Artificial Intelligence, Design Thinking, diversity, Education, Engineering, Innovation, STEM, Sustainability, Technology

Diverse Students with Passion Can Change the World for the Better

What happens when you give 50+ KU engineering students from SHPE, NSBE, SWE, AISES, and Women in Computing the opportunity to come together to use design thinking and lean startup skills to change the world?  They begin to believe that they can.  Recently Kiewit and Amazon (AWS Educate) sponsored IHAWKe in our third year of having IHAWKe-a-Thons that launch our Change the World projects.

Another 50 of our KU students attended Amazon workshops led by Raj C. to learn how to use machine learning, AI, computer vision, and speech tools.  What is amazing is that all of the teams that competed, most of whom had never written an AI program, all had low-fidelity prototypes that integrated high fidelity Alexa speech and AI capabilities.

The students touched on topics from the National Academy of Engineering’s Grand Challenges and the UN Sustainable Development Goals including Equitable Access for Education and Healthcare, Sustainable Transportation and Waste Reduction.  Some ideas were creative, radical, or practical but all were imaginative, hopeful and inspiring.  Each solution shared how empathy, personas, ideation, prototypes, and feedback were involved.  Something new to this year’s IHAWKe-a-Thon included students providing their business models to pitch the economic viability of their solutions, particularly in developing countries.

Thanks to Kiewit (Jay, Charles, John) for providing funding for the prizes, scholarships, supplies, and food.  We appreciate also AWS Education (Raj, Brooke, Bill, and Tiffany) for the time planning, teaching, and donations of their amazing technology and platform.  Thanks also to Burns and McDonnell (Cesar), Cerner (John), C2FO (Adam), KCKPS (Anita), and KU faculty (Annette, Garrett, Cuncong, Michael) that helped provide feedback and judging.


“Those people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones that do.” – Steve Jobs

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Education, Entrepreneurship, Sustainability, Uncategorized

Lifelong Learning: Watch Netflix or Earn an MBA?

Our Rockhurst MBA Capstone Team for Sprint Sustainability (Instructor: Dr. Randy Schwering, Lakshmi Komatreddy, Jordan Griffin, Keven Thomas, Devin Blazek, Brooke Wade)

Would you rather watch the last three seasons of Stranger Things on Netflix or use the time to get an MBA?  When I decided to start my MBA this was the type of question I asked myself. We can sit in a movie theatre to watch the latest Terminator movie for three hours.  But that same three hours could be spent learning how to use logistic regression to predict the outcome of an important business decision.

Last night my Rockhurst University MBA Capstone team presented our final analysis and recommendations for Sprint to help them improve their sustainability efforts and strategy.  It was a pleasure working with Amy Bond and Mary Lewis, both from Sprint Corporation, and the rest of our team (listed above in our team picture) on this project.  Dr. Randy Schwering gave us the tools and guidance to see our project to completion.  In our capstone class, we put together the knowledge we learned about marketing, financial analysis and strategy, design thinking, competitive analysis, business analytics, data science, accounting, force field analysis, and other business topics to apply to a real-world problem that Sprint, headquartered in Kansas City, is facing.

This summer, I also decided to learn about how to foster inclusion and diversity.  I was able to learn with executives around the world through the Yale School of Management executive education program.  We were able to work on real-world problems around diversity while receiving coaching from global peers and excellent instructors, including Professors Heidi Brooks and Amy Wrzesniewski.

Does this mean I’m suggesting everyone should earn an MBA or a new certification from an Ivy League school?  No.  I did it because I want to continue to learn and grow personally and that I can use my knowledge to help others grow and learn.  I want to learn the languages of innovation, engineering, and business to be able to create and lead efforts that will solve problems we have in organizations and communities.  I could have spent the time watching lots of Netflix, playing video games, or even playing golf.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  But I was able to spend the time investing in my personal growth and development.  There’s nothing wrong with that either.  What about you?  What would you rather do?

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Uncategorized

Noche De Ciencias with KU SHPE Chapter Reaches Students and Families

Above: KU SHPE chapter students at Noche De Ciencias

Recently one of our IHAWKe student groups, KU SHPE (Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers), teamed up with the KC SHPE Chapter, including Cesar Cea and Daniel Sierra, and Olathe Public Schools, Kat Girod, to host our 3rd Noche De Ciencias, or Night of Science since Dr. Williams has been back at KU. This year public K-12 schools have become majority-minority nationally and represent an opportunity to grow the diversity of the engineering and computing profession as these students are recruited to attend college and study STEM.

