In pursuit of innovation

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Photo supplied by RIT Archives

In 1972, a group of RIT electrical engineering students started their own company inside their apartment and produced several projects including a light, sound and 
audio-visual system they sold to nightclubs.

The pursuit of innovation and creativity is not new at RIT. With a curriculum focused on practice for 125 years, students have generated projects that epitomize new ways of thinking, inventive product development, processes improvement and artistic creativity. After some “digging” the archives staff turned up some interesting examples from the past. A local newspaper article in 1918 invited the public to come to the yearly exhibit and inspect the work of students attending the Mechanics Institute. The writer predicts the visitors will be amazed at the “innovative” projects–in one example, students in the forge and machine shops designed and built their own lathes. During World War I, women students in domestic science took part in an experiment to determine the optimum conditions for preserving foods by dehydration. The goal was to aid the troops in Europe sickened from improperly canned vegetables. Jumping to the age of Aquarius, a group of creative (for the time) graduate students in the College of Fine and Applied Arts organized “Eat It,” an exhibit of edible art. Shortly after opening, the artists and their guests proceeded to consume the works using utensils they brought from home. A few years later, a group of mechanical engineering students aided the Rochester community with a very worthy project. They designed and built a piece of equipment for children in physical therapy at the Al Sigl Center. The device, a large wooden structure, had an incline and stairs on which a child could crawl or walk to the top. A tunnel underneath allowed children to crawl or push their way through while lying on a cart. Around the same time four enterprising electrical engineering students started their own company, “Continuum Electronics,” inside their apartment at Colony Manor. There they slept, ate and churned out a number of electronic systems. Their money maker was an electronic sound, light and audio-visual system they rented to area nightclubs and concerts. They even received a patent on one of their devices—a “multi-fade dissolve project control system.” With the new Center for Student Innovation and increased opportunties for students to work together on projects, we must appreciate these earlier students’ efforts to bring about something new.