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The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

The Texan Recap: Student powwow, SXSW awards

Editor’s note: This podcast was originally uploaded to Spotify on April 1, 2024.

In this episode of The Texan Recap, Senior Audio Producer Jack Lewellyn chats about UT’s NAIC student organization choosing to move its annual powwow off campus. Plus, UT engineering students win the Student Startup and Innovation Awards at SXSW.

Reported by Naina Srivastava and Helen Li. Hosted by Jack Lewellyn. Edited by Aislyn Gaddis. Cover art by Emma Berke. Music by Top Flow Productions.


*upbeat music*


Jack Lewellyn: A UT native student organization moves their powwows off campus…and a team of UT engineering students wins 2 awards at South by Southwest.


I’m your host this week, Jack Lewellyn, and this is The Texan Recap.


Here’s what you missed this week.


*upbeat music*


Jack: UT’s NAIC student organization chose to move their powwows off campus. Senior News Reporter Naina Srivastava is here with the story. Thanks for joining me, Naina.


Naina Srivastava: Thanks for having me.


Jack: To begin, what is the NAIC? What does it represent for UT?


Naina: The NAIC stands for the Native American and Indigenous Students Collective.


So, kind of like the name suggests, it’s a student organization that empowers Native American and Indigenous students at UT. It used to be a student agency of the Multicultural Engagement Center. Before the MEC was dissolved, which meant in previous years, it received some funding from the center.


Jack: Excellent. For the unacquainted, can you explain what a powwow is?


Naina: Yeah, so a powwow is a celebration and a ceremony that traditionally involves dancers, vendors, and food. The NAIC has historically hosted a powwow at UT, although that took a pause over the pandemic. And a native organization called the Great Promise for American Indians hosts the annual Austin Powwow. That organization has been supporting the NAIC with their planning this year as well. 


Jack: And why was this most recent powwow moved off campus? 


Naina: Last year the NAIC actually had the powwow on campus at the main mall, but after their experiences working with the university and complying with policies, they decided to move it off campus.


The university’s policies prevent organizations from having off-campus vendors sell on-campus events. And organizations need additional permits to cook and distribute food. The NAIC felt that complying with these policies would compromise the powwow, and they said having vendors and food at the event was important to them, so it made more sense to hold the powwow off campus. 

Jack: And you spoke to some members of the NAIC in your article. What were their thoughts over the move? 


Naina: I talked to two of the NAIC’s co-directors and honestly, they just hoped the move would make it easier to hold the powwow in the way that they wanted. They said they were upset the university’s policies were so restrictive. 


However, they made the decision to move the powwow off campus early on in the process because of their experiences last year.


Jack: And how is the NAIC handling their powwows now? What are their plans for the future?


Naina: So this year’s powwow will be at the Dolores Duffy Recreation Center, which is in East Austin, and that will be on April 21st.


It’s unclear whether future powwows will continue to be off campus. Um, I can’t speak for the NAIC, so I think that would sort of depend on NAIC’s future leadership and generally the university’s policies.


Jack: Well, that was senior news reporter, Naina Srivastava. Thanks again for being here.


Naina: Thank you.


*upbeat music*


Jack: A team of UT students recently won the Student Startup and Innovation Awards at South by Southwest. Life and Arts General Reporter Helen Li is here to tell us about it. Thanks for being here, Helen.


Helen Li: Thanks for having me.


Jack: To start us off, what exactly are the Student Startup and Innovation Awards? 


Helen: So, South by Southwest, the conference, has a Startup and Innovation Award categories.


So these could be like AI or like Entertainment or like Big Data. They have all these sorts of different categories. And specifically within both the Pitch and Innovation categories, they have a Student Startup and Student Innovation Award. And this time around, the Paradigm Robotics, the star of my feature, they won both of those awards.


Jack: And just to give an elaboration to that, who were the team of students that won the awards and what did they win them for? 


Helen: ​​Sure, the team of students are actually a group of UT engineering students. The leadership team are all UT seniors majoring in electrical and computer engineering and their team has expanded since they first got started so that they’re at around 18 people now in total and they won the award again for best startup and best innovation in the student categories.


Jack: Now, you spoke to the team about how they got their start in your story. Uh, can you tell me about that? 


Helen: Sure! The story is actually really cool. So, the founder slash CEO, Siddharth, Um, he actually saw on TV eight years ago, a tragic event in the Houston community. A group of firefighters were rescuing a burning building, but unfortunately, the whole team perished.


And he was really shocked that there wasn’t, you know, any technology or like help that helps us sort of assess the risk before the firefighters have to sort of, uh, take this almost unnecessary risk of going in and searching for life, even if, you know, there’s nobody there. So he was really, really shocked by that.


So that sort of inspired him to come up with the idea for FireBot, which is. Uh, they call it the first, um, thermally insulated and wirelessly controlled, like, search and rescue robot, which is super cool. So it helps take a little bit off from the firefighters.


Jack: And so in your article, you also mentioned how they used UT campus resources to get this far. Could you elaborate? 


Helen: Sure. I’m not sure many people know this at UT, but UT actually has a really great entrepreneurship, uh, ecosystem. So they have all sorts of different centers. I talked to the team, and they said they actually have worked with, uh, every single center on campus, which is a lot. So they said, you know, from the Texas Innovation Center to the Launchpad to John Bromley Venture Labs to Herb Kelleher Entrepreneurship to Harkey Institute.


Those are just a couple of examples. They’re sort of under, like, some of them are under McCombs. Some of them are just under UT Entrepreneurship. And what these, I guess, like resources mainly help students, you know, interested in getting into entrepreneurship and startup is just all sorts of resources such as funding, like maybe faculty advisors, um, maybe, you know, competitions to like practice your pitching skills or just like consulting with ideas.


So, yeah, there are a lot of entrepreneurships on campus. 


Jack: Excellent. Just the last thing here. Uh, what are the team’s plans for future projects? 


Helen: When I talked to the team, they said they’re actually ready to take their product to market. So they’ll be preparing to launch the product in this next year, which is very exciting for them.


And they’re also all graduating, um, at the end of this year as well. So they’ll be planning to work like sort of full time on the startup that sort of started at UT and now they’re just really ready to keep going, keep growing and help, uh, keep building solutions to help out the firefighters in the world.


Jack: Excellent. Once again, that was Life & Arts General Reporter Helen Li. Thanks again for your time.


Helen: Thank you.


Jack: And that’s The Texan Recap for the week of March 25th. I’m Jack Lewellyn.


*upbeat music*


Jack: The Texan Recap is a production of The Daily Texan Audio Department.


If you liked this episode, make sure to subscribe to The Daily Texan on your streaming platform of choice and follow us on Twitter @texanaudio. 


This episode was hosted by me, Jack Lewellyn, and edited and supervised by Aislyn Gaddis.


Special thanks to Naina Srivastava and Helen Li for their reporting and to Joelle Dipaolo, Mimi Calzada and Chloe Moore for contributing to this project. 


Cover art is by Emma Berke and music is by Top Flow Productions. To read the news stories in this episode or see more from the Texan, head on over to 


Thanks for listening, and I’ll see you next week.

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About the Contributor
Aislyn Gaddis, Senior Audio Producer
Aislyn is a journalism sophomore from Grapevine, Texas. Currently, she works as a senior audio producer and previously worked on investigative stories for the Texan. She loves to do crosswords and listen to Taylor Swift in her free time.