With Congress focusing more time and attention on artificial intelligence (AI), the National Science Foundation (NSF) celebrated its higher education and industry partners’ AI endeavors and achievements in a recent research showcase on Capitol Hill. Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering’s Athena program was among the 25 institutes demonstrating their work through hands-on exhibits for NSF and congressional staff.

The event included remarks from NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan, as well as Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.). Panchanathan lauded the efforts of what he said was a decades-long investment into the NSF for the development of artificial intelligence research and production.

Senators Martin Heinrich and Mike Rounds represented the Senate’s Artificial Intelligence Caucus. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said that he feels an obligation to get involved to start crafting a comprehensive AI policy. Heinrich said they also recently had the Senate’s first AI forum.

“This gives me hope,” Heinrich said. “This is where the rubber meets the road in a way that is accessible to all of our constituents, not just a few geographies. And that I think is really, really important.”

Professors Yiran Chen and Jeffrey Krolik represented Duke’s Athena Institute, highlighting the institute’s efforts in edge computing. Edge computing solves the problem of latency in cloud-based services, enabling mobile devices to process data closer to the source for near real-time results and increased security. For example, first responders can use edge technology to annotate maps of their environment in challenging situations to make them safer. NSF Director Panchanathan  participated in a demonstration of such technology, using a VR headset to simulate brain surgery.

The following day, Duke participated in a separate Advocacy Day hosted by the Coalition for the National Science Foundation (CNSF). CNSF is a coalition of over 140 organizations, universities, and industries, including Duke, united in support of increasing funding to NSF. In addition to discussions with staff from the North Carolina congressional delegation, Athena leadership joined other AI Institutes to discuss their work and the importance of sustained federal support for the AI Institutes with staff from the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee, Senate Armed Services Committee and Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.