ECE hosts T.I., talks technology and education

Photo by Garrett Shoemaker Student Publications

On Monday, Oct. 7, rapper, entrepreneur and philanthropist Tip “T.I.” Harris visited Tech to speak about entrepreneurship, Tech’s community outreach and the relationship between technology and entertainment.

The fireside chat, as it was called, was organized by Magnus Egerstedt, Steve W. Caddick School Chair and professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Egerstedt said he hoped the fireside chat would bring in people from the local community.

“As a public school, we have a public school mission, and that mission is to be a good partner in the local community, local neighborhood, and if I’m completely honest we haven’t always done as good job of reaching out,” elaborated Egerstedt in his introduction before bringing on the evening’s guests. “We really want to be a better and more inclusive partner in our community.”

In attendance from local neighborhoods were more than 100 Atlanta Public Schools (APS) students, with whom the speakers on stage actively engaged. The audience also included members from the Atlanta community and Tech students.

Joining T.I in the discussion was his longtime friend and business partner Vernell Woods. Woods is a Georgia Tech Stamps President’s Scholar and the first African-American Electrical Engineering alumnus at Georgia Tech. T.I has been an investor in many of Woods’ companies, including their newest mutual venture Moolah Mobile. Moolah was designed to allow under-privileged communities to pay off phone bills by engaging with advertisements on the Moolah app and receiving 10% of ad revenues towards their bill.

“If you have Metro PCS or Boost Mobile or Cricket … when you kind of refresh your screen and you might see a Ford ad or you might see other ads that pop up. When you have to look at these ads whether you go buy Ford or not, they are receiving funds for you watching that ad and we just said, well why would they not kind of cut you in on the business? Because they wouldn’t be able to receive the money from Ford if you weren’t paying attention to the ad so we just said we’re going to share ad revenue with everyone who downloads this app,” explained T.I.

Both Woods and T.I are passionate about helping the local Atlanta community, and the discussion revolved around community engagement and Tech in the latter half of the event.

“We are not always as effective as we could be when it comes to partnering with our immediate neighbors and communities, it’s true that every year we get a little better, our student population looks a little more like the student population in the city of Atlanta but there is room for improvement,” Egerstedt said before inviting his guest speakers to contribute their thoughts on how Tech can be more inclusive of its local community.

In response, T.I stated, “The problems that plague our community, I think they can all be traced back to the lack of three things: The lack of formidable education, lack of opportunities, and lack of exposure … We have that and an alignment with an entity like Georgia Tech that could solve all three of those things. Then I think we have no choice but to advance.”

Both Woods and T.I emphasized the importance of understanding when you need help and asking for it.

“For me personally, failure isn’t really an option,” Woods said of his experience. “When you set your mind to something, go for it, solve problems and just challenge everything you can and understand you need help … It’s a balance, you gotta have confidence to attack this problem around you that no one is looking at or no one really believes you can solve. You gotta have confidence in you but you gotta have an understanding of yourself. Here’s my limit, here’s where I need help, here’s where I need to lean on Georgia Tech, here’s where I need more advice.”

T.I. added that the reason for their success together was they each did the things they knew really well and could depend on the other to do the things they didn’t do well.

“Give 100% in one area, instead of 50% or 20% in areas you are not good at.”