Michigan IT inaugural Tech Showcase & Social a success

“Community is built through connections, friendships, and memories forged through experiences.”

Michigan IT professionals  sitting at tables in the Michigan Union Rogel Ballroom.

The 2023 Michigan IT Tech Showcase and Social event was a new and exciting gathering for the Michigan IT community. This in-person, networking event welcomed more than 270 technology professionals to the Michigan Union on November 30. Designed to cultivate a sense of curiosity, cooperation, and unity within the community, the goal of this event was to create a more connected, collaborative, and innovative learning environment. The “showcase” aspect highlighted interesting new technologies from across the university in a fun and interactive atmosphere. The “social” side provided opportunities to strengthen community bonds. 

Michigan IT chairperson and Ross School of Business chief information officer, Kerry Flynn

The event opened with a greeting by Michigan IT chairperson, Kerry Flynn, Ross School of Business CIO, describing a renewed energy for the Michigan IT community. Profiling goals for upcoming activities and opportunities for engagement, she offered a call for people to volunteer and get involved. 

Ravi Pendse, U-M vice president for IT and chief information officer

Vice President for IT and U-M CIO, Ravi Pendse took the stage to welcome everyone. He stated how wonderful it was to see so many people reconnecting and the enormous value there is in connecting with one another. He went on to give remarks about the opening of the term and provided an early holiday greeting with a video by ITS marketing and communications.

Following the provided lunch, attendees engaged with several interactive demonstrations and activities. Each 30-minute activity was aimed to pique curiosity, share knowledge, inspire future technological advancements, and encourage open dialogue. Attendees rotated to their selected activities throughout the afternoon where they:

U-M GPT Workshop in progress
  • Discovered all the capabilities surrounding U-M GPT and Generative AI for themselves in sessions led by Don Lambert and Ben Andries, from ITS Emerging Tech & AI Services.  Various use cases involving the three-tier service launched in August, were discussed in a dialogue format with attendees.
Robotics workshop and demonstration
  • Learned how MBot, a low-cost, adaptable ecosystem for teaching robotics with a real robot, and a 3D lidar worked. Hundreds of MBots have been used to teach courses across undergraduate and graduate levels. A 3D lidar is how many autonomous systems see their environment. They could also check out the Michigan Robotics swag table.
A person wearing a Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality headset as part of a demonstration.
  • Experienced the latest advancements in Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) in an interactive demonstration conducted by the Emerging Technologies Group.

Terri Ridenour, project manager in OVPR, said that “The Virtual Reality session led by the Emerging Technologies Group (ETG) was awesome and the possibilities for the U-M community using 3D visualization and XR technologies is endless. I put the headset on and demoed the technology used for a nurse training project. It simulated a hospital room with an infant patient that required urgent care. There were embedded decision trees and opportunities to practice decision making.”

  • Networked, engaged, and (re)connected with people, which is at the core of what Michigan IT is all about. They could grab a friend, meet some new colleagues, collaborate on a puzzle, or team up on a game at various networking locations.
  • Participated as individuals or in teams in a friendly competition to see who could answer the most IT-related trivia and fun U-M trivia questions. Across all five sessions the high score was 8/10.
Illustrative image of words and icons that represent the Michigan IT community including "vast, connected, forward-thinking, world class, robust, and friendly.
  • Visited the visual artist Yen Azzaro, shared what they love about the Michigan IT community, and saw their ideas come to life in a collective illustration evolving throughout the event. The four images inspired by contributions made by attendees are available to download from the event website.
  • Took a few minutes out between sessions to visit the Therapaws of Michigan therapy dogs who were there with us for a portion of the afternoon.
Looking down into the Michigan Stadium from the upper suites.

In addition to those 30-minute sessions, there were three Michigan Stadium technology tours, with round-trip transportation provided from the Michigan Union. The tours involved traversing floors of the stadium that are not accessible by elevator and spaces that are unavailable to the general public. A recording of the tour will be available once it’s edited.

Dr. Andrew Rosenberg, Michigan Medicine chief information officer speaking at the close of the Tech Showcase & Social.

Dr. Andrew Rosenberg, CIO for Michigan Medicine, gave closing remarks speaking to the personal and professional value of getting involved in the Michigan IT community. He challenged all attendees to share their experience with four other people and encourage them to attend future events and get engaged. 

Event co-chairs, Cheryl Sobkow (Ross IT) and Jennifer Herron (ITS) wrapped up the afternoon thanking the planning committee and giving away the games and puzzles from the networking tables. They also thanked the attendees for being open-minded and willing to try our new format.

Feedback from lessons learned and survey results from attendees are being reviewed and a final report will be published in the first quarter of 2024.

Editor’s note:
Josh Simon, LSA Technology Services, contributed to this article.
Tony Giusca, LSA Technology Services, and Joel Iverson, ITS Marketing and Communications provided event photography. Michigan Stadium photo by Kranthi Bandaru, ITS.

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