Amazon Web Services Education Champions program welcomes The Citadel’s Dean of Engineering

Photo: Third from left, Andrew Williams, Ph.D., dean for the School of Engineering at the IMAGINE 2022 conference.

The Amazon Web Services Education Champions program recognizes and supports education leaders who are driving digital transformation with cloud computing. It is community-led and made possible through the work of others who look at the bigger picture when it comes to improving education and accelerating research. The first inductees into the AWS Education Champions program were recently honored at the IMAGINE 2022 conference for their innovative work and for improving education through cloud computing technology.

Among those recognized at the conference were Andrew Williams, Ph.D., dean for The Citadel’s School of Engineering, who was recently named an AWS Education Champion, due to his implementation of the AWS cloud at The Citadel. Williams also served as a keynote speaker during the event.

Along with being recognized, AWS Education Champions will also receive professional development opportunities, have increased visibility in a network of other education leaders and get access to travel grants.

“Introducing the AWS cloud to our students and faculty has been an engaging way to have them learn about artificial intelligence and cloud computing,” said Williams. “The cloud makes computing for an institution so accessible, many people including faculty don’t realize that. We’re using it to further our entrepreneurial mindset.”

AWS is a cloud service from Amazon that provides services in the form of building blocks. These building blocks can be used to create and deploy any type of application in the cloud. A few services that AWS provides are storage, databases and management tools.

Since his time at The Citadel, Williams and the faculty at the School of Engineering have used the cloud to teach students how to program cars to drive by themselves using deep reinforcement learning with AWS DeepRacer, an integrated learning system for users to better understand reinforcement learning, and to experiment with and build autonomous driving applications. They also lead AI workshops that use AWS cloud-based machine learning services, ensuring that learning opportunities for students are endless as they become more familiar with this technology. Williams has been successful in incorporating AWS AI, AWS Cloud, Alexa and DeepRacer into curricular and co-curricular activities.

“The cloud is used in all of our daily lives, so it’s important to encourage student’s curiosity with it. There are many free resources that help you learn how to access network tools and software services in a simple way, by just using a web browser — it’s invaluable knowledge to have access to,” said Williams. “Pursue your curiosity and drive to increase your knowledge using the cloud. Institutions like The Citadel and AWS’s trainings and certifications will help do that. AI impacts people, but you can’t understand that until you tie it in with learning and the cloud.”

The Citadel is ranked as one of the Top 25 Undergraduate Engineering programs and is one of the first five engineering programs in the country, providing a greater education experience to each cadet and student involved.