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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

Top URI engineering student to graduate May 21 with entrepreneurial goals

Media Contact: Todd McLeish, 401-874-7892

North Smithfield resident to receive President’s Excellence Award

KINGSTON, R.I. -- May 9, 2006 -- North Smithfield resident Rob Powell never intended to go to college. His brothers got good jobs after high school without a college education, and he thought he would do the same. But his father convinced him to give college a try anyway.

Powell is glad he did. He graduates from the University of Rhode Island on May 21 as one of the top URI students in the electrical engineering and computer engineering programs, and he hopes to eventually continue his education with a business degree as well.

“College allowed me to step back and refocus my goals,” said the 24-year-old student who was home-schooled during his high school years. “You come out of high school not really knowing what your options are until you explore it further. That’s what I’ve done with URI.”

Powell said he invested an “enormous amount of time” learning about computers and programming while growing up. “My interest was mostly in video games, and I figured out that I could program my own games,” he explained. “Eventually, though, I realized that wasn’t going to get me very far.”

Refocusing his computer goals led Powell to an internship at DCI Acquisition Corp. in Exeter, and research into optics and the measurement of defects in visual displays, like those on cell phones and other devices. He even co-authored a paper on the subject for a scientific journal.

Later, Powell joined a project led by URI Assistant Professor Yan Sun studying trust models. “In an ad hoc network of computers, how do you know if you can trust another computer to perform the specific action you want?” Powell asked. “Could the trust it with your bank account numbers? There are different ways of measuring trust in computers, and it’s closely related to how humans decide to trust each other.”

A recipient of URI’s Best and Brightest Scholarship, Powell will be presented with the University’s President’s Excellence Award at commencement exercises. He is also a member of Eta Kappa Nu, the electrical engineering honor society.

Following graduation, Powell plans to work in the engineering field for several years before pursuing a graduate degree in business.

“Ultimately I want to be a CEO for a technology company,” he said. “And I’d like to start my own business, not because I want to run a business, but so I could sell it and start another one. I want to be an entrepreneur in an engineering business. It’s a lofty goal, but you need to keep your dreams big.”

URI News Bureau Photo by Michael Salerno Photography.