Our SHPE students worked with students from LatinX families on building solar car kits to get them excited about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. We also had workshops and a panel discussion, in English and Spanish, for the parents and families of the high school and middle school students. Thanks to KU SHPE, KC SHPE, and Olathe Public Schools for working with IHAWKe to put on this fantastic event!

Below: Kat Girod providing coordination for Noche de Ciencias

About the Author: Dr. Andrew B. Williams is the Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive and Spahr Professor of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science at the University of Kansas. Dr. Williams began and now directs the IHAWKe (Indigenous, Hispanic, African American, Women, KU Engineering) program and building on the 40+ year old Diversity and Women’s program at KU Engineering that first gave him an introduction to engineering several years ago as a first-generation, low-income college student

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diversity, Education, STEM

Noche De Ciencias with KU SHPE Chapter Reaches Students and Families


Above: KU SHPE chapter students at Noche De Ciencias

Recently one of our IHAWKe student groups, KU SHPE (Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers), teamed up with the KC SHPE Chapter, including Cesar Cea and Daniel Sierra, and Olathe Public Schools, Kat Girod, to host our 3rd Noche De Ciencias, or Night of Science since Dr. Williams has been back at KU.  This year public K-12 schools have become majority-minority nationally and represent an opportunity to grow the diversity of the engineering and computing profession as these students are recruited to attend college and study STEM.

Our SHPE students worked with students from LatinX families on building solar car kits to get them excited about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.  We also had workshops and a panel discussion, in English and Spanish, for the parents and families of the high school and middle school students.   Thanks to KU SHPE, KC SHPE, and Olathe Public Schools for working with IHAWKe to put on this fantastic event!

About the Author: Dr. Andrew B. Williams is the Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive and Spahr Professor of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science at the University of Kansas. Dr. Williams began and now directs the IHAWKe (Indigenous, Hispanic, African American, Women, KU Engineering) program and building on the 40+ year old Diversity and Women’s program at KU Engineering that first gave him an introduction to engineering several years ago as a first-generation, low-income college student. 

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Artificial Intelligence, Design Thinking, diversity, Education, Engineering, Innovation, Sustainability

Can Artificial Intelligence Help Sustain 10 Billion People by 2050?

Most of us don’t think twice when we drink water from a bottle or faucet.  But I discovered that 663 milllion people, more than twice the population of the U.S., do NOT have clean drinking water!  I learned that most of the engineering solutions that we train our engineering students to design are for 10% of the richest people in the world, when the engineering solutions for the other 90% of the world go without an affordable, viable product for sometimes basic needs such as water.  How many more pixels do we really “need” on our iPhone screens.  Do we really “need” to have another camera on this same device when millions could use a solution to clean water.  Imagine if no one in the U.S. had access to clean drinking water.

Last week I participated in the Global Grand Challenges Summit in London sponsored by the Royal Academy of Engineering, the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and the Chinese Academy of Engineering.  The two themes were to discuss whether AI be used to benefit society and will we be able to sustain 10 billion people by 2050.

Before this conference, I was not aware that a by-product of processing coffee was toxic waste water that can be causing birth defects in children or speeding the erosion of valuable soil until hearing form a team of students who called their business, Peak Coffee Processing.  They promoted an engineering solution to process this toxic water to make coffee processing more environmentally safe. We normally don’t think of these issues when drinking that expensive cup of Starbucks, do we?  There were 300 cross-cultural, multidisciplary teams of students from various countries working on solutions fo the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the Global Grand Challenges of Engineering at the Summit’s Student Collaboration Lab.  I was grateful to be a student mentor at this event.

One of our KU IHAWKe students, Gyasi Talib, former president of KU’s NSBE chapter, was a member of one of the 4 winning teams out of 50 from around the world, who developed a prototype and business model for helping track and incentivize Starbucks, and other coffee company, drinkers to recycle their waste products.  It was a clever use of AI technology and software to think of a solution that no one has thought of before.  And thanks to the Royal Academy of Engineering, he will continue to work with the students from China and the U.K. on their proposed product.  (By the way, we were treated to hear Princess Anne speak as the keynote speaker for the Summit, as her father, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, started the Royal Academy.)

What can you do?  Educate yourself on the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.  Think about how we can work together to find solutions that improve the quality of life for all and sustain the needs for everyone on the planet.  Consider how AI can be used to sustain life and not just make a profit.

About the Author: Dr. Andrew B. Williams is the Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive and Spahr Professor of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science at the University of Kansas. Dr. Williams began and now directs the IHAWKe (Indigenous, Hispanic, African American, Women, KU Engineering) program and building on the 40+ year old Diversity and Women’s program at KU Engineering that first gave him an introduction to engineering several years ago as a first-generation, low-income college student. 

