Campus Life

Texas A&M Showcases Thought Leadership At Second SXSW Appearance

March 21, 2018

By Sam Peshek, Texas A&M University Marketing & Communications

At a time when rapid advancements in technology present society with new challenges and opportunities every day, Texas A&M University showed the world at SXSW Interactive Week that the future belongs to those who dare to discover.

For four days in Austin, Texas A&M shared its spirit of discovery and innovation and history as a premier land-, sea-, and space-grant institution for thousands of visitors to panels, exhibitions and brand experiences across three separate locations.

Texas A&M President Michael K. Young called Texas A&M’s follow-up to its 2017 SXSW debut an affirmation of Texas A&M’s reputation as force for good in higher education.

“The breadth and depth of Texas A&M’s discussions and exhibits at South by Southwest displayed to a global audience that when challenges arise, Texas A&M possesses the expertise and resources necessary to produce solutions.” Young said. “In addition, the future employers of Texas A&M students who were in attendance will now know that Aggies receive a transformational education grounded in research, discovery and innovation.”

Over the course of Texas A&M’s time in Austin, visitors had the opportunity to experience Texas A&M through four different avenues: panel programming, a Discovery Lounge, an exhibit space and the Texas A&M x ’47 Discovery House. Attendee data collected by SXSW showed that individuals representing healthcare, automotive, energy, technology, retail and financial industries, among many others, spent time at one or more locations and interacted with Texas A&M students, faculty and staff members.

Human rights
Left to right: BBC jouralist Kasia Madera, Texas A&M President Michael K. Young, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton and former U.S. Ambassador at Large David Saperstein headlined the day’s panel discussions with a conversation on human rights.

Panel Sessions

The Courtyard Marriott Hotel housed five panel sessions on Tuesday, March 13:

The all-star list of panelists included Former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large Rabbi David Saperstein, BBC journalist Kasia Madera, critically acclaimed author and cook Jess Pryles, Emmy-winning TV host and digital lifestyle expert Mario Armstrong, and journalist Roland S. Martin among many others. Numerous Texas A&M members participated as well, including Commission to Rebuild Texas Chair and Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp, President Young, and a variety of faculty and noted experts.

ai panel
Emmy-winning TV host and digital lifestyle expert Mario Armstrong led a panel discussion on the future of artificial intelligence and virtual reality.

During the panel discussion on artificial intelligence and generative systems, Armstrong captured the essence of the day when he challenged the innovators and technology industry professionals in attendance.

“When there is something so new in your mind, you don’t need to wait for other examples because you can set the examples,” Armstrong said. “If you can start with broad strokes and go with more action than theory, the market is wide open. It’s up to you to push on your passion. The passion is what gives you the resilience to get you where you want to be.”

Student volunteers serve up special Aggie smoothies at the Saving Mornings smoothie bike station in the Discovery Lounge.
Student volunteers serve up special Aggie smoothies at the Saving Mornings smoothie bike station in the Discovery Lounge.

Discovery Lounge

While panel discussions took place across the hall, the Discovery Lounge offered visitors an opportunity to experience Texas A&M in ways they could see, hear, smell and taste.

The day of programming included a live mural painting competition presented by LifeWTR, a “Saving Mornings” smoothie counter where visitors could learn about Texas A&M food security research, the BBQ Genius Counter and the Aggies in Space exhibit, where guests could interview NASA astronauts-turned-Aggies.

Students race against time to complete murals in a competition sponsored by Life WTR.
Students pause to sample Aggie BBQ during a mural painting competition sponsored by Life WTR.

The Discovery Lounge also featured virtual reality experiences like Texas A&M’s Global Impact VR station, where users could experience Aggie innovation and research first-hand around the world, and Texas A&M at Galveston’s Buyer BeWhere portal, which allows users to search Galveston and Harris counties by address to receive a hazard risk assessment for their property.

Discovery House
SXSW goers lined up around the block at Clive for a chance to listen to live music and win special edition Texas A&M x ’47 SXSW apparel.

Texas A&M x ’47 Discovery House

For two days, the historic Clive on Rainey Street became the Texas A&M x ’47 Discovery House, where more than 4,000 visitors came to experience three core areas of Texas A&M – land, sea and space – through animated graphics and 3D light projections.

Visitors also had the opportunity to win special edition Texas A&M x ’47 Discovery House apparel, listen to live music from on-the-verge artists curated by ’47’s media partner, Highsnobiety, and sample Texas BBQ.

A student volunteer shows a SXSW badge holder how to use the virtual reality headset to experience the 24-Hours of Global Impact 360-degree video.

Exhibit space

Texas A&M’s 13-foot-tall virtual reality exhibit space drew in foot traffic from a bustling Austin Convention Center to give SXSW goers a chance to project themselves across the world to one of 12 locations where Texas A&M research takes place.

The space was staffed by a group of 64 rotating Texas A&M students and staff who interacted with visitors as they guided them on their virtual tours.

Funding for Texas A&M at SXSW was made possible through brand licensing revenues, without the use of tuition dollars.


Media contact:, 979-845-4641.

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