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Friday, October 15, 2021

Academics & Research

UH AI research lab to become fully operational this spring


Housed in the College of Technology, the lab conducts research on ways that AI can be implemented in the oil and gas industries. | File photo/The Cougar

Housed in the College of Technology, the lab conducts research on ways that AI can be implemented in the oil and gas industries. | File photo/The Cougar

After opening virtually in March 2020, the University’s Artificial Intelligence Industry Incubator and Digital Oilfield Lab plans to become fully operational by March 2021to continue research on applications for AI in the oil and gas industries.

Located at UH at Sugar Land, the project is a collaboration between the College of Technology and the AI Innovation Consortium. The partnership is one of many that the college has forged, including others with Microsoft and the city of Houston.

 “The lab is focused on applied research and industry incubator programs that build and demonstrate AI technology solutions for oil and gas specific use cases,” said professor of practice in the College of Technology David Crawley.

“The plan is to create digital operations hubs connected in the cloud for seamless access to approved lab resources and data throughout the University.” 

The lab creates opportunities for students to transition their incubator research experience and educational backgrounds into jobs at commercial organizations, Crawley said.

An incubator experience refers to an association between the College of Technology and energy companies to assist the latter in developing new products and services.

 “This program is designed to help promote incubator activities among students at UH so they can support the various applied research, and proof of concept work being done at the lab and with the consortium,” Crawley said.

“The AIIC will also work with the student and research assistant pool at UH to help take this hands-on experience into their professional career.”   

One project currently underway, started by technology project management student Nadia Tran, entails researching the workflow of a global manufacturing company to root out problems and offer support for technology-driven resolutions.

“We are currently working with the company to document their current workflow, find out root causes to their issues and recommend potential solutions for a future-state process flow,” Tran said.

“We are also working with an Artificial Intelligence partner — AI Consortium — to create a value case document to support their AI solution.” 

The incubator will allow students to support building proof-of-concepts for industrial partners or for their own approved studies, and will be able to use the lab as a simulation for real-world work, said Crawley.

“I feel this program is extremely beneficial to my future,” said technology project management student Leroy Godfrey.

“The skills and knowledge that I am acquiring throughout this program have opened the door to countless possibilities for my career. It has established the framework that will help me be successful in any career path I take.”  

Godfrey cites project size and performance challenges as student concerns with virtual lab operations.

“The only concern I had was the ability to efficiently communicate and coordinate a large project in a virtual environment,” Godfrey said. “However, this project hasn’t run into any issues of that nature and everything has been smooth sailing.” 

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