Episode 5 - Innovation at Wichita State

Episode 5 April 05, 2022 00:28:35
Episode 5 - Innovation at Wichita State
Forward Together
Episode 5 - Innovation at Wichita State

Apr 05 2022 | 00:28:35


Show Notes

Episode description: On this episode of the Forward Together podcast, WSU President Dr. Rick Muma and his guests commemorate Innovation Month by discussing a few of the exciting innovations developed by WSU faculty and alumni. Special guests are Darren DeFrain, associate professor of English at WSU; and Khalid Raza, WSU alum and co-founder of Viptela.
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Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:07 Hello everyone. And welcome to this month's edition of forward together podcast today we're commemorating innovation month, and I can't think of any celebration that more aptly embodies the spirit of shocker nation for more than 126 years. And my beginnings as Fairmont college to the current Wichita state university campuses, shocker nation has built a history of exciting innovations that benefit the lives of all Kansans, I guess today demonstrates that spirit of ingenuity. First I'd like to welcome Dr. Darren defraying associate professor of English at Wichita state Dr. Frame as developed visiting an app that helps people with visual impairments, read comic books and other image, heavy materials to help further develop visiting to frame was recently awarded a hundred thousand dollars from the national endowment for the humanities and almost $250,000 from the Alfred P Sloan foundation and $11,000 for the John a C innovation award. So thank you for being here today, Darren. It's good to see you, you know, um, some of the listeners may be interested to know that you and I go back a little ways. Um, do you help the university through our last accreditation reaffirmation visit 20 16, 20 17? Speaker 2 00:01:23 It was a great experience for me. And, um, you may not remember this, but that was around the first time I was teaching at graphic novels class. And I remember you asking me what is a graphic novel, and when I told you that it was basically a comic book for adults, you got this look on your face. Like this is what you're doing in the English department. Speaker 1 00:01:40 Yeah, well, um, you know, that was back in the day where graphic novels are becoming a thing of its own. And since that time we've in our first year seminar course, we had a graphic novel as one of the selections and had that author here on campus. And so it was it's, it's been a really, um, I think, uh, uh, uplifting kind of experience for many people on this campus. And I'm so glad to be able to talk to you about this work. Um, so to start off, can you give me an overview of what visiting is and does and what it's intended to do? Speaker 2 00:02:15 Sure. Um, the core idea here is, uh, if you can't see something like a comic or a graphic novel or any, anything that combines image and texts, um, you're going to have a difficult time understanding what that is trying to communicate, because typically if you're combining those two things, uh, either the text or the image does not suffice on its own, right? And so if you can't see you're missing out on one whole part of that. And one of the things that we really wanted to do with this was to create a platform where someone with a visual impairment and there's a whole spectrum of visual impairments, uh, that you can interact with the text, not in the exact same way that someone who can see the text can, but in a more, um, in a way that gives you more agency as a reader. And so we use haptics for that. And, uh, we lean on visual linguistics. Um, this is something that was really pioneered by a doctor in the Netherlands named Neil Cohn. Um, and we combine those two things along with some CML to create something where people can use their, their fingers to touch a screen and get feedback that allows them to get more of a sense of where things are located and what is located where, and get some feedback. Speaker 1 00:03:34 So you just did a little, an abbreviation, um, C Speaker 2 00:03:39 CBL, sorry, comic book, markup language. Okay. Speaker 1 00:03:42 Okay. So we need to make sure people know, um, uh, what those abbreviations are. So one of the things that I, I just noticed about what you're talking about, and you said it digital transformation, um, you know, we're, we're trying to understand what that means for the university. And of course we're doing a lot of work on the aviation side of things. Um, and, and, you know, we have NetApp on campus, smart factor on campus. We're definitely a digital transformation as a part of their work. So here's an example in linguistics too, you know, there's, we have a new linguistics degree on campus. Um, so here's an example of how the humanities fits into that. Could you talk a little bit more about that? Speaker 2 00:04:29 Yeah. This is really a growing side of the humanities, um, digital humanities, and, um, it takes a lot of different shapes, but one of the things that we want to do utilizing that CML that I talked about, for example, um, is to help make comic books searchable, um, in databases and there's already work underway, uh, in that regard. But like, if you wanted to look up examples of, um, uh, black women superheroes, um, right now it's kind of difficult to do that, especially if you're like keyed in, on specific images in that regard, and this would help you by coding all these images, you would be able to have access to all those images for further research or just independent study. Speaker 1 00:05:12 Yeah. Um, so what was the impetus behind this? I know you talked about