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New Machine Learning Course This Spring Advances STEM Program at Palomar College

Machine learning (ML) will be offered for the first time at Palomar College this upcoming Spring 2023 semester. Palomar is the first community college to offer an ML course. Computer Science and Information Technology (CSIT) department chair, Terrie Canon, credits Palomar’s Professor Duy Nguyen for designing the course.

Professor Nguyen has over twenty-five years of experience developing artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) algorithms and applying them to solve national defense problems. His recent endeavor:

“I am currently leading the development of a Deep Learning Convolutional Neural Network approach to fuse multiple sensors data to perform automatic target classification of ships. This data includes radar, electro-optics/infrared red, and laser radar. It’s technology that is currently being integrated onto a field programmable array (FPGA) processor for incorporation onto a Navy long range missile system.”

Definition: Convolutional Neural Networks

The inaugural CSCI 290 Introduction to Machine Learning courses (33674/33675) will be taught online by Professor Gheni Abla who also has over 20 years of industry experience developing and applying AI/ML algorithms. Professor Abla has been teaching Introduction to AI (CSCI 250) for the past three years. Canon says Professor Abla will continue to teach the course each Spring. Computer Programming (Java) CSCI 114 is a prerequisite. The course requires 2 hours of lab and 3 hours of lecture each week.

Goals for Palomar’s CSIT Department include developing and growing a new data science program. The program will focus on the application of AI/ML technology to analyze massive amounts of data from multiple disciplines such as business, engineering, chemistry, physics, and psychology.

The new ML course can be used as an elective (with department chair signature) for those earning an AS degree in Computer Science. Canon says this course better prepares students pursuing a 4-year degree program in the field and internships involving the application of AI/ML. The learning objectives aim to give students an introduction to state-of-the-art tools used by industry practitioners.

Canon is also pleased that the course Introduction to Data Science CSIT 128 which was offered for the first time last year is continuing. The prerequisite for the course is Math 115 and CSIT 175 Python Programming is recommended. She says,

“This online course implements UC Berkeley’s curriculum on the cloud as the first course for transfer students in data science. It is an amazing course for students interested in data science.”


What is the interconnection and differentiation between machine learning, artificial intelligence, and robotics?

Nguyen explains, machine learning describes the ability to ingest data then convert it into information that can be interpreted by humans or machines.

“For instance, an IR geosynchronous satellite equipped with IR sensors could be stationed overhead to collect images on the ground. AI/ML algorithms would constantly search and analyze the sensor data for information. It may immediately detect a fire starting in the forest and quickly notify the fire department before it spreads.

Robots are equipped with sensors that serve as their eyes, ears, and noses. The sensors collect information or images from its environment. AI/ML algorithms running on the robot would ingest the data and translate it into relevant information. For example, an ultrasonic sensor on the robot can be used to detect the distance between it and something in front of it. The robot could then decide to move around the object as part of a collision avoidance system.”–Professor Duy Nguyen, Palomar College

What is the future for STEM?

“It’s the application of AI/ML technology to perform data analytics in the field of Data Science. The Pentagon established a new agency under the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) and led by its own Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Officer (CDAO). The agency is tasked with foreseeing the country’s development of AI/ML technology, the ethics compliance and technology advancement.” says Professor Nguyen, “This new push in AI/ML applications is possible because of more recent advancements in computational efficiency.”

Learn more: Pentagon Launches New AI Data Initiative (


Deciding Which STEM Major to Pursue

Canon advises students to immediately begin taking the required transfer courses for computer science majors and a computer programming course. She says students should work with a counselor on which specific courses are required for a transfer certificate or A.S. degree. Generally, these should include physics, college algebra, trigonometry, the three sequential calculus courses, discrete math, and linear algebra. She says students should speak with professors or make a Zoom appointment with her (the CSIT department chair) to learn more about majors. Students may find that there are degrees in other disciplines with technology that don’t require as much math such as Management Information Systems.

She agrees that the courses are challenging but encourages students to use the provided tutors and connect to the Discord community.

“The high achievers in STEM are often the ones brave enough to ask for help. It’s important to stay in pace with the class by getting help early and often. Online tutoring is available Monday through Saturday. An in-person tutoring session will be added in the Spring. Students can check our CSIT web page for exact times and location.” – Terrie Canon, Palomar College CSIT Department Chair

Learn more about UCSD & SDSU programs: UC San Diego Ranked 8th Globally for Most Influential Researchers (; SDSU Computer Science Graduation Statistics


Who are ML/AI employers?

Nguyen says there are several and listed a few some with local sites in San Diego County.

Defense Industry: Northrop Grumman, Raytheon Technologies, Lockheed, Boeing, L3harris

Government Sector: Air Force Research Lab, NASA, Naval Research Lab, Army Research Lab, National Security Agency, National Reconnaissance Office

Commercial: Google, Apple, Intel, Amazon

To learn more about the job outlook in the US: What the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic could mean for the future of IT jobs: Beyond the Numbers: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (


The Telescope Celebrates Palomar College As It Continues to Rank High

A Forbes article in 2021 said, “California led the nation, with 13 institutions in the top 50″ in Academic Influence’s first-ever ranking of community colleges. It furthers, “Academic Influence used the same methodology it’s employed to rank all kinds of higher education institutions, including liberal art colleges, research universities and international institutions.”

The updated 2022 Academic Influences list placed Palomar College 10th out of the 18th that made the top 50 in California and 27 out of the 839 accredited institutions on their list across the country. No other San Diego County community colleges made the top 50.

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