RIT-Rochester Museum & Science Center Partnership illuminates science and technology

Consortium focuses on inspiring next generation

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The Rochester Museum & Science Center and RIT are joining forces to focus on the impact of science, technology, engineering and mathematics on our world and the importance of innovation throughout the history of civilization.

“RIT and the museum are in the same business, which is the education of the next generation,” says Ian Gatley, director of RIT’s Center for Student Innovation and Undergraduate Research Support. “The museum typically gets students at a younger age then we do on campus, yet we both help develop the upcoming generation of people who are going to save the planet.

“By linking our efforts, we create two pipelines,” he continues. “First, young people inspired by the science museum are more likely to pursue careers at universities like RIT. And innovations and exhibit ideas created by RIT students will end up further enriching the museum experience.”

Cultivating curiosity about science and technology in children and in their families is at the heart of the consortium.

“The partnership is a great way to help the young people in this community understand what fabulous opportunities there are in science, technology, engineering and mathematics in this community,” says Kate Bennett, president of the science center. “We are creating experiences for families that inspire enthusiasm in these areas.”

“This is a wonderful opportunity for RIT and the Rochester Museum & Science Center to promote innovation to the Rochester community and beyond,” says RIT President Bill Destler. “Together, we will highlight the significance of science, technology, engineering and math to all age groups.”

An informal partnership has existed for years between the two institutions. When the Rochester Museum & Science Center needed to find affordable projection technologies for the planetarium, Gatley, chair of the science center’s Strasenburgh Planetarium task force, recommended looking beyond the traditional sources. When staff found a cost-saving alternative, RIT staff and students prototyped the multiple projection system that has led to new ways of presenting visual material.

Inspired by Gatley’s creative ideas for filling the planetarium dome, RIT faculty and College of Science students used multiple projectors to create semi-immersive video displays for an exhibit on global positioning systems and the orienteering trend called geocaching. Other students from RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering have worked on an upcoming exhibit on robotics planned for this summer.

Prototype exhibits of a future installation called “Rochester Innovation Place” traveled from the museum to RIT for the Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival in May. These prototypes will form the concept centerpiece of the upcoming optics exhibit, slated to open in the next few years, and are back on display at the museum.

“The relationship will grow organically, as it has over time,” says Bennett. “For years now, we’ve been involved with RIT and this is a celebration of our past work and stimulation for future opportunities. So many exhibit experiences can be driven or executed by faculty and student projects, and we welcome new ideas.”

Adds Gatley: “Clearly, the innovation that we do here at RIT needs an outlet, and it’s a natural channel to send it to the science center. You can only imagine what a science center and a university like RIT can do.”