your example that you gave early on and you and I had that conversation years ago, but yeah, I kind of lost track of what, what you'd been doing with this, and then Speaker 2 00:05:30 Yeah, where this started, um, was the first time I taught a graduate course on graphic novels, one of the, one of the critical lenses that we're going to look at graphical graphic novels through as a disability studies. And I had a graduate student in that class, Aaron Rodriguez, and it just so happened. His office was right across from mine and we would have conversations during class, but then he was one of those, those students that you really like to have, who would after class come wandering into my office to say, you know, I just have one more question and we would start to talk about things. And one of the things that was really bothering both of us is there really, wasn't a way to communicate what Aaron and I could see on the page to someone with visual impairments. And we said, we, we, we were talking about the way that this is typically done is that someone has given, um, an audio track like audible and which is fine. Speaker 2 00:06:22 But what that does is someone's interpreting everything that they're seeing in a way that if you're a student in my graphic novels class, you need to do that interpretation yourself about how the image is important to the text and vice versa. And so that really started this conversation about how do we overcome that? And, uh, we started talking about haptics and Erin. Uh, we helped create a final project for him for that class. That was a really, really rudimentary form of where we've ended up to this point, um, of using haptics of using visual linguistics and, and CML to try to create something that's going to make a really accessible version of a multimodal texts, not just for comics, but for things like textbooks, um, schematics, uh, Ikea directions, which, I mean, if you're fully cited, those are a challenge. Speaker 1 00:07:11 Well, I think you're talking about Aaron Rodriguez, who he went on to he's in a doctoral program. Speaker 2 00:07:16 Yes. He's at Florida state right now. He's got about another year there. Um, and he's, he's been great. Yeah. Speaker 1 00:07:23 Um, so this kind of, you've kind of started talking about this besides the graphic novels and comic books. Um, what are some other uses for this Speaker 2 00:07:34 More and more? I mean, we live in a society that really relies on that combination of text and image. I mean, everything on the web, basically isn't that format, but, um, textbooks, for example, um, for one of the grants that we're working on, Aaron pulled a really terrific example of this. Uh, there's a textbook that was made, um, accessible, right? And it was a science textbook that was explaining cells dividing. And what they provided was just a voiceover that explained what they were seeing on the page. And one image was a cell and the next image was for cell dividing, pulling apart and making that kind of figure eight shape and all the different parts were labeled within the cell. And you see all the dynamics of what's going on within that. Well, the second image there, rather than really telling you anything just says the cell divides. So you get the gist from that example. I think you get that understanding about that's missing a whole lot of, of what's intended by the image. And so that's what we want to try to do is to allow someone to interact with that image in a way where they're really going to understand in a more profound way, what is intended. Speaker 1 00:08:44 Yeah. And, and I can even see this being useful for people who don't have visual impairments. Um, you know, in my background in healthcare, studying anatomical diagrams and, you know, things that would require a little bit more explanation other than for me just even visualizing these, um, in a, in a textbook, I think would be helpful. Um, and utilizing this kind of a technique Speaker 2 00:09:09 We're, uh, we're making this available on cell phones as well. And for someone like myself, that has what I would consider a mild visual impairment with, with glasses. I can't see a lot of things even with my glasses on cell phones. And so what this will do is allow you to just touch that part of the page and have it read to you if you, if that's what you want or that's what you need, um, to help facilitate your engagement with the text. Yeah, Speaker 1 00:09:32 That's cool. Um, so I think I know the answer to this, but is this app publicly available yet? Speaker 2 00:09:39 Not yet, but, uh, we're getting ready to do some testing with envision here in town. And, um, hopefully by the summer we have it ready to go. Um, one of the things that's very important to us is that we get feedback from visually impaired users and that we're not making decisions for them about what we think is best for their engagement with these texts. But if there's things we've already had one instance of this, where we've had to kind of pivot in our thinking because of some initial feedback where we were headed in one direction and, uh, some users that have engaged with the, uh, the, the prototype that we have to this point were telling us, no, this isn't, this, isn't how we do things. Yeah, Speaker 1 00:10:19 Yeah, yeah. And, um, you know, we have our good resource. So with envision here in Wichita, so I'm glad that we're, you know, we'll make that connection with them on this project. So what's the next steps for business. Speaker 2 00:10:31 The next steps really, uh, is the testing is the next step that we're getting to. And after the testing, we're hoping to have basically a plug and play version of this, because