Elective Delves into How & Why of AI

The new semester began with an innovative new elective for upper school students interested in a fast-growing computer science field: artificial intelligence.
Taught by Middle & Upper School STEAM Director Gavin Wood, the course allows students to explore concepts of machine learning, predictive analytics, personal assistants, medical diagnostics and the Internet of Things. It will also tackle ethical issues related to AI implementation and application. It is one of the only high school-level AI courses offered in the region.  

“I try to always be on the cutting edge of what's happening at the intersection of engineering and technology,” Wood said. “This helps me prepare my students to be the next generation of game-changers and innovators. Artificial Intelligence is already impacting nearly every aspect of our society and there is an explosion of job opportunities in this area, but there are hardly any high school courses in AI.” 

He developed the course by auditing classes offered at Stanford University, UC Berkeley and UC Davis to build content knowledge. Wood said he took the best parts of each of those courses to create a hands-on elective that is up-to-date and relevant, as well as engaging and accessible to students who are just beginning to explore computer science.

Wood anticipates a highly interactive class that blends activities and ethical discourse. “We'll become data miners to see the huge amount of information that is accessible on the internet and why we need AI algorithms to process it all. We'll explore machine-learning games, design a chatbot and learn about Natural Language Processing. We'll also do a deep-dive into how AI will transform specific aspects of society, such as health care, transportation, law enforcement and military, and the job sector.”

Wood says it is important for students to develop knowledge not only about what AI is, but also its present and future applications. He hopes his students will finish the course feeling knowledgeable about artificial intelligence, how it works, how it impacts their lives, “and what we need to do to make sure it is used for the betterment of society.”

The Artificial Intelligence elective is offered for the first time this semester to students in grades 9-12.
    • Articial Intelligence is a one-semester elective offered to Barstow upper school students during the spring 2021 semester.