The Amazon Catalyst Program at Washington State University has awarded nearly $20,000 in grants to two teams comprised of research faculty and students from varied university disciplines and locations.

Team Cross-Cultural Optics and team Virtual Reality 360 received grants for their innovative solutions to specific problems posed by Amazon. Launched in 2018, the collaborative program between Amazon and WSU funds projects with potential global impact. This year, applicants were asked to consider the themes of urban transportation and computational social science and submit innovative ideas that have the possibility for big change in these areas.

Closeup of Julie Kmec
Julie Kmec

Team Cross-Cultural Optics, led by Julie Kmec, professor of sociology, was awarded a grant to develop a virtual reality environment that enables female engineers based in the U.S. to explore engineering spaces elsewhere in the world that have higher levels of engineering participation by women. In the U.S., women hold 24% of engineering degrees but represent only 18% of the engineering labor force. Cross-cultural Optics aims to create a visual world and set of narratives that will provide users an opportunity to experience the stories of other engineers in countries across the globe where women represent a higher percentage of the engineering student body and workforce; enabling them to share testimonies, seek advice, learn from others’ experiences, and problem solve.


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