one of the things that we want to do is to make this available for anyone that wants to convert a multimodal text and to something that's accessible and, and has, and provides an equitable reading experience for all their readers. Speaker 1 00:10:53 Yeah. Well, this is good to have a explanation of this particular project that we're working on. I'd also just want to note to our listeners that this is our first, uh, Sloan foundation grant here at the university. And, um, that's a big deal. And I, I want to congratulate you on that, along with the national endowment for the humanities too. So one other question I have for it so eight years ago, or whenever it was, and we were working on, uh, accreditation documents when you're a talented about this project, not this project, but the fact that you were working on graphic novels. And, um, and then I was starting to read about this more recently and how you're developing it, developing an app to do that. And the Darren to frame that I remember, I don't remember that he is also a coder and a computer expert, and you Speaker 2 00:11:45 Remember correctly. Speaker 1 00:11:47 So how did this all come to? Speaker 2 00:11:49 I had no experience in anything related to that really. I mean, my background is in creative writing and I've worn some other hats since I've been here at WSU. Uh, but one of the really terrific things about being at WSU in regards to this project is all the help I was able to get really, uh, fairly easily, uh, throughout the university we, we applied for and were accepted to, um, shocker iCore. And what shocker iCore did for us was help us refine our vision for what we're doing, and then helped us find resources for things like coders and, um, and some of the other, uh, support that we needed. We've also been able to go around to our various deans, like, uh, uh, Andrew <inaudible> obviously, but, uh, uh, Kathy downs in the library, one of the things that we needed to think about was a storage space and, uh, Dean downs was, was just right there for us ready to offer the services of the library. So, um, it's, it's taken a lot of, um, a lot of help from a lot of different corners of the university and beyond the university. But, um, it's just been a real joy because everyone's been like, so, Hey, that's, that sounds like a fun thing to do. And, uh, they were right there with us. Speaker 1 00:13:00 Yeah. I'm glad you're, you're describing it that way, because I think a lot of faculty, when they start thinking about doing a project, they, they, they S you know, get stopped in some way, because they don't realize that there's some resources of people on that cross campus that would be willing to help them move projects forward. It, it's not something in, in today's world. It's not something that people have the skills or expertise to do entirely on their own. Speaker 2 00:13:29 I always tell our freshmen composition students that you're in a place where you've got all these experts in really everything at the university. And if they don't know the answer is something they can point you to the person or the resource that has the answers that you need. And so I had to take some of my own advice there and get out and just talk to some people around campus that I don't normally talk to, and like computing, sciences, and so forth. And, um, it was that side of it was much easier than I anticipated. Speaker 1 00:13:57 Yeah. Well, it's good to talk to you about all of this and, and having a better understanding of what you're doing in terms of this Ling. Um, also just want to make sure our audience knows the importance of this work in terms of its, uh, funding, uh, the first Sloan foundation grant that we've received at the university. So congratulations on that. And also, um, you received a grant from the national endowment for the humanities, which is also a big deal as well for this institution. So liking all of this work and how you have connected to our expertise on campus, particularly around digital transformation. So congratulations and thank you for being here today. Speaker 1 00:14:40 My second guest today is inventor entrepreneur and philanthropist and visionary collard Rosa, call it as a Wichita state alumni and a pioneer innovator in software engineering and networking. He graduated from Wichita state in 1992 with a master's degree in industrial engineering and went on to become a co-founder of a cloud-based networking company called <inaudible> in 2017. He and his investors turned around and sold that company to Cisco for $610 million. You now invest his time and money in projects that make the world a better place. And December column, wasn't awarded an honorary doctorate from Wichita state. He's an inspiring example of how important innovation and technology are in solving the enormous challenges facing society. He's also a true believer in applied learning and how that can transform a student's education and lead to career success. Thanks for being here today, colada so good to see you. I was out in California visiting and got to speak with you at that time. And so we're really appreciative of you spending some time today while you're here in Wichita. Speaker 3 00:15:45 Thank you very much, and I'm happy to be here. Speaker 1 00:15:47 Well, great. So when I visited you last summer, you told me the story of how you ended up in Wichita from Pakistan, and it was such an inspirational story. Can you please share that with our listeners today and give us a little bit of flavor of what you're about and where you come from. Speaker 3 00:16:03 So, as you said, I'm originally from Pakistan, uh, was, uh, not too keen of, uh, for coming for grad