CHM Live Discussion Guide

WiFi For Billions: Andrea Goldsmith, Innovation, and Inclusion

Discussion Guide

It’s not every day that someone gives away $100,000, but that’s what Andrea Goldsmith did when she became the first woman to win the Marconi Prize, the top honor in information and communications research. The engineering professor’s work has enabled billions of people around the world to enjoy fast, reliable cell phone and WiFi networks, as well as applications for video streaming and autonomous vehicles that require stable network performance. Beyond that, Goldsmith has an even greater ambition: she wants to make engineering more inclusive and diverse.

In this conversation, explore Andrea Goldsmith’s unique story as a technology innovator, serial entrepreneur, passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion, and educator for the next generation of engineers.

About This Guide

This discussion guide introduces questions for reflection and conversation that enhance and extend what you learn through watching the video. It is intended for high school students and others who wish to explore. Use this guide with your friends and family to reflect on topics such as understanding wireless technology, educating the next generation of engineers, innovation and entrepreneurship, and diversity and inclusion in STEM (science, technology engineering, and Math).

WiFi engineer, entrepreneur, and educator Andrea Goldsmith fields questions from four different moderators.

For Discussion

Decoding Wireless Technology (3:56-6:28)

Andrea Goldsmith speaks about the problem she was trying to solve with her research, her solution, and its impact on humanity. 

  1. Based on Andrea’s explanation of her research, what are some factors to consider when trying to provide reliable high speed wireless solutions?
  2. What does the term “adapted modulation” mean?
  3. Think about your own life and reflect on the need for virtual experiences in the year 2020. How could socio-economic status, living conditions or location impact a person’s ability to access wifi and the internet? How could limited or no wireless access impact a person’s opportunities to obtain quality education, employment or healthcare? 

Educating the Next Generation of Engineers (6:30-14:55)

Andrea Goldsmith shares her advice for students to be open-minded about what they should study and their educational trajectory. She also reflects on diversity in education. 

  1. (9:28) Andrea says, “I continued to take many classes outside of engineering throughout my undergraduate studies, and those classes really helped me as an engineer.” Do you agree or disagree with her perspective? Why? 
  2. (12:57) Andrea believes that diverse perspectives “breed excellence.” How do you think ensuring enrollment of students from diverse backgrounds helps cultivate a culture of excellence in the classroom? 
  3. Reflect on your personal experiences related to virtual learning during the 2020 pandemic. How do you think technology has enhanced or hindered your learning? 

Innovation and Entrepreneurship (16:02-19:08)

Andrea Goldsmith discusses the big idea that made her take a leap of faith and start her own company. 

  1. (18:20) Andrea says her motivation to start a company was to see if she could “translate academic knowledge into an exceptional real world product.” Consider this statement. Does her reasoning for starting a company make sense to you? Would you start a company for a similar reason? Why or why not?  
  2. Think of an example of something you have learned in school that could be applied to solving a real world problem. List five challenges you think you might encounter. What do you think a successful outcome would look like? 

Diversity and Inclusion (30:33-38:26)

Andrea Goldsmith shares her perspective on the importance of diversity and inclusion in her career as an engineer, professor, and entrepreneur. She also highlights how data can be used to convince people that bias exists. 

  1. How does Andrea describe her experience as a woman in the field of engineering? Can you relate to her story? Explain your answer. 
  2. Based on your personal experiences, do you think there is bias towards underrepresented groups in engineering and other STEM-related fields of study or work? What evidence supports your opinion? 
  3. (36:44) Andrea explains that she is a huge proponent of diversity metrics and believes it can positively influence change in the society. Do you agree with her perspective? Why or why not? 


  1. “Women’s Work: Insights from Silicon Valley Women in Tech” provides context and resources from CHM’s collection for further exploring the stories of women in tech.
  2. In the CHM live event “Wonder Women: Entrepreneurship, Education, and New Frontiers,” Calico Chief Computing Officer and Coursera cofounder and cochair Daphne Koller, and GoldieBlox founder and CEO Debra Sterling discuss the challenges and rewards of creating their businesses from the ground up and offer advice to new entrepreneurs—particularly women. Watch the full video or read the blog article for highlights from the event.
  3. As part of CHM’s One Word initiative, this playlist presents several short video clips in which successful company founders and builders give their “one word” of advice to aspiring entrepreneurs. Their words represent challenges faced, obstacles overcome, or important lessons learned from their own experiences.
  4. In the CHM live event “Pioneers of the Possible: Women Entrepreneurs on Innovation and Impact,” T/Maker cofounder and Threshold Ventures partner Heidi Roizen, and Cloudflare cofounder and COO Michelle Zatlyn discuss the highs and lows of founding and funding innovative startups, sharing lessons learned along the way. Watch the full video or read the blog article for highlights from the event.


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