Microsoft is pleased to support the NSF AI Education Act of 2024, which is an important first step that will help support students, professionals, and institutions, including community colleges, prepare for and leverage the opportunities brought about by AI,” Fred Humphries, Corporate Vice President, U.S. Government Affairs, Microsoft, noted in the release from Moran’s office. “We look forward to working with the Senate on future legislation as we continue to see the impact of AI across our nation’s education and workforce systems.”

“The United States needs a skilled workforce to harness the potential of AI for a more prosperous future,” Daniel Castro, Vice President, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, noted in the release from Moran’s office. “Investing in AI education is crucial for nurturing homegrown talent and ensuring our nation remains competitive as this transformative technology continues to advance. This legislation is an important step forward in strengthening the STEM talent pipeline and empowering the next generation of AI pioneers to keep the United States at the frontiers of this technology.”

“The future of business and industry are reliant upon AI technology,” Dr. Ryan Ruda, President of Garden City Community College, noted in the release from Moran’s office. “It is critical, now more than ever, that higher education institutions embrace programs, training, and workforce development that embeds AI into curriculum and professional development. It is incumbent on higher education to build collaborative industry partnerships and training which best prepare individuals for this changing workplace. STEM education and grant opportunities included in the NSF AI Education Act will further provide opportunities to expand AI training and create access across higher education.”

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