Ed with AI & VR

New tech at Manchester Community College

Peter La Monica, Department Chair and Associate Professor of Computer Science at Manchester Community College, discussed some of the innovative new programs and courses being offered at the college, as well as the cutting-edge technology shaping the future of education.

Tell us about the new programs and courses being offered.

There are two new programs. One is the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Program. We’ve taken out some of the database stuff and focused more on artificial intelligence, machine learning, natural language programming and computer vision. … We aim to help students make sense of vast amounts of data generated during cyber investigations and use artificial intelligence to analyze and interpret it effectively. … Students can also complete work and get certifications from Amazon Web Services. The other program is Computer Science and Extended Reality. This is an exciting new program where students can join virtual reality classrooms using VR headsets or flat screens. We’re teaching them about platforms to create virtual and augmented reality meetings, making interactions more immersive than traditional Zoom meetings.

What are some real-world applications or careers that students with these skills can pursue?

The Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence program is mainly designed for programmers and focuses on using AI in various fields like advanced manufacturing, healthcare and the cyber world. … Many products and applications today use artificial intelligence, making programming skills highly valuable. … The Computer Science and Extended Reality program is geared towards students who want to work in an office or contract for an office to design meeting spaces or even create virtual avatars for websites. … It can be applied in onboarding, training, meetings and classes, to provide a more engaging and immersive experience.

How do you keep up with the rapid advancements in this field while developing the curriculum?

Staying up-to-date with technology is essential. We closely monitor new products and trends, especially in emerging technologies like 5G and virtual reality. We ensure our students have access to the latest technology, like 5G antennas and virtual reality headsets, to learn and explore these cutting-edge fields.

How have students responded to these new programs?

Students in the Extended Reality class loved it and said it was more engaging than anything they had ever done before. They had the option of coming to class [in person] or [attending via] the metaverse, and most of them did the metaverse. They think it’s great, because this is the type of world they live in now.

Did offering these programs require any additional resources or facilities?

For the Artificial Intelligence program, we had to enhance some computing platforms. However, we had planned ahead and managed most of it progressively. As for Extended Reality, we invested in virtual reality headsets and have been preparing for this program since 2017, waiting for the technology and infrastructure to catch up.

Why did the college decide to invest in these programs for students?

We believe in providing students with opportunities to create successful careers. Technology is the future … and extended reality and augmented reality are becoming a major transition in technology. Everything is going to start to go into this virtual world, in various industries. It’s not really in the mainstream yet, but we want our students to know about it and to start using it so that they can be at the forefront of these advancements. We want to equip them with cutting-edge skills and give them an edge in the job market.

News & Notes 23/08/03

Bill signing

Gov. Chris Sununu signed a number of bills into law on July 28, according to a press release, including SB 215, which aims to address the national shortage of nurses by allowing fully qualified individuals to join the workforce and contribute their nursing skills across various settings; SB 268, which allows for pre-hospital treatment and transportation for supporting K9 members of law enforcement, search and rescue and military operations, ensuring that the animals receive the necessary resources for their health and safety while serving and protecting the communities; SB 161, which aims to provide clean energy benefits to low-income families who have been particularly impacted by inflation and high energy costs, to facilitate a fair and equitable energy transition for all residents; and HB 249, which establishes regulatory standards for the pet insurance industry and allows restaurant owners to keep their companion dogs on the premises. Gov. Sununu vetoed one bill, according to the release; SB 42 would have allowed interest-free loans to be provided to individuals who received benefits they were not eligible for due to manipulating the system. In response to the veto, New Hampshire Employment Security Commissioner George Copadis and Deputy Commissioner Richard Lavers expressed appreciation for the governor’s decision, stating that it is crucial to discourage such behavior and uphold honesty and integrity in the program.

