Goldsboro, N.C. — Wayne Community College is set to become the second community college in the country to launch an artificial intelligence program for students.
Program leaders hope the cutting-edge track will help WCC students and the Goldsboro community capitalize on the state’s burgeoning tech boom.
“It is literally the future,” incoming AI student Brittini Bryant said. “It’s going to be all around us, and I figured why not throw my hat in the ring?”
If the lab on the second floor of the Walnut Building on Wayne Community College’s campus looks like something out of a science fiction movie – that means it’s working.
Come fall of this year, WCC is set to become the first community college in North Carolina to offer an Artificial Intelligence degree.
“The impact can’t be overstated,” said Glenn Royster, chairman of the department of information systems technology at WCC.
“Artificial intelligence itself is going to have the magnitude of electricity and the internet. Everyone is going to be using it and no one is going to be able to escape it,” he continued.
But what exactly is artificial intelligence?
“I like to go with the working definition that artificial intelligence is the ability to provide machines the ability to learn, reason, and make decisions,” Royster said.
At first, the program would be offered entirely online to teach students the basics.
Once they’ve got those down, instructors told WRAL News that students would move into a brand-new AI lab on campus.
“They’ll actually be building the machine learning models themselves, testing them out and making things they can put in a portfolio to show employers, ‘I can do this,’” Emerging Technologies Instructor Cynthia Kaye said.
That opportunity to gain real-world experience was part of what drove Bryant to become the first student to enroll in the program.
But she also couldn’t pass up the chance to create the same kind of robots she grew up seeing on TV.
“I have the programming aspect of it, and of course I’m a big sci-fi nerd, I love ‘Terminator,’” Bryant said. “And so I’ve always had a deep interest.”
Program leaders said with major tech companies like Apple making their way to North Carolina in the coming years, the AI track could turn Goldsboro into a pipeline for tech talent.
“It’s going to be major not only for Wayne County but for the state as well as the country,” Royster said.
The first AI students are set to graduate from WCC in 2023.