NextEra Energy helps ignite AI interest among local high school students
Nov 20, 2023
Mark Cuban AI Workshop 2023 participants holding a banner for the event

Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. - When high school senior Jonathan Rodriguez thinks about artificial intelligence (AI), he can’t believe how quickly it’s integrated into society. From ChatGPT to TikTok recommendations, smart home assistants, facial recognition and self-driving cars, AI has become a part of everyday life. 

"I really like how accessible it has become, anyone can use AI,” said Rodriguez. “You don’t need a powerful computer, and anyone can play around with it and create something great.” 

His interest was piqued by a recent Mark Cuban AI Workshop where students from seven South Florida schools, including his own Santaluces Community High School, participated in a four-week program hosted by NextEra Energy, a Florida-based company known as the largest and most innovative utility company in the world.  

Senior Mahi Moore joined this year’s workshop after hearing about it from her computer science teacher at Palm Beach Central High School.  

“I was excited to learn more about the fundamentals of machine learning and hopefully use it to make a difference in the world,” said Moore, who hopes this new technology can improve education. 

In its fifth year, the Mark Cuban AI Bootcamp was founded in 2019 by the Mark Cuban Foundation. Since then, more than 900 high school students have attended in cities across the nation thanks to the foundation’s partnerships with local companies.  

NextEra Energy was one of the 28 host companies across the nation selected for the 2023 workshop. 

An FPL mentor points to a computer screen as a high school student participating in the event looks on

The company first introduced South Florida students to the program in 2022, when it sponsored and hosted the four-day event at Manatee Lagoon, Florida Power & Light Company’s (FPL) Eco-Discovery Center in West Palm Beach.  

This year, NextEra Energy was excited to open its doors again to 23 students for another workshop. More than 40 employees with extensive experience in AI, machine learning and data science, volunteered to mentor students and guide them through the bootcamp’s exercises. 

Bootcamp mentor Julie Culpepper is a quality program manager for the IT department in FPL, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy. She is committed to helping grow future talent for the industry and for the company. 

"These are the students of the next generation of technology, automation, and advancement,” Culpepper said. “It's important they understand their responsibilities starting now by building up accountability and making them conscious of the power of these technologies.”

This effort reflects NextEra Energy's commitment to empowering the next generation by providing them with opportunities to learn about AI and advance in their future careers. 

"We’re honored to host these workshops in our backyard,” said Michael Fowler, FPL’s VP of Information

Technology. “South Florida is an emerging tech hub. I’m grateful for the investment by the Mark Cuban Foundation and FPL, making our region even stronger.” 

What sets apart the world’s largest utility company in the industry, Fowler said, is that it lives out its corporate values by giving back to the community where employees live and work. 

“This program is unique and it may be the first time that some of these students are getting hands-on experience with AI tools,” Fowler said. “It was incredible seeing them explore the latest technologies as they consider applying to colleges and universities that offer a STEM curriculum. I hope we’ve inspired them to not only continue with their education but return to technology jobs right here in South Florida and FPL.” 

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