RIT Announces Winners of Get Viral for Big Bucks Contest

Students use social media to advance RIT brand on Internet

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“Dominoes” and “wishes” won the Get Viral for Big Bucks contest, a cyber show-and-tell sponsored by Rochester Institute of Technology to showcase RIT student ingenuity across the Internet.

Sixty-three student teams met the challenge presented by RIT President Bill Destler and Senior Vice President of Finance and Administration James Watters: to create either a video or interactive media application reflecting the best of RIT and launch it into cyberspace to be seen, shared and passed around by as many people as possible.

“Our students, including prospective students, and alumni are now increasingly getting information online rather than from traditional media such as newspapers, magazines and mailings,” Destler says. “We wanted to experiment with ways in which we could use the creative talent at RIT in the area of new media and social networking to connect with potential students and alumni and to build RIT’s reputation.”

A total of $12,000 in prizes went to six winning entries based on the quality of work and the most hits tallied on the Internet. All 63 submissions, each containing a nod to RIT, were posted to a Facebook site (search for “RIT Get Viral”) developed exclusively for the contest; from there it was up to the individual teams to promote their product and its RIT provenance.

“All of the entries had to advance the RIT brand in some way, but having a piece go viral requires that it be the kind of creative work that others will want to share with their friends,” Destler adds.

A testament to patience, persistence and perfectly synchronized dominoes took first place and $3,000 in the video category. “Dominoes Everywhere” begins with a casual kick from a paper-doll Destler. The president’s foot sets off a chain reaction as 3,000 black and brightly colored dominoes snake through the RIT University Publication office like a Rube Goldberg machine. The falling, clicking dominoes end in a final tap that unrolls a banner promoting the second annual Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival, held May 2.

The video achieves the illusion of one continuous shot. In reality, the team filmed the falling dominoes in three separate sequences, says Jared Lyon ’01 (information technology). Unbeknownst to the casual viewer, an additional 2,000 dominoes provided structural support throughout the complex sequences.

The painstaking effort continues to payoff. “Dominoes Everywhere” has received almost 200,000 views to date, a marked jump from the, 8,000 recorded at the time of the festival.

Lyon attributes the popularity of the video to international design inspiration Web sites that posted the team’s YouTube and Vimeo links. “In one day we had 3,000 hits, and we were totally shocked,” he says.

“That was just the beginning,” Lyon notes, citing inspiration from a series of Sony Bravia television commercials and YouTube user FlippyCat’s domino videos.

From there, the video wound its way deeper on the Web and onto the blog kept by Mark Hoppus, lead singer of the popular band Blink-182. Endorsement from those sites alone proves the power of viral video: “Dominoes Everywhere” logged 29,000 additional hits in a single day.

“The video was actually successful in our initial goal (promoting the Imagine Festival), then it blew up virally,” adds Mark Marcello ’04, ’06 (information technology), a doctoral candidate in computing and information sciences.

Marcello, Lyon and team member Alexander Gartley ’07 (new media publishing)—are Web developers and cubicle neighbors in RIT University Publications. The department’s exhibit at Imagine RIT showcased the video and some of the props, and drew a steady crowd of adults and children.

Winners of the second contest category focusing on interactive media were also present at the festival. Recent graduate Laura Frastaci ’09 (new media design and imaging) is one member of the large production team that won first place and $3,000 for “Puddle.” The virtual wishing pool was created by Frastaci, Kyle Aurand ’09 (new media interactive development), Matthew Bartol ’09 (new media design), Joe Carpenito ’09 (new media design), David D’Angelantonio ’09 (new media interactive development), Vladimir Nazarov ’09 (new media design) and Daniel Wilson II ’09 (new media interactive development).

Puddle doubled as the new media team’s senior project. “New media design and new media development majors collaborate in their senior year on a capstone project, our own melding of the right and left brain,” Frastaci says.

“We developed the idea after brainstorming ways people could connect with an interactive installation, specifically a multi-touch surface,” she says. “Our solution was an interactive wishing well, where users would submit their thoughts and wishes through a Web site, http://www.ritpuddle.com, an online wishing portal, and then navigate and browse those wishes with a touch surface table.”

The table was the centerpiece of their exhibit at Imagine RIT and consumed the bulk of the team’s time.

“We constructed the table from scratch, and a few prototypes for the touch-sensing technology were created before the final version,” Frastaci says. “The table uses a program called reacTIVision that works with an ordinary Web camera to detect points on the table surface. The computer can then track the points and use them to allow users to interact with the Puddle program.”

The result was a tranquil pool of water reflecting digital moonlight and inhabited by swimming creatures representing wishes categorized on a database. Each animated creature held 15 to 20 individual wishes. According to Frastaci, visitors to Puddle have made more than 2,000 wishes.

Runners up in the Get Viral Contest were also recognized for their entries. Second and third place winners in the video and interactive media categories won $2,000 and $1,000, respectively. Noelle Brandmier took second place for her video “Jamie and Andy” and Linzi Bergmann and Frastaci won third place for “I Yarn for Paper.” Heidi Little came in second place for her interactive “Garbage Plate Special” and Jason Caryl, Victoria Main, Ben McChesney and Kyle Beikirch grabbed third place for “Sentinel Salvaged: We Can Rebuild it.”

“The range and diversity of the offerings was simply incredible, and the creative energy displayed reinforces my belief that RIT truly in an ‘innovation university.’ ” says Destler.

To view the winning entries in the Get Viral for Big Bucks contest, visit www.rit.edu/affiliate/getviral.

Rochester Institute of Technology is internationally recognized for academic leadership in computing, engineering, imaging technology, and fine and applied arts, in addition to unparalleled support services for students with hearing loss. Nearly 16,450 full- and part-time students are enrolled in more than 200 career-oriented and professional programs at RIT, and its cooperative education program is one of the oldest and largest in the nation.

For two decades, U.S. News & World Report has ranked RIT among the nation’s leading comprehensive universities. RIT is featured in The Princeton Review’s 2009 edition of The Best 368 Colleges and in Barron’s Best Buys in Education. The Chronicle of Higher Education recognizes RIT as a “Great College to Work For.”