If you were one of the hundreds present for the opening gala of the Innovation Center, then you mostly likely participated in Xanthe Matychak's workshop. The activity invited students, staff, and faculty to get involved planning ideas to showcase at the coming innovation festival. By encouraging wild ideas, building on the ideas of others and suspending judgment*, the question of "what could be done?" was given 1,000 resounding answers. To view and comment on the top five ideas from each group, please check out the Picasa Web Gallery that participants directly uploaded to from their cell phones.
The collaborative event followed speeches by Dr. Ian Gatley, President Destler, and RIT graduate and Digsby creator Steve Shapiro. In his speech, Shapiro gave words of encouragement to RIT students who may be feeling homesick or introverted while adjusting to the campus. As a testament to his experience at RIT, he says he would not have achieved his success without leaving his computer. Joining a fraternity, clubs, and eventually doing the type of work that is possible in the center led his career as a developer and entrepreneur.
*idea generating principles from IDEO
The makers of RIT have a new home: the innovation center at RIT. MAKE club is a collection of individuals with ideas who have come together out of compulsive desire to create. The RIT MAKE club takes particular inspiration from Make zine, a Do it yourself approach to electronics, crafts, computers, metalworking, and consumer products. The philosophy behind this is taking something you have an understanding of and using it in a way that no one has used it for. An example of this would be a three string electric guitar made with pieces of scrap wood. The members of the club discuss ideas they have towards improving or inventing technologies through informal discussion that lead towards group collaboration.
For discussion at their most recent meeting on September 19, club members proposed projects and workshops that they would like to sponsor and collaborate on for the coming year. One of the more ambitious ideas (a refrigerator that could analyze caloric information of the food inside and organize the ingredients into healthy recipes) came from Mike Finegan, a computer science grad student. While discussing what kinds of people the MAKE club attracts, he explained, "What MAKE club is doing is bringing together the minds who want to work. The people who are here want to be here, they want to do something exciting, something new. That general enthusiasm and passion is what makes the difference."
Said club treasurer Tim Garvin; "We don't want to be intimidating, we just want to be a bunch of guys [and girls] getting together to make stuff, who are interested in learning how to make stuff. Right now at RIT, there's a lot of cool stuff going on, but a lot of that stuff is hiding off to the side, and you really have to know what your doing...we want to be a place for anyone to come and learn to build anything they want. And if people come here and don't know what they want to build, that's great too, because you can help other people."
For more information about the MAKE club, anyone is invited to attend their meetings at 7pm at the Innovation Center, or check them out online at their Google Group.
Grassroots learning is learning by doing it yourself, with the materials you have at hand. As a teacher in Belize, RIT Graphic Design graduate student Tim O’Malley had immediate experience in this. "I really got interested in grassroots start-ups, because in Belize, everything is a start-up."
O’Malley worked on several projects including organizing and working as an Art Director for Stonetree Records and Cumbancha World Music. Working on designing the website, the album, promotions, and brand identity, O’Malley had a central hand in giving a visual face to under appreciated music in the Garifuna culture, a linguistic network of people descended from Carib, Arawak and African ancestors. His work brought him to team up with local legend Andy Palacio as he sought to record the Garifuna musical legacy. The fruits of their labor was Wátina, ranked as #1 in Amazon.com’s list of all time greatest world music albums.
So what brought O’Malley to RIT? As he pursues his graduate studies, O’Malley hopes to bring to life what the Innovation Center has to offer for the student body. "I’m interested in people doing things because there is a need for it, not just for profit," explained O’ Malley. "I like encouraging collaboration, even where there is no system in place."
One of O’Malley’s most recognizable contributions to the center has been the Idea Boards, a way of sharing ideas visually among students passing through the center. Come in and check it out!
One laptop per child. That’s the dream envisioned by MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte, the creator of the One Laptop per Child foundation, and the XO laptop. The dream is also shared by Stephen Jacobs, instructor of the One Laptop per Child Class (OLPC) at RIT.
“The whole idea of this class is to give students who want to give back to developing nations a chance to do so,” says Jacobs. The class (course 4080-590) is now in its second year and is a place where any major at RIT can contribute. Offering an un-paid co-op possibility, the OLPC class allows students to work on the open source software that the computers run on, as well as create content for children’s educational tools.
Wes Dillingham, a fifth year Information Technology major, participated in the co-op program this summer as part of a continuing interest in open source technology. “I wanted to do something that was meaningful with my IT degree.”
