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Carnegie Mellon University today announced it will offer an undergraduate degree in artificial intelligence. The college claims the degree will be the first of its kind in the United States. The first courses for the Bachelor of Science degree will be offered this fall.

Based in Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University is a storied institution in AI circles, a central figure in the development of autonomous vehicles today and historically led by figures like Herbert Simon and Alan Newell, creators of some of the earliest forms of AI.

A study by U.S. News and World Report released in March declared Carnegie Mellon the best computer science college in the U.S. for artificial intelligence, followed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford University, and the University of California, Berkeley.

Carnegie Mellon currently offers near a dozen AI-related courses, said Professor Reid Simmons, who will run the new program, and others will be added as the degree program grows.


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While popular open-source frameworks like TensorFlow, which has been downloaded more than 13 million times, will be offered for students to use while completing projects, the AI program at Carnegie Mellon will focus on teaching the fundamental knowledge underpinning AI.

Coursework will include math, statistics, and computer science as well as machine learning, computational modeling, and how neural nets works.

“We’re not training these students to just use tools, we’re training them to understand the science enough so that they can build the tools themselves,” Simmons told VentureBeat in a phone interview. “The main emphasis of the course is understanding how this works so that they’ll be able to go out into workforce and build the next TensorFlow, not just use it.”

AI undergraduate enrollment will be limited to no more than 100 second-, third- and fourth-year students, or roughly 30 to 35 new students each year, according to a blog post from the School of Computer Science announcing the program.

AI will be the third undergraduate degree offered by the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. The program will also work with other schools at the university that focus on engineering or social sciences to provide students a cross-disciplinary education.

Projects and independent study opportunities will let the students apply AI to improve the world in areas like health, transportation, and education.

AI programs have become popular in online learning offerings like Udacity, which recently created a School of AI and Andrew Ng’s Coursera, but Simmons believes more universities will adopt AI programs as AI applications proliferate to more parts of government, business, and assisting people in their lives.

“There’s a huge number of application areas where AI is making inroads and is just really starting to show its utility, and as the demand for people who have knowledge of AI grows, there will be more and more programs put together to feed that demand,” he said. “I’m very confident we won’t be the last department to add an AI major — we’re just going to be the first.”

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