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DU Students, Faculty and Staff Try Out New AI Tools

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Connor Mokrzycki


Event brings industry leaders to campus to explore the countless ways artificial intelligence might revolutionize teaching, learning, research and work at the University of Denver.

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Two women, seen from behind, look at a human-like robot.

The first-of-its-kind AI-Try-A-Thon, held on April 5, offered members of the DU community a chance to learn about and try out a wide range of artificial intelligence tools, from chatbots and marketing tools to image generators and DU’s own social companion robot, while learning about and reflecting on the current and future implications of the widespread use of AI. 

The Try-A-Thon opened with remarks from Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Mary Clark, who shared her excitement and recognized the immense amount of work faculty and staff across the University have put into developing ways to integrate AI into work, learning, teaching and research. Lili Cheng, corporate vice president of the Microsoft AI and research division, then talked about the novel ways in which AI is being used in education. “These tools can be used to bring better, more individualized education,” she said.  

Stephen Hutt, assistant professor of computer science in the Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science, led attendees through a discussion on the current state of AI, potential pitfalls and groundbreaking possibilities. When students, faculty and staff were asked to share their thoughts, the results ranged from cautiously optimistic to extremely excited, with some looking forward to tools that can automate tedious, repetitive tasks and personalize education and health care. Others voiced concern over AI being used to spread misinformation and disinformation, and its rapid growth outpacing our understanding of the technology and its implications. 

Industry sponsors and vendors including Oracle, Microsoft, AWS, Turnitin, Adobe, Kaltura, Ocelot AI, Zoom and Salesforce showcased a variety of tools and applications, offering community members various demos and a chance to ask questions and determine how specific tools may or may not be implemented into their workloads or studies. Attendees were also able to interact with Ryan the Social Robot, an automaton that interacts with individuals, which was developed by Mohammed Mahoor, professor of electrical and computer engineering in the Ritchie School. 

As AI tools become increasingly prevalent in work and education, legal, ethical and functional frameworks need to be developed and implemented. To that end, Chancellor Jeremy Haefner recently formed the AI Steering Committee, whose goal is to ensure the safe and effective implementation of artificial intelligence tools in business operations, teaching and learning, and research on campus. Led by Provost Clark and Russell Kaurloto, CIO and VC of information technology, the committee also includes Vivek Choudhury, dean of the Daniels College of Business; Michael McGuire, dean of University College; Michelle Sabick, dean of the Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science,Rohini Ananthakrishnan, deputy chief information officer, and Dan Fischer, Interim Assistant Vice Chancellor, IT Customer Service. Learn more about the AI Steering Committee here