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Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

The Cockrell School of Engineering received a $3.5 million donation from Texas Instruments (TI), a Fort Worth-based technology manufacturer, on Tuesday.

The gift will go toward seven new teaching and project labs in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, which will be located within the school’s new Engineering Education and Research Center. The center, which is slated to open in 2017, will house classrooms, labs, faculty offices and administration offices for the department. 

TI spokeswoman Renée Fancher said TI hopes to provide students and faculty with opportunities for innovation in the classroom.

“Our aim with this gift is to ensure that not a day goes by that Cockrell School students are not working on some new idea, some new project, and that the professors are able to try out new innovative teaching techniques that help accelerate the learning process,” Fancher said.

 With the gift, TI will fund new equipment for six labs for undergraduate students.

The new labs, designated “TI Laboratories,” will allow students to build sensors, drones, wearable technologies and other devices. The company will conduct annual reviews to ensure the new equipment is current and meeting student and faculty needs.

Being able to apply concepts learned in the classroom is especially important for engineering students, according to electrical engineering junior Cody Scarborough.

“The exposure to various field applications will give students a deeper level of understanding and career preparation,” Scarborough said.

Of the roughly 500 UT alumni currently working for TI, nearly 300 earned degrees from Cockrell. Fancher said she thinks innovation at the university level plays a critical role in preparing students to solve modern problems once they begin their careers at technology companies, such as TI.

“Our own ability as a company to innovate depends in large part on our relationship with universities like UT Austin and its ability to educate young people who learn and solve problems of global significance,” Fancher said.

John Halton, Cockrell associate dean for school and alumni relations, said TI has supported UT through funding student projects, scholarships and research programs in the past.

“TI puts a high value on education and has given generously to student-focused programs, including our school’s Women in Engineering Program and Equal Opportunity in Engineering Program,” Halton said.

Greg Delagi, senior vice president and general manager of embedded processing for TI and member of the Cockrell Engineering Advisory Board, said he believes students are a major factor behind global technological advances.

“Students are critical to creating innovative solutions for the world’s biggest challenges,” Delagi said. 

Representatives from TI will visit the University on Feb. 13 to present the gift to Sharon Wood, dean of the School of Engineering, as well as to faculty and students.

Corrected: QSA member Devon Howard helps run Wednesday’s workshop on maintaining healthy relationships. The workshop was administered by Erin Burrows, who regularly speaks on the topic and relationship health in the LGBTQ  community.

Photo Credit: Aaron Berecka | Daily Texan Staff

UT’s Queer Students Alliance began National Domestic Violence Awareness Month with a seminar focusing on defining healthy relationships Wednesday.

“No two relationships look the same, so domestic violence can be difficult to define, but it comes down to power and control,” said Erin Burrows, health education coordinator for Voices Against Violence, who led the presentation. “Domestic violence comes down to anytime you feel afraid of your partner, no matter the cause.” 

About 40 students worked in groups to answer questions such as, “What does healthy communication look/sound like?” and “How do you take care of yourself in a relationship?” 

English senior Tianhe “Zen” Ren, vice director of the alliance, said the goal of the event was to raise awareness about domestic violence within the LGBTQ community.

“A lot of domestic violence awareness focuses on heteronormative relationships,” Ren said. “We have to learn to recognize the signs of violence in LGBTQ relationships as well.” 

Burrows said domestic violence within LGBTQ relationships can be difficult to define.

“Especially if someone hasn’t come out to their family yet, their partner may use their sexual orientation against them with homophobia, transphobia, etc.,” she said. 

Burrows said physical or sexual violence is “just the tip” of the domestic violence iceberg, while verbal and emotional abuse often go unseen.

Ren said one step to reducing domestic violence would be to have more allies within the LGBTQ community promoting education and awareness. 

“People feel uncomfortable coming to the Gender Studies Center or to QSA meetings because they feel others will assume they’re LGBTQ,” she said. “We just want more people to be aware and become allies for students who are LGBTQ.” 

The group’s treasurer Rogelio Meza said an ally is anyone who personally supports the LGBTQ community.

“We want to educate people and bring awareness to the community,” Meza said. “It makes me happy to see non-LGBTQ students at our meetings supporting us and being willing to learn more.”

Meza said support is about more than just acceptance — it also means becoming more educated. He said sex education in schools often focuses only on heterosexual relationships.

“We want to bring LGBTQ awareness to the general populace as well as to LGBTQ students themselves,” he said. “Not everyone is the same and that’s a beautiful thing.”

On the first day of class in spring 2009, when design graduate student René Pinnell was assigned to take something occurring in nature and turn it into a product — better known as “biomimicry” in the design world — he thought of a hurricane.

He likened the complicated buildup of the storm to that of a party and, wanting to streamline the process of event planning, came up with the concept of Hurricane Party.

Hurricane Party is an iPhone application that helps create a spontaneous social event by allowing the user to broadcast a potential get-together, locate friends, pinpoint event locations and get the ball rolling.

“[A hurricane is] kind of like a party; people come, but if it’s not the right mix of people or you run out of drinks, it sucks, it never happens,” said Anderson Price, a second year business school graduate student who monitors the financial side of the app. “But if you have the perfect mix of the right people — men, women, drinks — you have the perfect party: it rages longer, just the way a hurricane happens.”

Pinnell discussed the idea further with Eric Katerman, who recently graduated from UT with a Ph.D. in math, and Avram Dodson, who is enrolled in Columbia University, deciding it would work as an iPhone app that provides a way to broadcast how and where you are going to party.

In May they applied to Capital Factory, a business incubator in Austin, and were accepted as one of five new businesses from 250 applications from across the country, being the only Austin-based company.

With a start-up investment of $20,000 and legal assistance from Capital Factory, the team then expanded to include Price, UT mechanical engineering graduate Richard McClellan, computer science senior Matt Keas and UTSA graduate A.T. Fouty. The Hurricane Party software was developed by mid-August, submitted to Apple and gained approval for production on Aug. 31. Now the company is promoting the app around Austin, encouraging people to download it to help them test for glitches. The company was also recently accepted into the inaugural class of Texas Venture Labs, a University-wide initiative to nurture entrepreneurship on campus.

“It’s a free mobile application that allows you to create spontaneous events and broadcast those events prior and during the event to your friends,” Price said. “So we consider ourselves the bridge between social networking and actually being social.”

One incentive of using the app is setting up a Hurricane Party with a partner company in Austin, such as J. Black’s Feel Good Lounge or Birds Barbershop where you will get some form of discount for taking a group of friends there. Businesses can also go on the website and initiate an offer for a discount, which can be accessed by any Hurricane Party user.

It would be a win-win situation, Price said: The local business gets more customers and the Hurricane Party user gets a discount, as well as some help deciding which local spots to frequent.

The app is similar to Foursquare and Gowalla in the location function, though the makers of Hurricane Party are looking to be more dynamic.

“We are all about broadcasting intent, rather than locality, helping share that with a defined set of friends rather than the whole world,” Price said. “The app is itself a call to action through the offers, but it also lets each user project that call out to their friends. Rather than broadcast past experiences, we are about creating new ones.”

For more information on launch parties and to download the app, go to hurricaneparty.com or the iTunes App Store.