Help for kids

Granite VNA is reintroducing the “Helping Heal with Others” (H2O) program, providing support for grieving children ages 6 to 18 and their families. According to a press release, the monthly program offers coping skills and peer support, aiding children in experiencing and processing grief. Led by agency staff and volunteers, the sessions incorporate age-appropriate creative activities, pet therapy and stress management techniques to encourage healing. Concurrently, the program offers supportive sessions for accompanying parents and caregivers. A drop-in information session will take place on Saturday, Aug. 5, at the Boys & Girls Club of Central NH in Concord. From Sept. 9, 2023, to June 8, 2024, H2O will run on the second Saturday of each month. The program is offered at no charge, and participants will receive lunch during each session. To register, call 224-4093, ext. 82822, or visit granitevna.org.

Consumer help

The New Hampshire Insurance Department’s Consumer Services Unit has released its statistics for Fiscal Year 2023, revealing a record-breaking recovery of approximately $6 million for New Hampshire consumers. Throughout the year, the unit processed 1,078 consumer complaint investigations, 4,086 assistance requests and 88 applications for external health review, according to a press release. The unit’s mission is centered around educating, navigating and investigating to assist residents with insurance-related issues. Consumers can contact the Consumer Services unit for assistance and guidance on insurance matters by calling 271‐2261 or by email at consumerservices@ins.nh.gov.

Dental assistants

Dartmouth Health’s Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) is addressing the community’s dental health concerns by partnering with the Hartford Area Career and Technology Center (HACTC) to offer scholarships for their new dental assisting program. According to a press release, the program is an online certificate program that provides hands-on work experience as dental assistant trainees with participating dental offices and aims to increase the local dental workforce and improve access to dental care. Students interested in the program can contact Aron Tomlinson at tomlinsona@hartfordschools.net or calling 802-359-4752.

Firefighter grants

The New Hampshire delegation, including Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, along with Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas, has announced more tha $700,000 in Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) program funding for fire departments in rural New Hampshire towns, including Errol, New Hampton, Surry and Warren. According to a press release, the grants will be used to enhance the safety and training of firefighters and to purchase necessary equipment, such as a tanker vehicle, firefighter turnout gear, vehicle extrication equipment and firefighter breathing apparatus.


Joshua Mann, Chief of Operations, Radio Communications Maintenance for the New Hampshire Department of Safety, Division of Emergency Services and Communications, has achieved the Certified Public-Safety Executive (CPE) designation, a prestigious initiative aimed at elevating professionalism and recognizing excellence in the public safety communications industry. According to a press release, the program, established in 2016, consists of two 12-week online courses and a 10-day capstone seminar at APCO headquarters in Daytona Beach, Florida, focused on equipping participants with essential skills to lead organizations in the complex and ever-changing environment of public safety agencies

The Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Hampshire (NOFA-NH) has announced the return of the Collaborative Regional Alliances for Farmer Training (CRAFT) of Farming for its fifth season. According to a press release, the program features on-farm workshops in summer and early fall, aimed at building farming skills and fostering community among local growers, aspiring farmers and consumers. The 2023 CRAFT season starts at Callie’s Creamery, an organic micro-dairy in Peterborough, on Thursday, Aug. 3, from 4 to 6 p.m. The workshop, focused on intensive rotational grazing and grassland management, is open to all, with free admission for farmers, farm workers and NOFA members, and a sliding scale fee of $5 to $15 for other attendees. Register at nofanh.org/craft.

The New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) will begin work on a bridge replacement project on Route 107 in Deerfield at Freese’s Pond on Aug. 7. According to a press release, the work will require a full closure of the section for 30 days, with detours for southbound and northbound traffic. This is part of a larger $975,000 effort to replace the bridge, which is expected to be completed by Nov. 3, 2023.

The Upper Room in Derry is providing backpacks filled with school supplies for the new academic year. According to a press release, families enrolled in Upper Room programs can register to receive backpacks in late August. The organization is seeking donations of backpacks, folders, notebooks, pencils, pens, erasers, highlighters, index cards and loose-leaf paper. Around 75 to 100 children will benefit from the annual backpack distribution day. Donations can be dropped off at The Upper Room’s front desk on Tsienneto Road until Aug. 21.

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