school. And, uh, my father was a lot for about higher education. He didn't get an opportunity to come and do his graduation from, uh, us. He in fact had an opportunity to go do his masters at Harvard. It violates wasn't process of getting his degree, not degree. Why was it in process of going for his admission? He lost both of his parents and he had to take care of his younger siblings. So for him, it was so critical that his children get the education and go learn in a country, which is a land of opportunity. So he was after my case that you have to go. And I think in hindsight, it's one of the best decisions I've made of my life. Coming here, transform the way you look at the world. Wichita state gave me so much exposure, so much identity that I have still carry with myself. So I'm glad that I took this decision and rest is history. Speaker 1 00:17:13 Well, I remember a part of that story. You're in the airport, um, leaving Pakistan and come into the country. And, uh, I know that you, you hated to leave your family and your mother and father, and, um, uh, it was really a, a big moment in your life when, when you got on that, that airplane to of put your time. Speaker 3 00:17:32 Yeah, it was very difficult. I was very, very close with my mother. She passed away four years ago. Uh, and for me, the hardest thing was to leave her because my elder brother had already moved. And, uh, I was thinking, I'm going to stay with you and I'm going to be here and leaving her. I still remember that moment when I was leaving, it was very difficult. And, uh, after all the success that she had seen in my career and my life, she was very happy that I made that decision, but it's a very hard moment for anybody who leaves their families behind this far. And this is 1989. So you don't have a WhatsApp. You don't have that frequent communication. And it was, it was a difficult journey, but I think I learned so much in my life coming and getting that educational expense. Speaker 1 00:18:25 Uh, and, uh, when you're telling that story again, just reminds me of, of the challenges that many of our international students face and have to deal with. And we always need to keep that in mind when we're, um, interacting with them. So when you were a student here, the internet internet was in its emphasi. Um, I know you've stayed connected to the university through the years. Um, you've made a donation through the foundation. You were a commencement speaker in the college of engineering and, um, in 2016, and you received an honorary doctorate in December. What does Wichita state have now that you wish you had when you were a student here? Speaker 3 00:19:05 When I walk around the campus, so many companies, Neta app, I can see Airbus when we were here. The national Institute for aviation research was just starting. So having that real life experience working with industry people gives you so much different perspective. So you definitely, your education helps. Uh, but having the understanding what the industry needs that applied learning the interaction with the industry gives you much, much better perspective. So I think if I was here today, I would be a much better student and a much better equipped to go take on the industry and work in an industry, what they need, we had to ramp up. And we went out to learn the actually, how you will apply your knowledge. Now, right now, you're actually getting that applied information, which I think is brilliant on part of the university to invest in that model and do establish relationships with companies that will take your students very, very far in their career. Speaker 1 00:20:13 Yeah. And you're, you're talking about something that is so central to our new model of education that we started, uh, five, six years ago, where every student now has to have an applied learning experience before they graduate. And now we know that, um, over 5,000 of our students not only are getting that applied learning experience and learning skills that it's going to help them, uh, move into their careers, but they're also earning a significant wage. And, uh, around $27 million is earned by these students that they can put back in their pocket, help keep them in school and keep moving forward as a student. So, yeah, so I appreciate that perspective. So after he graduated from Wichita state, um, you worked with Cisco to establish a hands-on engineering lab at the university. You recognize the importance of applied learning way back in 1992, how important it is for the next generation, uh, talent to have these hands-on experiences. And you can give some examples of that. Speaker 3 00:21:13 So if you, we started this lab, uh, WSU, uh, in 96, 95, 96, and Dr. Bill Parkhurst, who actually, I ended up working for Cisco working for me, I recruited him. I won't do it ever again. Uh, so we, uh, bill and I started to work on a set. It's so critical that people get this hands-off hands-on experience. Networking was very new. There was a shortage of skilled labor, and that actually helped WSU graduates. So many WSU graduated graduates were hired at Cisco. That was a very large number of people. And then Robby panty took it over. So that experience give people the expertise that's required by the industry, not just a Cisco Cisco's competitors, Cisco's customers hired a lot of WSU graduates because they didn't have to train them. They came train, they understood how networking work because they had full hands on experience. They were utilizing that lab. Speaker 3 00:22:16 And a few years later, Cisco ended up building one of their customer success centers in which testate. So those things actually help, not just the students, but