Education is the first priority when designing software for these laptops. The devices are given to students in developing nations so they can be exposed to the inter-connected technological world. Built to be water, dirt, and dust-proof, the $200 learning machines are designed to run children’s educational software and connect to the internet. In fact, the wireless range of the laptops is larger than most consumer models, and the reflective dual-mode LCD screen can be viewed in direct sunlight.
A strong community of people with the passion to improve the hardware, software, and content of the devices has grown through the OLPC Wiki right here in Rochester. The Rochester connection to the class is the OLPC Users Group, led by Frederick Grose and Karlie Robinson, both of whom have been instrumental in the development and delivery of the course and the coops. It was the ties Robinson had to the Open Source community as owner of On-Disk.com that initiated the program’s connections to Red Hat, Fedora (who donated 25 OLPC’s to Jacob's lab for Technological Literacy) and Sugar Labs (the OLPC spin-off responsible for the growth and development of the Sugar operating system). Grosse and Jacobs began working on OLPC related efforts two years ago and it was Grosse who supervised the Co-Ops and was the primary organizer of a week –long trip to Boston to meet others in the OLPC, Sugar and Open Source communities.
Once again, the class is open to everyone. Artists and musicians are needed to create media for children’s games. Communications students are needed to enrich the software with their own contributions. Explained Jacobs: “We specialize in two different concepts outside the umbrella of traditional curriculum: creative commons licensing, and the process of development for open source software."
For more information, please contact Stephen Jacobs at email@example.com.
The Innovation Center is always looking for new ideas. Be they ideas for events to host at the center, projects to be done by students, or even the newest way to peel oranges, we'd like you to feel free to share them. This blog can be used as an online way of doing so, but it should be restated that you are always welcome to bring your ideas to the physical Innovation Center, open 24 hours.
The Center for Student Innovation was buzzing today with the sounds of Residence Hall Advisors getting their first experience inside the center. The RAs were asked to come up with 1,000 ideas that could be developed through cross-disciplinary collaboration inside the center. The ideas that were generated were unexpected, as students contemplated the possibilities of organic farms on the roofs of RIT and (ah-hem) condoms that changed color if a STD was detected. Other ideas included: a system for harnessing the thermal energy of RIT's bricks, self-cleaning clothes, and a program that would allow students to switch majors for a week.
The post-it proposals remain in the Innovation Center for anyone to build upon; this brainstorming session merely served as a starting point for the collective creative energy of students. RAs are encouraged to return with members of their floor who are interested in creating their own projects. The Innovation Center is open 24 hours for any student interested in collaborating to create something new.
Fourth year information technology student Alan Dipert could be on to something big. As a self proclaimed hacker, Dipert is looking to bring a new connotation to the tired stereotype.
At its worst, hacking is often thought of as a reclusive activity, only recognized when new viruses are created or privacy is threatened. But the creative output of those interested in “guts” of technology is something that is being harnessed for anything productive. In fact, hacking is not limited to software. A growing movement of ordinary people has taken the hacking concept to a new level. Discarded household items can be used in new and exciting ways, as demonstrated by the people at MAKE and instructables. The potential here is that this effort to renew and create with physical objects can be enhanced through the combination of homemade software hacks.
Upon returning to RIT to continue his studies, Dipert formed a group called the Rochester Hackers. The group is looking for anyone who enjoys creative exploration of technology, be it for an artistic purpose, an industrial purpose, or anything in between.
For those who are unfamiliar with the concept of a “hacker community;” it should be reiterated that this isn’t a collection of pony-tailed wall-flowers stealing your grandma’s retirement funds. The old connotations of a hacker, according to Dipert, couldn’t be further from the truth.
“A hacker is a creative person. A [computer] hacker feels inspired to do something artistic with computers.” It was this discovery that eventually led Dipert to the innovation center, in hopes of finding similarly oriented individuals. Rochester Hackers seek to involve the entire greater Rochester community, especially the RIT student population, in a wide ranging network of technologically creative people. Modeled and inspired from the project Hacker News, which lists projects so as to allow long distance collaboration, the Rochester Hackers will meet physically in the Innovation Center, as well as in their online home at Meetup.
At first, “It seemed like [working with computers] was boring and a very un-human thing to do. A quality I’m trying to bring to this group is an interest in people and connections, not just the technical side."
A personal interest of Dipert is growing his understanding of the business side of marketing programming and software. While he anticipates a host ideas being developed, he wants to have the know-how to market his ideas, and to spread this knowledge to other students. But ultimately, his specialty is software, something that isn't tangible. Design students, illustrators, and engineers are needed, and would find room to try out any idea they have, with the support of some of the best software know-how in the area.
