Quantum Computing In Education: Bridging The Knowledge Gap

Zuber Lawler

Quantum computing is a powerful new technology that will revolutionize the speed of, and the applications available for, computation.  It is here now, and is no longer science fiction. It already has many applications, from cryptography to pharmaceutical development, and holds immense potential in the immediate future.  This potential can be achieved, however, only if coupled with a properly trained and adequate workforce of individuals who understand this new technology and how to use it.  To assist in this regard, innovative approaches are sprouting in education to promote necessary knowledge.  Some of these approaches include the use of virtual reality and machine learning.  One such approach is a multi-institutional project funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation.  Researchers from the University of Central Florida, the University of Texas at Dallas, and Vanderbilt University have received a grant pf nearly $1 million for quantum education using virtual reality (VR) and machine learning. The primary goal of this project is to improve understanding of quantum information science with QubitVR, a quantum education VR application developed at the University of Central Florida

Quantum computing is a complicated and non-intuitive subject matter.  As such, misconceptions about phenomena such as superposition and entanglement abound, creating significant barriers to people who can – and should – thrive working in this field.  Educators are using VR to provide students with a visual understanding of quantum mechanics, simplifying this complex subject so it can be better understood.  A goal of the project discussed above is to evaluate the effectiveness of QubitVR in undergraduate courses.  Eventually, QubitVR applications will be available on desktops and on smartphones.

This overall approach involves training a workforce with an understanding of quantum mechanics and of creating algorithms. This will enhance the development of quantum computing algorithms for such applications as cryptography, security and big data.  The project also seeks to induce collaborative research among different institutions, each having a different strength in an aspect of quantum computing.

As quantum computing grows, education will become a necessity.

The increasing demand for scientists, software developers and business professionals in this field creates an urgency to educate people capable of working in this field.  Universities recognize this need and are creating curricula that include quantum mechanics. No longer is quantum computing the province of Ph.D. programs.  Indeed, some of the basic quantum computing concepts are creeping their way into K-12 education – and they will continue in increasing amounts.  Thus, even the youngest students will have rudimentary knowledge of quantum mechanics and quantum computing.  One need look no further than a second-grader’s knowledge of smart phone applications today to understand how knowledgeable and proficient grammar school children will become about quantum computing and quantum technology.

The enthusiasm and curiosity people will have for quantum concepts is evident.  The excitement of quantum technology will surely attract students.  And they will surely say what they like – and don’t like – about the field.  This will enable educators to craft programs that create an enthusiastic, highly motivated and proficient workforce for the quantum computing field.

Quantum computing in education, with the aid of virtual reality and machine learning is here now, and is plainly the way of the future.  It will satisfy the critical need for a workforce that can take full advantage of the possibilities quantum computing can offer.  It is essential that such education be promoted.

References:

  1. UCF News. (n.d.). New UCF project is harnessing virtual reality to teach quantum computing. Retrieved from https://www.ucf.edu/news/new-ucf-project-is-harnessing-virtual-reality-to-teach-quantum-computing/
  2. Metro Americas. (n.d.). Advancing quantum education of the future with virtual reality and machine learning. Retrieved from https://metroamericas.com/en/noticias-2/advancing-quantum-education-of-the-future-with-virtual-reality-and-machine-learning/223532/
  3. Scientific American. (n.d.). Quantum computing is the future, and schools need to catch up. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/quantum-computing-is-the-future-and-schools-need-to-catch-up/

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