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KUEST ONE: Learning How to Learn with Resilience

Imagine before you even begin classes in college, you came two weeks early a “Pre-season training camp”. Your preparation not only included a Conquer Your Classes workshop showing you crucial steps to academic success, goal planning and time management but also a chance to bond with new friends like you.

This pre-season, training camp allowed you to take math and physics classes with homework, academic coaching, tutors, and exams to speed your acclimation from high school to the rigors of academic life in an engineering school. You also got to meet and form organic mentoring relationships with students who have gone through the program before you.

Being new to the area you were given a trip to see “30 Americans” at the Nelson Art Gallery in KC, Jack Stack BBQ, and the KC Royals complete with a fireworks show.

You were able to visit a successful engineering company, HNTB, and hear from real engineers. To begin with the end in mind. This is our KUEST ONE program at the KU School of Engineering. We hope you will consider joining us next year.

In KUEST ONE, we teach you to learn how to learn. We remind you that your brain is like a muscle that can learn anything with practice and application. This involves reading and taking notes, going to class and taking notes, rewriting them if necessary. This involves applying the new concepts by solving and learning from homework problems. And synthesizing what’s learned by writing out the key concepts. This is not distracted, on-the-phone-social-media-learning.

It’s learning by doing, thinking, reading, and applying. It’s learning and connecting what’s learned to how engineering can be used to change the world, connect with others, and conquer your classes. It’s about learning to be resilient in small failures.

Realizing that small failures (e.g. missing a homework problem) is how learning really works and helps us to fill in the gaps and form new “neural networks” in our brain. It’s learning how to create new engineering products and human experiences using design thinking in collaborative, diverse, interdisciplinary teams.

It’s remembering the Winston Churchill quote: “Success is never final, failure is seldom fatal. But it’s courage that counts!”

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I hope you enjoyed seeing our KUEST ONE students and student leaders learning how to learn with resilience!

About the Author: Dr. Andrew B. Williams is the Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive and Spahr Professor of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science at the University of Kansas. Dr. Williams began and now directs the IHAWKe (Indigenous, Hispanic, African American, Women, KU Engineering) program and building on the 40+ year old Diversity and Women’s program at KU Engineering that first gave him an introduction to engineering several years ago as a first-generation, low-income college student. 

Copyright 2019 Andrew B. Williams, Ph.D.

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diversity, Engineering, STEM, Uncategorized

Dr. Matthew McCullough: Another Truly EPIC Role Model and Scholar in the Engineering Academy

Dr. Matthew McCullough (center) with Associate Dean Andrew B. Williams and Dean Arvin Agah

Dr. Matthew McCullough, an Associate Professor in Biomedical Engineering at North Carolina A&T University (NCAT), came to the University of Kansas as our first IHAWKe EPIC Visiting Scholar this summer 2019. EPIC (Engineering Professionals Innovating for Community) is our IHAWK program dedicated to bringing diverse distinguished scholars to speak and role model for our students. Since 2017, we have been delighted to have other EPIC Distinguished Speakers such as Dr. Ayanna Howard, Georgia Institute of Technology, Ronald Moore, M.D., Laparoscopic Surgeon and KU Alum, and Cory Hayes, U.S. Army Research Lab.

I first met Dr. McCullough when he was a graduate student at the University of Iowa and was honored to become one of his mentors. After completing his Ph.D. at Iowa he was given a prestigious post-doctoral researcher position at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. He and his beautiful wife, Janeria, returned to NCAT to conduct research and mentor countless students in engineering. NCAT has the distinction of graduating more African American engineering students than any institution in the country.

This summer he collaborated with Dr. Ken Fischer in Biomedical engineering at KU and built his network with other KU researchers in the School of Engineering and the School of Medicine in nearby Kansas City. Our students and faculty benefited from their interactions with him. We were excited that he will continue to conduct research as a Research Affiliate with the KU School of Engineering and anticipate him returning to visit with students from NCAT in the future. On a lighter note, he was able to sample KC barbecue from Gates, Q39, and Jack Stack (guess which one he liked the best?)

Dr. McCullough is not only an outstanding scholar, researcher, and educator. He’s a stellar husband to his wife and father to his son. Just as others have mentored me, it is a joy to play a small part in Dr. McCullough’s continued academic and life success.

About the Author: Dr. Andrew B. Williams is the Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive and Spahr Professor of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science at the University of Kansas. Dr. Williams began and now directs the IHAWKe (Indigenous, Hispanic, African American, Women, KU Engineering) program and building on the 40+ year old Diversity and Women’s program at KU Engineering that first gave him an introduction to engineering several years ago as a first-generation, low-income college student. 

Copyright 2019 Andrew B. Williams, Ph.D.

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