the industry as well, because when you come out of school, a lot of times you're lacking that specific knowledge that industry is looking for, and they want you to ramp up quickly. When you get an individual who's already ramped up, understand how networks work and apply that information to their jobs. That's a huge benefit to both university. And also to industry that you get a fully trained functionally functioning employee, who's ready to deliver at a much faster pace than to spend a year or so ramping up to learn. Yeah. Speaker 1 00:22:58 And that's really the basis for a reason why we've moved towards this applied learning model, uh, here at Wichita state is to give those students that leg up. Um, so, and the companies that hire them. And so they don't spend a lot of time training and reeducating and those sorts of things. And it's just not technology, technology fields or engineering fields. It's all of the, uh, and business and industry that hires our students, um, you know, in the social science and social work and healthcare sciences in any of those areas, um, uh, this is an important aspect of learning and it's one of the reasons why we have now a high number of students wanting to come to Wichita state and their parents are eager to have this kind of experience for their son or daughter. Um, so they, they come out of school with some tangible skills so they can get a job when they, when they graduate. So you have done a lot of, um, uh, work beyond what you taught state and founded your company and sold it to Cisco. And now you're working on new, in a new endeavor. Can you give us some ideas of some of the projects that you're working on? Speaker 3 00:24:07 So company-wise, I can tell you I'm in stealth mode, you will find out this year, what we're working on, but I can tell you that, uh, this gives you a little context of Viptela, which was bought by Cisco in 2012. This idea of software defined when was a $0 market today, by some estimate, it's anywhere from six to $8 billion market. So we actually created a market that did not exist about 10 years ago. Uh, so that transformation has led people for a faster cloud adoption agility to go into cloud and consume cloud. What graph hint is doing. I can tell you is a four X or five X bigger opportunity than what we've televised. So I'm very, very excited about what graphene is going to transform, uh, outside of work. Uh, I work with different projects. One of the things that I w caddy the legacy of my parents is education. Speaker 3 00:25:05 Uh, the opportunity I got in this institution, I want to give back because you owe it to your institution. Anytime you are a successful entrepreneur or any field that you go in, you can never forget the, what institution give to you. So I am involved in multiple projects here, and I want to do moving forward because two people, I owe to a lot of gratitude to obviously my parents. So hence I, Scott started that scholarship in their name. And then my professor, Dr. <inaudible> who gave me that assistantship that I needed. So I started the linkerati assistantship program at WSU as well. So from my perspective, education is a fundamental, right? And once you get educated, it's your duty to give back to people and create the next level of people who come and replace you. Speaker 1 00:25:56 Well, I, I really appreciate hearing that, um, it's people like you who are so generous with their time and efforts being here today, but also your financial resources that really make the university of what it is and help us move forward. We couldn't do any of these things that we've been talking about without people like you. So thank you so much for, for that support. So, uh, uh, one last question I have for you, you live in the San Francisco bay area now, uh, visited there. This is your home beautiful view of the mountains. What do you tell people about Wichita state and how has it helped you prepare for your career? Speaker 3 00:26:37 So when I used to go back to Pakistan, one of the things I used to tell people over there, this is a hidden jewel. The amount of assistantships you can find in this university is amazing. I never had to struggle after my first year. Once I got assistantship with Dr. Lunker only most graduate students who came here would always find assistantship. One of the things I tell people in San Francisco, that if you go to places like Wichita as a student, a you can focus. And there are a lot of opportunities that you get working and getting real life practical experience like applied learning in different fields. So I love coming here. I always enjoyed and kept my relationship, kept my ties. In fact, to this day, when I come for either for business or for coming to WSU, I still stay at Dr. Linker on his house. That's my commitment to him. And I love meeting everybody. And the relationship I built in the institution have lasted, my friendships have lasted, and this is this. They said, this was one of the best times of my life. Speaker 1 00:27:45 Yeah. Well, thank you so much for, for being here and Sarah, uh, sharing your, your story and, um, your experience and how that has, uh, binge helped shape, uh, at Wichita state. We really appreciate you being here. It's, um, a good to always see you and talk to you and, uh, looking forward to seeing you again in the future. So thank you very much, call it. Speaker 3 00:28:07 Thank you very much. Speaker 1 00:28:08 These are just two examples of how shocker nation is changing the world for innovation. Thank you for joining me today. Be sure to listen to the next forward together podcasts when it drops in may,

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