Two schools receive NSF funding for AI research

Indiana University will be a principal organization in two new National Science Foundation Artificial Intelligence Research Institutes.

By Indiana University October 17, 2021
Image courtesy: Brett Sayles

Indiana University will be a principal organization in two of the U.S. National Science Foundation’s 11 new NSF National Artificial Intelligence Research Institutes, helping advance artificial intelligence to improve people’s lives.

Overall, the 11 institutes are focused on AI-based technologies that will result in advances such as helping older adults lead more independent lives, creating solutions to improve agriculture and food supply chains, and transforming AI into accessible “plug-and-play” technology, the NSF said in an announcement.

IU will be a principal organization in two of the AI research institutes:

The IU Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering and the Center of Excellence for Women and Technology, both based at IU Bloomington, will collaborate with the AI Institute for Intelligent Cyberinfrastructure with Computational Learning.

Researchers from the IU School of Education at IU Bloomington and the Luddy School are part of the team for the NSF AI Institute for Engaged Learning, which will advance natural language processing, computer vision and machine learning to engage learners in AI-driven narrative-centered learning environments, particularly in STEM. Students will be engaged through story-based problem scenarios.

Distinguished Professor of Education Cindy Hmelo-Silver is the co-principal investigator on the project and has spent her career working on such learning, which helps students learn concepts by using complex, real-world problems.

The AI Institute for Engaged Learning will help teachers tailor problem-based learning to make it interesting and relevant for different students in different learning communities. The labor-intensive part of group facilitation that would usually fall on teachers will be conducted through AI analysis of student conversations, facial expressions, gestures and posture, along with other data.

“We’re trying to find ways to augment the intelligence of both the teachers and the kids in ways kids will be excited about,” Hmelo-Silver said.

Researchers from North Carolina State, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Vanderbilt University as well as the educational nonprofit Digital Promise are also part of the team.

“At its heart, the ability to easily create tailored learning environments through AI will advance our commitment to meeting the needs of diverse learners,” said Anastasia “Stacy” Morrone, dean of the IU School of Education in Bloomington.

The AI Institute for Intelligent Cyberinfrastructure with Computational Learning in the Environment, or ICICLE, will build the next generation of cyberinfrastructure to make AI easier for scientists to use. It will also democratize AI by making it accessible on many devices and easy for non-experts to use.

Project researchers plan to create a robust, transparent national cyberinfrastructure that is applied to areas of societal importance, such as food systems, precision agriculture and animal ecology.

Three researchers from the Luddy School’s Department of Intelligent Systems Engineering will help ICICLE investigate ways in which AI can enhance the cyberinfrastructure that underpins national- and campus-level research infrastructure. McRobbie Bicentennial Professor of Computer Engineering Beth Plale, a co-project investigator and executive director of the IU Pervasive Technology Institute, and assistant professors Ariful Azad and Prateek Sharma will research approaches to improve the trustworthiness of AI, and develop new AI models and computational primitives that make cyberinfrastructure for AI run smarter and faster.

IU will also play a leadership role in the workforce development and Broadening Participation in Computing activities of the ICICLE project. In a collaboration involving Plale from the Luddy School and Maureen Biggers from the IU Center of Excellence for Women and Technology, IU will establish a stakeholder committee to strengthen the commitment and shared vision in broadening participation. The committee will increase competency in linking machine-learning fairness with human unconscious bias in educational modules, while increasing awareness of how to best foster and maintain inclusive and equitable environments.

“The workforce development collaboration between the Luddy School and IU CEWIT will allow the project to develop synergistically with Luddy’s AI initiative and the CEWIT AI For All initiative, and thus laying groundwork for greater impact by this NSF-funded activity on the IU campus,” Plale said.

– Edited from an Indiana University press release by CFE Media.