The group is open to anyone, even if they have no prior background in computer programming. All ideas involving unconventional or untested uses of technology are welcome. “If you have an idea, and want to know if it’s workable, then this is a good place for you,” says Dipert.
In spite of a quieted summer campus, the center has been buzzing with group of students, staff, and faculty eager to make use of the space, interested in sustainability projects big and small around RIT.
In the fall, the gRIT network will be meeting on Thursday afternoons from 12-1 in the lobby of the CSI. Made up of students, faculty, and staff, the group formed to coordinate and share projects that they were involved in. "We kept feeling we were disconnected from one another, each involved in our separate cells...this group is a great way to get in touch and help each other," says Paulette Swartzfager, CoLA professor.
On the docket was an update about the RideShare program, created by Ben Cavaletto, an interpreter and part-time student who was looking for a new way to protect the environment and save money on gas. A video by Chris Tomkins-Tinch explains how the the RideShare program works. Using social networking and mapping tools, students, faculty, and staff are able to find participating students in their area and match schedules to plan trips online. The physical "ride board" located in the SAU would be replaced with a richer interface that allows for immediate access. A prototype demo is available at rideshare.rit.edu.
Cavaletto was able to develop this project through the Innovation and Invention course along with students Thom Craver and Dan Leveille, winning first prize for the 2009 Center for Student Innovation Award. To get the RideShare fully operational for the fall, the program is in need of a web developer who would be able to receive course credit. If interested you can email the RideShare Program.
Also on the gRIT agenda was news from RIT's Sustainability Manager Witold Bujak, who is working on a nine page report detailing theLEED certification of the Innovation Center. The center will most likely receive the highest possible LEED rating, platinum, for environmentally sustainable construction. The standards take into account water conservation, energy use, materials used, indoor environmental quality, and the entire design and construction process. The LEED certification was one of the goals expressed by President Destler as he signed the Presidents' Climate Commitment this past February.
Interested in gaining support for your own green idea? Check out the Yahoo! group http://groups.yahoo.com/group/gRITnetwork/ for more information about gRIT.
In a story by University News, the Innovation Center received some exciting buzz. Those close to the Innovation Center's creation clarify and muse upon their hopes for the new building. RIT's student and faculty visionaries comment on the Center for Student Innovation's grand opening this summer:
“It reminds me of the Enterprise,” observes two RIT students. Like the starship, the circular glass and steel Center for Student Innovation is designed to take students where they haven’t been before. The 10,000-square-foot space will serve as a nexus of creativity and technology, a hub where teams of students from all corners of the university can develop and showcase innovative and entrepreneurial projects.
Lauren Courtney, New Media Publishing Student
"It [working on a collaborative project] was a great experience. I’m a designer, and it would be easy to stay in my own little bubble. I don’t want to do that.I really hope people take advantage of it...It can become such a great resource for everyone.”
President Dr. Bill Destler
"The center will be a signature structure that brings RIT closer to the vision of becoming America’s ‘Innovation and Creativity University."
Dr. Ian Gatley
"The world is eager for young people who are eager to change the world,” says Gatley. “And the best approach to solving the problems of the world is to work in teams."
Dr. Jon Schull
"The problems of the world are interdisciplinary in nature, but traditional education often turns students into single-discipline ‘adepts’...We want to build a culture of collaboration and unleash it on the world’s most wicked – and interesting – problems.”
(Photo by Max Schulte ’97’) The Center for Student Innovation was filled with exhibits and visitors during the Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival May 2.
Early this Friday morning a large group of well-dressed undergraduate students poured into the large banquet room on the second floor of the CIMS bldg at RIT. There was a nervous excitement in the room as the students awaited Dr. Ian Gatley’s arrival at the head podium. The room electric with young minds reviewing their notes and reciting their elevator speeches.
This years RIT Undergraduate Symposium is recorded as the largest ever at to be held at the school. Numbers of presenters boasted some 118 presenters, thanks to new spaces and initiatives on campus like the new Innovation Center. This event shows no sign of slowing in coming years, if anything it will need to search for more space.
The student speakers tactfully presented on a wide variety of topics. Everything from “Using BIFC to explore novel interactions between EGLNC and pVHL,” to “Feasibility study of Concentration of Personal care products for a sustainable approach to packaging.,” to “ Violence issues in Rochester’s Latino youth.” There was also a major poster presentation that took place in the new Center for Student Innovation that remained crowded all day with several students running parched from talking at length to interested passer bys.
The atmosphere of the day was positively inspiring and showed promise to become on of R.I.T.’s most popular and innovative events of the year.
guest post: Jesse Harrington