In 2013, Topplers took the first step in our dream to expand the Domino Award, by adding Awards at University of California at Irvine and University of California at Santa Cruz to our long-running program at University of Colorado. The three winners from the award joined Topplers and Domino Award founder Herb Morreale for an all-expenses paid long weekend of tech, inspiration, and more tech this past spring at the South-by-Southwest (SXSW) Interactive festival in Austin, Texas.
“What’s so amazing about this opportunity is that it allows you to take inspiration from things that you might have never imagined yourself taking inspiration from.” -Alex Tsankov
What better place to inspire these bright students to think about the impact they can have on the world through technology, than at a giant conference and festival attended by inspirational players in their chosen field of computer science. As Steven James Snyder of TIME said, “that’s still what makes South By Southwest Interactive an indispensable gathering of the minds – that this isn’t just a place focused on individual inventors or celebrities but on societal advancements. One impressive pitch here can be the starting point for a process/product that will change the way we communicate, vote, volunteer, and live our daily lives.”
With a schedule packed with multiple presentations, panels, meetups, workshops, and exhibitions spread over multiple venues, choosing what to see was a hard task, but the award winners gamely made the most of their time.
They attended some great presentations including a presentation from Stephen Wolfram, Founder and CEO of Wolfram Research, who spoke about the implications of advances in technology on product development, industry, and research. Keynote speaker, astrophysicist Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, inspired with his unique insights about the universe around us, just before the debut of his television show Cosmos.
They also spent time exploring at the Create exhibit hall, where the latest advances in technology, like 3D printers, quadcopter drones, Raspberry Pi, and Arduino, are being used for new and exciting applications. Among the meetups and companies available to meet with, a highlight was meeting and talking to Ryan Holmes, the CEO of Hootsuite, a fast-growing and highly respected company in the social media space.
“I like talking to people who are in the industry. Everyone is so inspiring. It’s really cool to think that you have a team and you are working on a project that is so personal to you. It sounds exciting!” – Brittany Arthur
Beyond their time exploring the conference halls (collecting as many t-shirts as possible), listening to engaging talks, and meeting with their tech heroes, Nithin Jilla (UC Irvine), Brittany Arthur (UC Santa Cruz), and Alex Tsankov (CU Boulder) took some time to enjoy all that SXSW Interactive had to offer: having their picture taken with Success Kid, “crashing” a few industry parties, spotting Shaq (yes, that Shaq), and catching some local music that Austin is so famous for.
“This experience has given me an opportunity to already help people. I’m hoping that this will lay the foundation for future opportunities where I can help serve others and make an impact.” -Nithin Jilla