Innovation in technology has come to be expected of the RIT community. President Destler even challenges the community personally to become the leaders. But what people may not expect is how these communities of technological innovators can come together in new and innovative ways to help people--and even help people help others.
When we spoke with Grand Knight Joe McLaughlin, 5th year CS major, about a service event that his group, the RIT Knights of Columbus, would be participating in, we told him we'd be happy to meet with his group and cover the story. We knew our discussion about the upcoming Polar Plunge would be official, but "armor-clad, brandishing iron, chain, and plate, and marching through the glass panes to meet our storytellers" was a bit more official than we expected.
[caption] (Above:Joe McLaughlin 5th year CS, Dan Muggeo 3rd year CS, Michael Delles 4th year CE, and TJ Wasik, SE Alumnus, brandish their metal for a good cause)[/caption]
After speaking with the group, they invited us to cover the actual plunge on the 14th. We agreed, but found out the rule is that you'd have to be a sponsored plunger to even get close enough to take a picture... So I guess that means our resident videographer TJ will be taking the plunge as well! Stay tuned for our continued coverage of this story, and please help us help others help.
Our resident Hacktivist, RemyD trekked out into the frosty Tuesday evening in search of Rochester's newest Hackerspace,InterlockROC. The space, located at 1105 E. Main St., sits behind the Door #1 entrance to the massive brick business complex.
(Door #4 it turns out, goes to another allied non-profit organization, RRCDC or Rochester Regional Community Design Center, and we thank you Joni Monroe whose board meeting was totally crashed, but still managed to help Remy find his way. We'll be back for your story soon.)
Down the cement stairway, and through the double doors, a din of tech-talk and LCD backlights fills the room. Those without chairs sit on "re-purposed" computer cases. A projector at the front displays the previous meeting minutes (on a wiki ofcourse), and business is conducted in an orderly fashion. Introductions are made, old business is covered, new business is brought forth, announcements are opened to the floor, and then the lightning-talks begin.
This is most fortuitous for us as newcomers to the space being able to get a feel for many of the people and projects all at once, a veritable sampler of Rochester hacker-culture. The topics touched on everything from book binding, to bump keys, to wii-motes, to machine gun mechanics. Our favorite quote of the evening came from our friend Alan Dipert, President of InterlockROC before dropping into an informative adventure through the history of human, machine, and electric motor powered artillery.
"Machine guns did for Humanity, what internal combustion did for the environment"
After the lightning talks, Remy met with the core organizers, and captured this quick introduction to some of the folks behind interlockROC.
The most innovative start-ups know that gathering user-feedback in the development process is key. So it comes as no surprise that the folks at Newdigs are holding some focus groups in the Innovation Center over the next few weeks.
Newdigs is a comprehensive apartment search website founded by RIT alum Ben Munson and is one of the many start-ups working out of RIT's incubator, Venture Creations. Ben's a smart guy, so he's hired an HCI expert, Katie Coles, to be the Director of User Experience at Newdigs. O yeah.
Want to learn what this is all about? Come to one or all of the next few sessions. They are fun, educational, and they'll even feed you pizza. All sessions held in room 1680 in the Innovation Center from 12pm-2pm. Here are the dates:
Mon. January 18 Mon. February 1 Mon. February 15
For more information, email Katie at katie[at]newdigs[dot]com
After all was said and done, about 15-20 people from all over the country and here at RIT participated in a nationwide event focusing on the leading priorities of the Public Information Economy; Access, Openness and Transparency. This Hackathon was so in mode with initiatives from the highest governmental levels of the Transparency Movement.
Slideshow of pics snapped during the event:
These projects will only become more and more relevant as politics and democracy catch up with technology and the internet. Case in point; the new Whitehouse open government directive seen here:
We're sure you've heard of a Marathon, but you are probably wondering what a Hackathon is? Well, its a lot like a marathon in that you commit to covering a lot of ground over one extended period of effort. A hackathon happens at a common venue, in realspace and/or cyberspace, where groups of people, whether they are coders, programmers, designers, or other innovators, creators, and like-minded folk, put in a concerted effort to accomplish explicit goals and tasks identified at the outset of the event, usually culminating in some kind of running code. Some hackathons are impromptu, and spring up out of other conference(or unconference) talks and activities. Some are announced months in advance, and have an explicit course of action, or field of application, like this past event.
The Hackathon ran from noon on Saturday til about 10pm on Sunday. Over the course of the 2 days, we had 8 Students from the OLPC Honors Seminar course, a handful of RIT students(4 or so), 2 RIT Professors, and members of the CIVX project in attendance at the Center for Student Innovation. There was also a small contingent of Boston Hackers from CIVX in attendance via IRC and Codecast, making this 2 day event stretch across 2 states atleast.
The first day was mostly an introductory session on using git, and gitorious to clone, push and pull from code repositories. Over the course of the day, CIVX was tested on multiple platforms and Operating Systems, with success installing on Virtual Machines running on a windows box, and even getting the Moksha Hub Running on an XO!
The second day of the Hackathon was less about introduction and bootstrapping, and more about diving into the code. We discussed the Dataset Lifecycle, and how external raw data is converted into open formats and open API's using the CIVX Scraper API.
