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Less waste, more AI: Fellowship offers opportunity to test sustainable solutions

Headshot of Iesha Baldwin

Whether it’s typing an email or guiding travel from one destination to the next, artificial intelligence (AI) already plays a role in simplifying daily tasks.

But what if it could also help people live more efficiently — that is, more sustainably, with less waste?

It’s a concept that often runs through the mind of Iesha Baldwin, the inaugural Georgia AIM Fellow with the Partnership for Inclusive Innovation (Partnership) at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Enterprise Innovation Institute. With a background in environmental studies and science, Baldwin studied methods for waste reduction, environmental protection, and science education.

When she accepted the PIN Fellowship for 2023, she saw an opportunity to learn more about the nexus of artificial intelligence, manufacturing, waste, and education.

“I took an interest in AI technology because I wanted to learn how it can be harnessed to solve the waste problem and create better science education opportunities for K-12 and higher education students,” said Baldwin.

This type of unique problem-solving is what defines the PIN Fellowship programs. Every year, a cohort of recent college graduates is selected, and each is paired with an industry that aligns with their expertise and career goals — specifically, cleantech, AI manufacturing, supply chain and logistics, and cybersecurity/information technology. Fellowships are one year, with fellows spending six months with a private company and then six months with a public organization.

Through the experience, fellows expand their professional network and drive connections between the public and private sectors. They also use the opportunity to work on special projects that involve using new technologies in their area of interest.

With a focus on artificial intelligence in manufacturing, Baldwin led an inventory management project at the Georgia manufacturer Freudenberg-NOK, where the objective was to create an inventory management system that reduced manufacturing downtime and, as a result, increased efficiency, and reduced waste.

She also worked in several capacities at Georgia Tech: supporting K-12 outreach programs at the Advanced Manufacturing Pilot Facility, assisting with energy research at the Marcus Nanotechnology Research Center, and auditing the infamous mechanical engineering course ME2110 to improve her design thinking and engineering skills.

“Learning about artificial intelligence is a process, and the knowledge gained was worth the academic adventure,” she said. “Because of the wonderful support at Georgia Tech, Freudenberg NOK, PIN, and Georgia AIM, I feel confident about connecting environmental sustainability and technology in a way that makes communities more resilient and sustainable.”

Since leaving the PIN Fellowship, Baldwin connected her love for education, science, and environmental sustainability through her new role as the inaugural sustainability coordinator for Spelman College, her alma mater.  In this role, she is responsible for supporting campus sustainability initiatives.