Partnering with Dawn or Doom benefits campus units, expands conference offerings

When Kannert’s Mohammad Rahman first proposed creating a Data Dive competition on Purdue’s campus, he saw it as an opportunity to bring students from different academic disciplines together to tackle real-world data analysis problems.

Partnering with the annual Dawn or Doom conference this fall made that goal easier to accomplish.

“So many of the big questions about how we’re going to be using data in the future will require bringing together people with different expertise,” says Rahman, an associate professor of management who started the Data Dive competition in 2016. “Joining the Data Dive with the Dawn or Doom ’17 conference helped give our event greater exposure, which is important when trying to attract students from different parts of campus.”

Students with their designs for the Design Good now hackathon.That added exposure and collaboration – which for the Data Dive resulted in 171 students from six different schools or colleges registering for the event – has become one of the defining attributes of Dawn or Doom, which has grown from a conference focused on the future of technology to a campus-wide discussion about technology’s role in nearly every facet of our lives.

“Our intent has always been for Dawn or Doom to become a bazaar of events, activities and discussions around the theme of emerging science and technology and its risks and rewards,” says Gerry McCartney, Purdue vice president for information technology and the conference’s director. “That became a reality with the many collaborations we had in 2017 and we want to expand these kinds of partnerships even further in 2018.”

If you have an event, idea, speaker or project that could benefit from partnering with Dawn or Doom 2018 contact Diana Hancock at

The Dawn or Doom ’17 conference, held at the end of September, featured events or speakers from seven of Purdue’s colleges and incorporated several previously stand-alone events, for example the Ecological Sciences and Engineering Symposium.

In the Data Dive, students used supply chain data from Cisco Systems, which Cisco provided thanks to its professional relationship with McCartney. Cisco leaders helped judge the results and they plan to make use of them in the company’s operations.

“The fact that our students got to make their final presentation in front of executives from Cisco was invaluable,” Rahman says.

Dawn or Doom supported other concurrent events by campus organizations as well. Among other things, the conference provided books for local high school students to join in the College of Liberal Arts “Big Read” common reading program, split the cost of a lived-streamed presentation by the College of Agriculture, and helped fund a Purdue Graduate Student Government research symposium along with participation in the conference by the Purdue Sketch Squad club.

“It was very beneficial to be a part of Dawn or Doom, because of the added exposure on campus and all the little things that come with running an event, like booking the rooms,” says Christal Musser, interdisciplinary student services manager, who worked with ESE students to organize ESE’s student-run symposium.

“Our ‘fake news’ panel had over 100 people in attendance, which probably wouldn’t have happened if we weren’t part of Dawn or Doom,” says graduate student Kyle McLaughlin, one of the ESE symposium’s co-chairs. “It helped bring in people who wouldn’t have attended in previous years.”

Creating a more diverse, cross-disciplinary dialogue on campus was one of the things Kristina Bross, the associate dean for research and creative endeavors for the Honors College, had in mind in pairing the College of Liberal Arts’ “Big Read” initiative with Dawn or Doom.

“Part of the appeal was the selection of the book ‘Station Eleven’ – about a future, dystopian society – that seemed to fit in nicely with the Dawn or Doom theme,” says Bross. “But we also saw it as a way to bring this discussion of literature and science fiction into a broader context.”

At Dawn or Doom that broader context extended to hundreds of high school students who came to campus to attend the Big Read and other events, along with the more than 3,000 kids around the country who participated in the College of Agriculture’s Zip Trips show on growing crops in harsh climates, including space. The live broadcast was shown in high schools across the United States.

“Partnering with Dawn or Doom, and using that as a theme for our broadcast, really helps further one of our goals of introducing students to the possibilities in agriculture that go far beyond being a farmer,” says Steve Doyle, the producer of the show for the College of Agriculture’s communications group.

Dawn or Doom’s ability to expose students to new ideas and experiences was also important to TJ Kim, associate professor of industrial design, who organized Purdue’s Design Good Now hackathon, in which teams of students designed adaptive and assistive devices for people with disabilities for an exhibit during the conference.

“We need to have a little more humanity in our sciences and technology, so that we can all work together to create a brighter future,” says Kim. “To me that’s what Dawn or Doom is about.”

Writer: Dave Stephens, technology writer, Information Technology at Purdue, 765-496-7998,

Last updated: October 20, 2017

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