Freshman Innovation

Center for Imaging Science

In the fall of 2010 the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science implemented a revolutionary approach to technical education through its Innovative Freshman Experience (IFE). This course, open to incoming freshmen regardless of their major, offers first year students a unique opportunity to design and build a cutting-edge imaging system from scratch as part of an integrated multidisciplinary team. 

In the three years since its inception, IFE students have built:

- A system to create interactive digital images which can be manipulated to vary the angle at which light appears to illuminate the subject, thereby allowing a user to see otherwise hidden textures. This system was later used by archivists at the Boston Public Library to capture some of their most treasured holdings, including a page from a Gutenberg Bible.

- A 3-D head scanner for medical applications. This device was designed and built to provide anesthesiologists with highly accurate measurements of facial contours, thus helping them to assess a patient's susceptibility to intubation without having to do a manual examination of the neck and throat.

- A multi-camera array which can be used to actually see through objects. This array gives a user the ability to continuously view an individual moving through a crowded scene even if that person is otherwise hidden behind obstructions. Such a system would be an effective tool for law enforcement officials to use when monitoring activity in high crime areas.

This year's class has just begun their year-long development of an "intelligent telepresence" system. This system is comprised of hardware and software solutions that will allow users to participate in automated video communication without being tethered to a single "talking head" webcam. The prototype of this system will be demonstrated at the 2014 ImagineRIT innovation and creativity festival.

Student feedback on the popularity and effectiveness of this hands-on approach to their first year class has been overwhelmingly positive. It's clear that in just three short years the Innovative Freshman Experience has had a transformational effect on the entire culture of the Center, and it's inspired a wave of independent student projects which continue to push the boundaries of imaging technology.