URI opens library-based AI lab

PAOLO STEGAGNO, right, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Chengzhi Yuan, assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, fly a drone inside the Robert L. Carothers Library and Learning Commons at the University of Rhode Island during the official opening of its Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. / COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF RHODE ISLAND/NORA LEWIS

SOUTH KINGSTOWN – Demonstrations of smart technology-powered drones, robot hands and smart textiles for medical use took place at the opening of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory inside the Robert L. Carothers Library and Learning Commons at the University of Rhode Island in September.

A cross-disciplinary facility open to all students, faculty and staff, as well as the greater community, the facility was funded by a Champlin Foundation grant and URI dollars. The technology is backed by an artificial intelligence supercomputer in Tyler Hall that powers the lab’s six specialized laptops. Able to run large data sets and open-source software, those computers give students and faculty the opportunity to research robotics, wearable technology, smart cities, public policy and ethical considerations with AI.

Kunal Mankodiya, assistant professor of electrical, computer and biomedical engineering and lead investigator on the project, said creation of the laboratory was driven by student interest.

“The popularity of AI and associated fields is not just limited to industries,” he said in a statement. “Our team looked at a recent survey asking URI students about topics they wish to see in their curriculum. AI was among the top requests. Modern students know where the market is going. The AI lab is a timely response to the demand.”

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Additional laboratory team members include Cheryl Foster, professor of philosophy; Joan Peckham, professor of computer science and statistics and head of URI’s Big Data Initiative and Data Science programs; Harrison Dekker, associate professor and data services librarian; Angel Ferria, media curator in the library; Karim Boughida, dean of university libraries; Indrani Mandal, a computer science instructor; and Bohyun Kim, associate professor of URI libraries.

The library and laboratory staff are in the process of creating tutorials and workshops for students and faculty to better utilize the facility.

Emily Gowdey-Backus is a staff writer for PBN. You can follow her on Twitter @FlashGowdey or contact her via email, gowdey-backus@pbn.com.

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