News Hot Wings & Hot Takes: Steve Wozniak Charms at Kansas’ Ad Astra Technology Summit
Insights from a tech legend paired with the fiery bite of hot wings and echoes of laughter brought FlagshipKansas.Tech’s Ad Astra Technology Summit to a memorable close on Monday at Wichita State University‘s Charles Koch Arena.
Apple co-founder Steve “Woz” Wozniak was joined on stage with FlagshipKansas.Tech Immediate Past Board Chair Luis Rodriguez for a unique take on a fireside chat. The pair covered everything from the early days of Apple to key issues of the day such as the implications of artificial intelligence.
“When you look at AI, it’s just the latest stage of what a computer can do to help us make our decisions and get through life,” Wozniak said.
While he cautioned that regulation and human oversight is needed, it reminded him of the excitement in the early days of the internet.
Following an interactive audience Q&A, WSU President Rick Muma quizzed Rodriguez in a series of true-or-false questions – from how Woz met his wife to the early days of Apple. A wrong answer meant Rodriguez would have to eat a spicy hot wing. A correct answer turned the tables on Woz, who handled the heat in stride, happily licking every finger. Rodriguez earned laughs from the crowd as he chugged milk and lapped up ranch dressing to cool the burn.
As a nonprofit organization, FlagshipKansas.Tech supports the tech industry through awareness, education and workforce initiatives.
“The Summit hits on all three areas of focus by bringing together all the key stakeholders in Kansas tech,” said FlagshipKansas.Tech Board Chair Ben Sebree. “It’s not just a conference; it’s a platform for innovation and collaboration.”
The single day summit featured a sold-out lineup of daytime sessions at WSU’s Woolsey Hall with event partner the Barton School of Business. Industry leaders, entrepreneurs, government officials and educators from across Kansas came together to learn, explore and discuss current issues across the tech landscape.
The day kicked off with an opening session covering the current state of the tech industry and education in Kansas and how to move it forward, with insights from Rodriguez and Cornerstone Data president and founder Joy Eakins. Their three key takeaways were:
- Kansas tech is outperforming other states in our region
- Kansas tech is growing and needs talent
- We need to push for computer science in schools
Breakout sessions followed focusing on a range of industry, education, workforce and startup topics. A workshop brought attendees back together to discuss technology workforce issues.
FlagshipKansas.Tech also recognized leaders in Kansas tech with the Ad Astra Tech Awards. The organization announced the Kansas Tech Teacher of the Year award would be renamed in honor of Steve and Janet Wozniak who have long been champions for tech education. The Wozniaks also awarded the winner with a check for $1,666 – an homage to the introductory price of the Apple I computer. Awardees include:
- Adria Dumler and Evan Rogerson (Maize High School), 2023 Kansas Tech Students of the Year (K-12)
- Sierra Bonn (Wichita State University), 2023 Kansas Tech Student of the Year (College)
- Christopher Spindler (Dodge City High School), 2023 Steve & Janet Wozniak Kansas Tech Teacher of the Year
- Voltage, 2023 Kansas Tech Startup of the Year, presented to Founder and CEO Graham Krizek
- David Cochran, 2023 Kansas Tech Community Innovator of the Year
- Luis Rodriguez, 2023 Kansas Tech Visionary of the Year
The Summit, which won an Innovation Award after its inaugural year, quadrupled attendance in its second year in part thanks to a teacher scholarship sponsored by broadband company Twin Valley.
“These scholarships are our way of recognizing the dedication and passion of Kansas teachers and championing digital inclusion across our state. We believe in investing in the future of education and empowering those who shape young minds. Equipping them with the tools to integrate computational thinking and digital skills development in their classrooms is essential to setting our youth up for success,” Ben Foster, President & CEO of Twin Valley.
With 115 teachers awarded the scholarship, more than 50 school districts across the state were represented at the Summit, which aims to be an intersection for tech and education.
FlagshipKansas.Tech is dedicated to creating a thriving environment for technology in the state, and having guests like Wozniak is a big part of it, Rodriguez said.
“Last year, we challenged attendees to be bold. So when it came to choosing a keynote speaker, we had to take our own advice,” Rodriguez said. “Now the question is, how do we top this next year?”