CSUN held its fourth annual Art of Innovation Conference at California State University, Northridge’s Grand Salon in the University Student Union on Oct. 14. The College of Engineering and Computer Science and the David Nazarian College of Business and Economics sponsored the event and invited CSUN students, faculty, staff and other members of the local community to learn about current technology trends, 21st century entrepreneurship and the future of innovative thinking.
The conference was a featured event of InnovateLA, a two-week celebration of innovation, entrepreneurship and technology in Los Angeles.
The keynote speaker was Adad M. Madni, former president, chief operating officer and chief technology officer of BEI Technologies Inc. As a major player in the development of multiple aerospace, military, commercial and transportation advancements, Madni talked about the technologies needed to address today’s challenges.
“These are not going to be solved by classical disciplines,” he said, emphasizing that true innovative approaches require diversity, collaboration and effective communication. “Challenges are not solved by individuals anymore, but by teams.”
Madni shared his predictions on the progression of wireless sensor networks, intelligent cars, telehealth, nanotechnology, clean technology and artificial intelligence. He referred to computer scientist Alan Kay, quoting his words, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”
Following the keynote speech, experts in the fields of technology, entrepreneurship and startups explored various trends and innovation opportunities with three panel discussions: Intrapreneurship and Entrepreneurship, Social Entrepreneurship: Balancing Purpose with Profit, and The Future of Technology.
The panelists repeatedly stressed the importance of passion, ambition, curiosity and communication for entrepreneurs to be successful.
“No matter how well a product is built, without drive and passion, there is no development,” said panelist Doug Parker, a startup expert and engineer at Aerojet Rocketdyne.
“I’d rather [work] with an OK engineer but great communicator than with a great engineer with poor communication skills,” added creative and innovation consultant Tim Leaker.
More than half of the attendees were CSUN students seeking professional advice for their careers. Juan Xing, an international student from China, said she was able to connect her chemistry background with her current studies as a graduate student in engineering management.
“It was great to see the opportunities out there and how to approach them,” she said. “I really learned a lot through the keynote speaker and the panelists.”
“You don’t meet these kinds of people everywhere,” added engineering management graduate student Aniket Kelwadkar. “I’m thankful that CSUN exposes students to those people — they’re a good benchmark. When [Madni] gave the speech, introducing all these technologies, I actually thought — ‘I can do that, too.’ It was a good feeling.”