MKE innovators, entrepreneurs are center of UWM engineering conference


The 2020 Milwaukee Engineering Research Conference (MERC) drew approximately 150 attendees, including those from A. O. Smith, Advocate Aurora Health, American Honda Motor Co., Badger Meter, Clarios, Dedicated Computing, Eaton, Foxconn, GE Healthcare, Komatsu, Navatek, Rockwell Automation, Storage Battery Systems, We Energies, and schools and colleges across the UWM campus.

The conference, held Feb. 27-28, was co-hosted by UWM’s College of Engineering & Applied Science and UWM’s new Lubar Entrepreneurship Center (LEC).

UWM faculty-led panels included those on water, energy, data science, biomedical and rehabilitation engineering innovations and materials–both large and nano scale.
Details on all of the panel discussions and featured speakers can be found here.
Read on for a few highlights of the conference:

Entrepreneurship strengthens communities

Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, underscored the crucial role the UW-System has played in launching companies that have revived and strengthened Wisconsin communities.


The challenge: Introducing data science to your company

How are companies navigating the challenge of introducing data science into decision making? Recommendations from panelists included ensuring buy-in from leadership, identifying employees who champion data science, and showing employees how data science can enhance work and bring about benefits.

The five panel members who discussed data science advances and opportunities (including machine learning, cloud computing, data security, business analytics and real-time applications) were: Keri McConnell, director, Northwestern Mutual Data Science Institute; Wilkistar Otieno, associate professor and department chair, industrial and manufacturing engineering UWM; Kimberly Rice, senior data scientist, FedEx; Inna Schimmel, engineering and data scientist, Schneider National; and Tian Zhao, associate professor, computer science, UWM.

The panel was co-moderated by Purush Papatla, Northwestern Mutual Data Science Institute Professor of Marketing and co-director of Northwestern Mutual Data Science Institute, UWM; and Zeyun Yu, associate professor, computer science, UWM.


Milwaukee emerges as an entrepreneurial hub

The two hubs of entrepreneurship in the Midwest, according to the Brookings Institution, are Milwaukee and Madison, said Missy Hughes, secretary and CEO of Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. As examples of Milwaukee’s thriving start-up culture, Hughes called out the 230 water tech companies, the Sherman Phoenix Business Hub and MKE Tech Hub.


The secrets of entrepreneurial success

Four young and successful UWM alumni entrepreneurs told their stories during Made in MKE: The Founders’ Stories panel. The panel featured: Ali Bakhshinejad, president and CEO, VasoGnosis; Carrie Bristoll-Groll, CEO, Stormwater Solutions Engineering LLC; Ben Caya, founder, Spike Brewing LLC; and Jesse DePinto, cofounder and chief growth officer, Frontdesk.

Read a UWM Report story on this panel.


Making a bigger splash

All panels afforded audience members the opportunity to ask questions.

A panel on developing smart and resilient urban water systems (not pictured) was led by the new interim director of the Water Equipment and Policy Research Center, UWM’s Qian Liao, associate professor, civil & environmental engineering. The panel included: Jin Li, professor, civil & environmental engineering, UWM; Matt Magruder, environmental research manager, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District; Marcia Silva, associate scientist and director of UWM Water Technology Accelerator, UWM; and Yin Wang, assistant professor, civil & environmental engineering, UWM.


Local support for developing inventions

The new Lubar Entrepreneurship Center solidifies UWM’s support of local student and academic innovators. In a panel discussion, four academic innovators discussed the how Southeastern Wisconsin NSF-I-Corps supported the development of their inventions.

The panel was led by lya Avdeev, LEC’s director of innovation (pictured), and included: Mohammad “Habib” Rahman, assistant professor, biomedical engineering, mechanical engineering, UWM; Nathan Salowitz, assistant professor, mechanical engineering, UWM; Romila Singh, associate professor, organizations & strategic management, UWM; and Paige Peters, founder and CEO, Rapid Radicals Technology.


Foxconn’s Brand Cheng

Brand Cheng, CEO of Foxconn Industrial Internet, revealed for the first time the plan for Foxconn’s Industrial Internet in Wisconsin, including AI + 5G + automation and “worry-free manufacturing.”


Thank you to this year’s 13 sponsors for their continued and expanded support!


Meet me at the MERC

Each year, MERC brings together industry, academia, and state and federal funding agencies in order to advance technical solutions to many of the biggest challenges of our time: providing clean drinking water, remediating contaminated ground water, storing green energy, improving remote health care, helping industries prepare for the Internet of Things, prioritizing infrastructure repairs and more.

MERC was established by UWM, southeastern Wisconsin’s only R1 university.

Make sure you receive an invitation to MERC 2021; join the mailing list.