SXSW: A Truly Interactive Experience

The Cockrell School immersed itself in SXSWi festivities, co-sponsoring the kickoff event; welcoming Aneesh Chopra, U.S. chief technology officer; and having Bob Metcalfe present twice.

The Cockrell School immersed itself in South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) festivities, co-sponsoring the kickoff event; welcoming U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra for DC2VC; and having Bob Metcalfe present twice. SXSWi is a five-day festival March 11-15 that brings together the brightest minds in emerging technology through a range of networking and speaking events.

"SXSW 2021: Vision of the Future"

As a co-sponsor of the kickoff event "SXSW 2021: Vision of the Future," the Cockrell School hosted a booth featuring interactive faculty and student research projects. A group of students from the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department showed off a set of 3.2 x 3.2-inch interactive "Blox" that have the ability to auto-teach children basic skills such as counting and arithmetic. The student said "Blox" could propel the ordinary children's toys into the tech-savvy future by embedding technology into them.

Other featured research included 3D printing, solar cells, wind and solar energy storage, and the transfer of heat into energy. The Pharos lab, a revolutionary testbed within the ECE Department, also had a booth where visitors could program robots to perform simple commands.


The following day, Aneesh Chopra, chief technology officer of the United States, and Todd Park, CTO of Health and Human Services, were welcomed by Cockrell School faculty and staff for DC2VC, a movement aimed at facilitating relationships between venture capitalists and entrepreneurs in the field of health IT.

"We've initiated DC2VC to help close that information gap so that entrepreneurs and this ecosystem at large is aware of the opportunities as we shift our American health care system from one that rewards volume of care to one that focuses on value of care," Chopra said.

DC2VC video

Chopra and Park mingled with venture capitalists and researchers in the Vislab of the Applied Computational Engineering and Sciences building on campus before moving upstairs for a more in-depth conversation about advancing health IT.

"If we have to win the future, we're going to have to do a better job to ensure our ecosystem — the universities, the students, our angel investors, our corporations looking to make big investments — that they work together and invent our way to a health care system that improves and focuses on quality improvement as well as lowering our cost structure," Chopra said. "Our universities are the core of this movement."

"The Future Enernet"

To finish up the weekend, Bob Metcalfe, professor of innovation and inventor of Ethernet, gave a talk Sunday, March 13 titled "The Future Enernet: A Conversation with Bob Metcalfe." The talk complimented his five-minute presentation during the kickoff event, where he talked about finding the "YouTubes" of energy.

"When we're done solving energy in the coming decades, we'll have a squanderable abundance of cheap and clean energy," he said. "It's time to begin thinking about what we are going to use all the energy for."

Bob Metcalfe SXSWi video

Bob added to that Sunday with Joel Greenberg, owner Greenberg Energy Services LLC, when he said, "There are two attitudes you can take with respect to energy from the internet view. One of them is: the internet is done now, so we now need to turn our attention to the next big problem, which is energy. The other one is: No, no, no, the internet is not done now, but energy is one of the three major industries we should urgently be disrupting with the Internet … It's just next; we just have to disrupt energy."

Research Rockstars

Annie Weathers
Annie Weathers: Improving Fuel Efficiency, Starting With the Exhaust Pipe. Read more.

Blox graduate students
Blox: Revolutionizing the Industry, One Block at a Time. Read more.

Dr. David Bourell
David Bourell: Creating Prosthetics and Aircraft Components Using 3D Printing. Read more.

Jared Garrison
Jared Garrison: Storing Air to Store Electricity. Read more.

Reeja Jayan
Reeja Jayan: Working to Print Solar Cells Like we Print Newspapers. Read more.