Students are already workshopping ideas after Foxconn announced Thursday it plans to make a huge investment in Wisconsin colleges and universities in a competitive initiative to make the area around the site of the plan more efficient.
The company is turning to young people to help shape the infrastructure, traffic patterns and technology around the Foxconn plant.
At UW-Parkside, Foxconn executives revealed they will set aside $1 million for its "Smart City, Smart Future" initiative. There will be competitions with cash prizes, scholarships and funding for students to develop products, ideas and business plans.
Foxconn doesn’t just have its sights set on LCD screen manufacturing in Wisconsin. The company is all about the next big thing—new concepts for the future—and for that, the next generation is key.
And Foxconn leaders say they don’t just want ideas from engineering and technology students. They want to incorporate all disciplines and majors.
TODAY'S TMJ4's Charles Benson was one-on-one with Foxconn's Alan Yeung about the Smart City, Smart Future Initiative:
“If I had a great idea, I would definitely want to share it,” says Amy Reiser, a freshman at MSOE studying architectural engineering.
Reiser is passionate about green energy and would like to someday pitch her own invention.
“There’s new glass windows that absorbs the sun, and turns that heat into energy to make buildings produce less energy, as well as produce its own energy,” she said.
“A lot of students have a lot of ideas but nobody ends up hearing them,” said Troy Tyler, a senior at UWM. “Sometimes we’re too shy, or don’t think people really care to hear. But having a company like Foxconn ready to listen is great for students to get out of their box and get noticed.”
Foxconn is already researching things like driverless cars and flying cars, and says could be a reality within 10 years.
Many students are hopeful they can help Wisconsin become more of a futuristic state.
“I’m all for Wisconsin being the place for new technology,” said Marquette student, Michael Dennison. “That would also help Marquette and other schools here recruit better brains, and raise our school up to the next level so we can be top tier. The talent is here. We just need more people to notice. Let’s keep our talented young people here in the state.”
But some people on local campuses wonder if Foxconn’s pitch to listen to local students is genuine.
“I think Foxconn could have listened to the public’s ideas and concerns on its presence in southeast Wisconsin in the first place,” said one MATC student. “They are going to pollute, and have skirted taxes. But now, they think by providing a little bit of money to smart students, it’s all okay. Typical of a big company.”
“Just because they’re investing in students, doesn’t mean they’re investing in our local environment, or the safety and preservation of our land and water,” said Marquette student, Nelly Dennis.
Foxconn will announce more details on its “Smart Cities, Smart Future” college/university initiative in August.