Hajim Spotlights

Dewey Bazirake

Class year: 2020
Major: business analytics
Challenge: engineer the tools of scientific discovery

From the moment he arrived at the University of Rochester in 2016, Dewey Bazirake has been busy with entrepreneurial projects and bubbling with ideas about how to engage other students in the entrepreneurial process.

Dewey, who is from Kampala, Uganda, came to Rochester after completing an IB baccalaureate at United World College in Costa Rica – “a multi-cultural experience that broadened my perspective about the importance of diversity and collaboration,” Dewey says. “Aside from the IB, I picked up the romantic language of Spanish that enhanced my communication skills and experience while in Costa Rica”’

He chose Rochester because he wanted to attend a university “with diverse student mindsets” to learn from and a flexible curriculum that would let him explore and discover.  “I wanted a place where I could talk to a biologist, computer scientist or anthropologist at the same table,” he adds.

He is majoring in business analytics because “the relevance of data in our century is of top priority,” he says. “The fusion of technology and data get me excited for the increased efficiencies we will experience in our health, commerce and industrial sectors... I'm excited to see how Big Data and Business unite to make the world ever better.”

During his first year at UR, Dewey founded Kwetu, a student organization dedicated to promoting and encouraging entrepreneurship and development on the African continent. He was chosen to be the first student employee of iZone – a space created by the University where students from multiple disciplines could meet and collaborate on innovative projects.

As a first step, he attended Startup Weekend NYC, June 2017 a multidisciplinary competition that challenges teams to create a socially responsible business in just a few days. That summer he led a week-long workshop for Early Connections Africa (ECA), a program at UR that helps African students prepare for college. During the week-long workshop, students created proposals for nonprofits, advocacy programs, and arts initiatives to help solve pressing problems in their home countries. The following year the workshop was expanded to four weeks. (Read more here.) More recently he has launched a series of “campfires” to bring together students and student groups from multiple disciplines to talk about ways to collaborate on projects.

In fall 2018 he spent 3 months interning with Miro AI, an artificial intelligence startup in Shanghai City, China, that focuses on the sporting industry. Among his projects there: Building an image classification algorithm using python, linux and AWS that successfully classified over 80,000 images. He has also interned with Broadstone Real Estate LLC where he took on data mapping of the company software and financial systems in preparation for data migration into the cloud. He also computed replacement costs for their building portfolio of over 600 commercial properties across the US.

With two other students, he founded KBH Consultancy to help international students understand the steps required to attend a university in America.

Here’s a Q&A with Dewey about his participation in the Grand Challenges Scholars program.

Why did you decide to apply for the Grand Challenges Program?

The Grand Challenges Program gave me an outlet to explore the engineering self within. As much as I am a business analytics major, I have always been intrigued by the advances in sciences especially in physics, computer science and mathematics. The ability to innovate outside the comfort of economics and business, has been quite influential in shaping the kind of innovation I want to immerse myself in throughout my life. This is engineering technology coupled with data science. This is what led me to pioneering a project to create a solar powered drone that utilizes solar energy to fly. This is important because drones will be our future mode of transportation, around earth and hopefully beyond. It is important to create them sustainably from the point of creation.

Which of the five competencies did you most enjoy completing? Why?

Entrepreneurship/Innovation. Creating is fun. This competency enabled me to think out of the box and work with teammates from diverse academic backgrounds. In order to build the solar drone, I have to collaborate with electrical-computer engineers, computer scientists and data scientists. The journey to get started allowed me to interact with faculty well versed in these respective fields and get advice on how best to design and build the project. Innovation involves forecasting a need that is yet to be realized. By taking on the solar powered drone project, I’m exploring my entrepreneurship passion to create sustainable drones for the future.

Are there things you learned while completing the competencies that you would not have learned in a classroom or lab? For example?

Yes indeed, As mentioned, my major mainly deals with numbers, analysis and finance. This rarely exposes me to in depth engineering skills. However, through the project, I learned more about circuit designs, arduinos, raspberry pi’s, autonomous drones, and Artificial Intelligence. The most exciting part of the project has been working together with electrical and computer engineers (both students and professors) who have contributed significantly to the progress and success of the project.

After you graduate, do you think you will want to continue to work or pursue graduate studies in the same field as the challenge you tackled? How will you do that?

The challenge I decided to tackle was “Engineering Tools for Scientific discovery.” With a passion to create sustainable and autonomous drones, I intend to pursue a master’s degree in an analytical field that will enable me to better understand how to process data generated from the drones. In order for drones to operate autonomously and sustainably, they need to process vast amounts of data. As I progress in my career, I intend to continuously engage with engineers and industry experts to carry on and complete the goal of creating commercially viable, solar-powered drones.

How did being at the UR help you complete this program?

The wealth of engineering knowledge and access to domain-expert professors has helped me to achieve this. The Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences has been quite supportive of my venture by connecting me to the Robotics Club and giving me the necessary mentorship I need. The Physics and Astronomy librarians also pointed me to enormous resources that have guided my thought process around the project.

What is the value of the Grand Challenges program for a student?

The Grand Challenges Program encourages students to get out of their comfort zone and make a positive change in the world. Students should feel comfortable to explore their passions and interests, irrespective of their current majors. The Grand Challenges Program also gives students a chance to apply what they learn in class to solve pertinent world problems. I highly encourage every student to consider the Grand Challenges Program because you work on what you are passionate about and contribute tremendously to the sustainable development of humanity.

Dewey's GCS Poster

Dewey's GCS poster