Little known to most--we hope he doesn't mind us blowing up his spot--but RIT has had a huge impact on Transparency Innovation already. We're not sure if RIT is even aware of it, but one of Sunlight Labs' Top Gun Hackers--James Turk whom has authored massively useful and OPEN libraries, apps and APIs for sunlight labs--also happens to be an RIT Alumni. In our (few admittedly) conversations with Clay, James Turk's name was brought up as soon as RIT was mentioned. Kudos to you, James Turk, who has also been leading up the FiftyStates Project for the Sunlight Foundation(the API that we were experimenting with at the RIT Hackathon). Your code and presence is still shaping Innovation at RIT, even in your absence, and we are grateful.
Events like this hackathon highlight open development for opensource projects and have the ability to provide a basis for long-term innovation, not just short term publicity. Running code is tangible, and can be iteratively collaborated upon, in a very public way that highlights the importance of process as much as end product. The blueprint IS the building in information architecture, and rapid web development translates into rapid innovation and deployment. The CSI will be continuing these types of events in the future, and are looking forward to collaborating with the next generation architects and innovators of the Information Economy.
The students gave 15 minute research/project presentations on topics such as clean coal in the Balkans, nuclear energy possibilities in South-Eastern Europe, bike sharing in Macedonia and seismic detection when constructing dams. The presentations were well received by students from five different countries in the Balkans: Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Croatia and the United States. The goal of the conference was to provide a forum for university students from South-Eastern Europe and RIT to meet and discuss vital energy issues. What the students did not expect were the connections that would form over the three full days of the conference.
In addition to the presentations, some of the RIT students facilitated a team-building workshop around the concept of "Power on Demand." The workshop participants worked in two large teams to find a way to power a series of four light bulbs from a pile of spare parts. Throughout the exercise students broke down linguistic and cultural barriers and worked together to solve the task at hand.
RIT students and faculty who attended gained not only greater knowledge of contemporary energy issues from 3 days of workshops and presentations, but also a rich cultural experience of South-Eastern Europe that will not soon be forgotten.
Some of the RIT student work was shown here at the Innovation Center a few weeks back. And more of it will be featured in an exhibition at the Rochester Museum and Science Center in the spring of 2010. Stay tuned for updates.
The students in attendance : Joshua Resnick, Derek Hill, Adam Holland, Mathew Ball, Richard Passero, Keqing Song, Jesse Harrington and Carl Lundgren (Faculty).
All of the freshmen in the Saunders College of Business at RIT participate in a year-long course sequence entitled "Business 1-2-3." The sequence takes them through the entire innovation process from idea generation to business plan development to commercialization.
The Business 1 course is focused on ideas and creativity and this week the students are in the Innovation Center pitching their ideas to a panel of Venture Capitalists (well, faculty and staff posing as VCs). The students did a great job in identifying "problems" on campus and are making the first steps toward flipping those problems into business opportunities.
What is so exciting here is that most of the teams are proposing projects that they can't implement without the help of the RIT community. There are many proposals for software, even more for phone apps (these kids are mobile!), and a few projects based on hardware, furniture, and pedal power. What's even more exciting is that, through this process, several of the teams are discovering existing RIT student projects, such as Bookmaid, that are ripe for further development. This is how the innovation initiative is supposed to work, right?
If you'd like to browse some brief descriptions of the team projects, check out our Gallery. It's still under development but chock full of good stuff already. And if you'd like to see some more pictures of the presentations, they are right here.
Last night we had a diverse crowd show up in the Innovation Center for a workshop on Human Centered Design. Students and staff came out from business, programming, engineering, design, and art. And man, did they do some good work!
The event started off with a brief talk from Professor Xanthe Matychak, Saunders College of Business, on the interplay between the fields of design, technology, and business. Then Matychak moved in to focus on the the role that designers play. Following the talk, the attendees were put to work on framing a problem-space--Reading Before and After the Internet-- in terms of human experience. Sounds geeky, but the work spawned some pretty interesting discussion and yielded unique insights. Bingo.
Be sure to let us know what kinds of workshops you are interested in for future. The only criteria is that the topic have cross-disciplinary appeal. Additionally, if you are looking for courses that go deep into this type of process, be sure to check out our courses page. Open to all, world-changers preferred.
Hey hey. Check out our courses page for I-center courses. Brief descriptions are pasted in below.
Innovation and Invention Learn what can’t be taught by doing what no one has done. Jon.Schull@rit.edu WINTER. Mondays 4pm-8pm course # 4080-555 (undergrad) and 4085-855 (grad)
Design, Innovation, and Problem Solving Learn and practice product/service development techniques from Silicon Valley: Integrate Business, Design, and Technology, Generate Hundreds of Creative Ideas, Empathize with End-Users, Frame and Re-frame Problem-Spaces, Build and Test Prototypes, Iterate toward Creative Solutions, Work with a Diverse Team Xanthe.Matychak@rit.edu WINTER. Tuesday/Thursday 8am-10am course # 0102-554
It doesn't take a lot to get started doing things at the innovation center. Those who had never been inside the building until today got their first look inside. As First Year Enrichment classes took an introductory tour, an eager group of first year students tried their hands at improving a project already in progress.
The "flexcycle," a tricycle made out of flexible materials, is a recumbent tricycle design chassis made of flexible components. A radical concept, this invention shares more design principles with sail boats and hunting bows that with conventional cars or bikes.
The project has turned into an attractive one. A team of students has begun meeting regularly to make adjustments and try new strategies with the structure. They meet weekly, and are open to new members with new ideas. To participate in the innovation and invention process, contact Jon Schull at firstname.lastname@example.org