Diversity Inspires Innovation: Raising Up the Next Generation of Engineering Innovators

November 15, 2018 - By Andrew B. Williams, Ph.D.

Dr Williams speaks at the National Academy of Engineering’s Global Grand Challenge Scholars Program (GCSP)

This past month, I was able to speak at the National Academy of Engineering’s Global Grand Challenge Scholars Program (GCSP) on how our IHAWKe Diversity & Women’s Programs are using hackathons, or IHAWKe-a-Thons, to innovate for Hurricane victims and also for helping workers with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the workplace. The students working on this project belong to the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), and KU Women in Computing (KUWIC). The National Academy of Engineering has recognized that the next generation of engineers will have to skills to solve complex, multidisciplinary, interconnected, multicultural engineering challenges that our traditional model of educating engineers falls short. The five engineering competencies for this Grand Challenge Scholar are:

  • Social conscientiousness – engineering solutions should serve people and society in a thoughtful way
  • Multicultural competency – understanding that an engineering solution has to take into different cultures for acceptance and effectiveness
  • Viable business/entrepreneurship – knowing how to think about an engineering solutions business viability
  • Multidisciplinary competency – knowing how to think outside of one’s engineering discipline to create interconnected solutions
  • Talent competency – being mentored in research and creative design experiences.

Our IHAWKe Diversity and Women’s Programs is aiming towards participating in the Grand Challenge Scholars program to equip our students to solve the energy, infrastructure, health, sustainability, water, and other grand challenges for our future. It will take a diversity of ideas, experiences, skills, and backgrounds to do that. That’s why we continue to believe and nurture diversity in our engineering and computing students. Because diversity inspires innovation that will change the world.

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 2018 Andrew B. Williams, Ph.D.