BROWNSVILLE, RGV – Christopher R. Wren, inventor, hacker, dreamer and maker on the Android framework team with Google, is to speak at UT-Brownsville today about the making of Android and how Google manages innovation.

Android is an open-source operating system used for smartphones and tablet computers.

Christopher R. Wren
Christopher R. Wren

UTB educators and Brownsville business leaders believe Wren’s lecture will inspire students to take up computer science as a career and there is even hope that Google recruiters will take a close look at students working on the STARGATE project.

STARGATE stands for Spacecraft Tracking and Astronomical Research into Giga-hertz Astrophysical Transient Emission. It is a public-private partnership between the Center for Advanced Radio Astronomy (CARA) at UTB and SpaceX.

Spacecraft Tracking and Astronomical Research into Giga-hertz Astrophysical Transient Emission (STARGATE) complex will be a public-private partnership between the Center for Advanced Radio Astronomy (CARA) at UTB and SpaceX.

CARA is a center for deep space research based on radio frequency technologies. SpaceX designs, manufactures and launches some of the world’s most advanced rockets and spacecraft. It is building a commercial rocket launch facility at Boca Chica beach in Brownsville. Working together, CARA and SpaceX believe they can foster the spirit of Silicon Valley in the Rio Grande Valley, which is partly why Wren and some of his Google colleagues will be in Brownsville.

Google’s Wren will speak at the first of what organizers say will be a twice annual breakfast series titled STARGATE Talks. Wren will talk first to the business community and later with students. The event is being hosted by United Brownsville and will help raise funds for UTB’s STARGATE project. Individual tickets cost $50 with table sponsorship packages ranging from $500 to $2,000. The breakfast event starts at 7:30 a.m. in the Salon Cassia at UTB.

“It is pretty rare to have SpaceX and Google in the same sentence when you are talking about us down here in Brownsville,” Mike Gonzalez, executive director of United Brownsville, told the Rio Grande Guardian. “We are changing perceptions of the Rio Grande Valley.”

Mike Gonzalez
Mike Gonzalez

Gonzalez said what CARA and SpaceX are working on in Brownsville is “essentially creating a technology park that combines higher education, research, economic development and commercialization, a true innovation center.” Gonzalez said the team putting the project together knows they are building a great resource for the region and have been brainstorming on how to engage the general public within the incubator. Out of these discussions came UTB’s Project Space STARGATE Talks, which will be a series of lectures by leaders in the tech industry. “We want to both inspire students and highlight the opportunities for the private sector,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez believes that as a result of Wren’s visit lines of communications will be opened between the Rio Grande Valley and Google. “We want them to know they can reach out to us at any time. We want to change the culture so that we have one similar to Silicon Valley, where everything is based on innovation and strong support structures for folks who want to innovate. I think that is a big component of this. A lot of times people are talking about doing stuff like this. Well, this is already here.”

Regarding the fundraising aspect of the lecture, Gonzalez said: “We want to raise funds to allow programs to be developed, to get students interested in space and technology.”

Gonzalez pointed out how impressed SpaceX executives were when they first met the educators and students in CARA. “They said, wow, this is what you guys are doing, and this is the equipment you are using? That is pretty much the same stuff we use. That is a strong endorsement of the academic work that is going on here at UTB and CARA,” Gonzalez said.

UTB Professor Fredrick ‘Rick’ Jenet is the creator of the STARGATE project and director of CARA. Jenet told the Rio Grande Guardian how pleased he is that Google visiting the Valley and how the visit came about.

“Christopher Wren will be talking about the Android platform and also about how Google manages innovation. He wants to share his thoughts on that with our community,” Jenet said. “STARGATE is going to be next to SpaceX on Boca Chica Beach. We are going to build an innovation center. The idea is to have a presence from major laboratories and major companies and so it has been my vision that we have Google down here. I think Google should have a presence in South Texas, in Brownsville, and, hopefully, in STARGATE.”

Jenet said that in talking with Google executives is clear that one of the things the company has noticed is that CARA students are exactly the type of people they are looking to recruit. CARA students will get a private meeting with Wren where the discussions can be technical and scientific.

“Students that are coming out of our remote command center, that are coming out of CARA, that will be coming out of the projects developed by STARGATE have the right background and training and leadership skills and initiative that companies like Google are very interested in,” Jenet said.

“They have met many of our students before and now, because of STARGATE, they are finally taking notice of us. They want to come down and have a look. So, they are sending one of the architects of the Android operating system. Christopher Wren is going to be, as Mike said, talking about the operations of Android, about innovation at Google, and he is coming to recruit.”

Jenet reiterated that a major reason for the visit of Google leaders is to look at recruitment.

“When I talk to SpaceX and Google I continually hear the same story, that our universities are not producing the types of students with the right skills sets they need. That they are not producing the innovators they are looking for. This is something I first heard from SpaceX and now from Google. I am certain that the students we are producing have the background, have the skills; have the hands on training that these companies are looking for.”

Frederick 'Rick' Jenet
Frederick ‘Rick’ Jenet

United Brownsville produced a short video to explain what the STARGATE Talks project is about. In it, Gonzalez says:

“So, SPACEX is coming to the RGV. But now question is how can the local community and students connect with this great opportunity? The good thing is we already have the answer – STARGATE.

“STARGATE is a very powerful resource to have in our community. The problem is very few people know about it or how to connect with it. We came up with STARGATE Talks as a way to connect our local community with the opportunities created by STARGATE. Twice a year we are bringing in a speaker within the technology industry to inspire and share how the local community can engage with STARGATE.”

Jenet also speaks in the United Brownsville video. “SpaceX coming here is going to transform the region into this beacon of high technology and we are going to have a space launch every month. This is going to attract a whole different type of person, researcher, entrepreneur down here to the Valley, offering opportunities for our students and researchers that we have never had before. Between SpaceX and the STARGATE project of what this means and what this has to offer,” Jenet says in the video. “This is an amazing opportunity we have down here in South Texas. I truly believe that SpaceX coming here is going to be a game-changer for everyone.”

Editor’s Note: The main picture accompanying this story shows Center for Advanced Radio Astronomy students and Dr. Fredrick ‘Rick’ Jenet in the STARGATE control room.