Jon Schull’s first official day on the job was a big one. Rochester Institute of Technology was playing host to 32,000 people during its third Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival May 1, as Schull was stepping into his role as interim director of RIT’s Center for Student Innovation.
The center proved to be a hot spot, as crowds filled the 10,000 square-foot circular glass structure throughout the day to see electric sparks emerging from a student-built Van de Graaff generator and explore exhibits ranging from vertical farming to virtual reality.
Those exhibits symbolize what Schull is aiming to accomplish at the Center.
“We want to be a physical and virtual ‘hub’ for cross-disciplinary collaboration, where education and innovation converge to nurture new innovators, spark new ideas and spawn new ventures,” says Schull.
Schull came to RIT in 2003 after a 12-year entrepreneurial effort in which he founded a public Internet company called DigitalGoods. At RIT, he developed a course called Innovation and Invention, in which teams of cross-disciplinary teams of students learn to do things that no one—including the professor—know how to do. He is the author of twelve patents on software distribution and tracking, inspired in part by his prior academic research in biological psychology at Haverford College.
“Ideas are like seeds: in the right environment, they grow, reproduce, hybridize, evolve, help us live long and prosper,” says Schull. “The Center for Student Innovation will help make RIT a seed bed for our students and their ideas.”