Kennedy Keyes

Kennedy Keyes, pictured in front of a screen with digital simulations
Photo by Beth Wynn

Kennedy Keyes has always had a love for hands-on technology.

As a kid, she wanted to build robots. In the 8th grade, she learned how to code and dreamed of becoming an engineer.

“I saw inspiration with my desire to build things,” Keyes said.

Born in small town Taylorsville in Smith County and raised in Brandon, she first attended Holmes Community College and then transferred to Mississippi State after graduating to continue pursuing her engineering dreams.

Now an MSU senior software engineering major, Keyes is achieving her goal with the help of numerous university research and job opportunities and encouragement from mentors.

Funded by MSU’s BRIDGES program for undergraduate research and the Office of Research and Economic Development, she began researching with MSU’s Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems last year under mentor and CAVS Associate Director Daniel Carruth. She has been investigating augmented and virtual reality user interfaces for those with disabilities for CAVS and the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center. After assessing user challenges and testing modifications to improve user experiences, she presented her work at the university’s Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Last summer, Keyes was one of 17 students selected to participate in the Amazon Summer Undergraduate Research Experience at the University of California, Los Angeles. She spent eight fully funded weeks in UCLA labs on a three-student team designated as big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning researchers.

This year, she has worked with CAVS to improve, in cold environments, the MSU Autonomous Vehicle Simulator, an off-road, autonomous ground vehicle simulator with computer vision algorithms.

As a recipient of the Mississippi Auto Manufacturers Association scholarship for students studying automotive-related fields at Mississippi’s community colleges and universities, Keyes said the opportunity has been “great” to represent her family and give inspiration to the younger generation in Taylorsville, a town she said is “very big in her heart.”

“I want to show them, no matter how big or small their city is, there is always room for them to grow and be who they want to be,” Keyes said.

She also said that MSU helps her represent that message to her younger family members.

“In the future, I hope they have the same or better opportunity to attend this university. MSU seems like the place for them to find their people and achieve their dreams,” Keyes said. “There is so much you can do on this campus.”

Keyes also serves as an online editor for MSU’s student newspaper The Reflector. She works as an information assistant for MSU’s Housing and Residence Life, enjoys participating in computer science “hackathons,” being a member of MSU’s National Society of Black Engineers and serving with MSU’s Maroon Volunteers.

She plans to graduate this spring and hopes to enter the technology industry as a software engineer, using her skills for something valuable to underrepresented communities.

Kennedy Keyes, pictured in front of a screen with digital simulations