Seventh annual Imagine RIT draws thousands to campus




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A. Sue Weisler

President Destler’s E-Vehicle Autocross kicked off the Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival on May 3. Electric Vehicle Team took first place.

What is it like to navigate the turns of an autocross course, riding inches off the ground in a homemade electric vehicle capable of doing 55 mph?

“A lot of it is a blur,” said Wheeler Law, a second-year computer science major from Marblehead, Mass., driver for the Electric Vehicle Team, which took first place in RIT President Bill Destler's Power Wheels and E-Vehicle Autocross Challenge. “You're going so fast, processing information so fast that you don't have a lot of time to second guess yourself.”

The challenge kicked off the 2014 Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival on Saturday, a day designed to showcase the innovative and creative talents of RIT students, faculty and staff.

Law, a relative newcomer to electric vehicles and autocross, was one of about 30 team members who built and tested the winning vehicle, which had an average lap run in Saturday's race of an astonishing 20 seconds.

For its win, the team received $1,000 and a trophy. Taking second place and $500 in the general category was Team Electric Roar. Winners in the power wheels category were ECO-Police, which snagged first place and a banjo from Destler’s collection, and the RIT Players came in second.

“But the best part of the day is not the competition,” Law added. “It's the festival itself. We're doing a great thing at this school. The whole campus is buzzing. It's a great day.”

Medical technology on display

It was a great day for 6-year-old Derek Black from North Tonawanda, N.Y. In RIT’s MAGIC Center, he was measured for a customized 3D-printed prosthetic hand from the e-NABLE group.

Created by RIT researcher Jon Schull, e-NABLE pairs people with missing or deformed hands with 3D-printing hobbyists who produce customized 3D-printed prosthetics that can improve their lives. Festivalgoers watched as the fingers and palm were printed layer by layer, using a desktop 3D printer donated by Solidoodle, a Brooklyn company that produces the printers.

Nate Ramsey, an occupational therapist and research support specialist at the University at Buffalo Center for Assistive Technology, was also measured for a 3D-printed prosthetic arm.

“Jon also invited me to come out for the festival and I was nerding out on all the amazing assistive technology work being done here,” he said.

RIT’s emphasis on medical technology was on full display during this year’s festival. Across campus in the Gordon Field House, festivalgoers closed their eyes and imagined navigating walkways, streets—even the festival—using a Smart Cane being developed for the blind and visually impaired.

The Smart Cane is a first-of-its-kind prototype using a roller system, said project manager, Lauren Bell, a fifth-year mechanical engineering major.

The roller system consists of four bearings and roller arms connected to a motor, built entirely by the students—from the mechanical, moving parts to the wireless control system. The mechanism is packaged and attached to the top of the cane.

They wanted to combine the benefits of both a traditional white cane and seeing-eye dog. Both provide sensory guidance, and the Smart Cane was seen as a complementary and cost effective alternative.

“People have thought this was really cool, some are very grateful that a design like this is coming out,” said Bell, who will start a job at Canon in Newport News, Va., this June. She and her teammates, Will McIntyre, Aaron Vogel, Jake Luckman and Jessica Davila, are graduating in May.

Learning about cyber security

Imagine RIT visitor Jan Fiengo was shocked to see what appeared on the big screen when she volunteered to type her name into a Google search.

“Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe it,” said Fiengo, who was at the festival with her daughter Lauren Harradine, a second-year psychology major from Manchester, Conn. “My online profile is associated with postings from my nephew, my boss and even my ex-husband’s wife! This was all information that I didn’t know existed. It’s amazing to see the reach of this information and how it’s all interconnected.”

The Imagine RIT exhibit “Yougle: You are What Google Says You Are” was coordinated by social media experts Mike Johansson, lecturer in the College of Liberal Arts; Victor Perotti, associate professor in the Saunders College of Business; and Thérèse Hannigan, associate professor in the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences. The presentation was aimed at creating an awareness of one’s digital presence, as well as privacy concerns when accessing the world of information with just a few keystrokes.

Johansson and Perotti also offered participants tips for investigating their own digital trails.

“The Mardi Gras photos must be a little further down on the search pages,” Fiengo said, jokingly. “And they didn’t even get to my maiden name.”

Meanwhile, in the B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences, students and faculty offered tips on another form of personal security—credit card and mobile security.

“Be sure to turn off the wireless features on your phone, such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, when not in use,” said Tae Oh, an associate professor of computing security. “You just need to be aware and vigilant in order to greatly minimize the risk of cyber attacks.”

Engaging in arts and crafts

The artsy side of RIT also was on display at the festival with more traditional exhibits like metal sculpting and the glass “hot shop” inside the School for American Crafts drawing curious crowds.

In the glass studio, visitors watched students create glass pumpkins from molded glass that will be sold during the Glass Pumpkin Patch fundraiser traditionally held at RIT’s Red Barn in October.

At the School of Film and Animation’s “green screen” stage inside Gannett Hall, children of all ages were able to insert themselves electronically into several different movie and television show scenes, including Godzilla, The Amazing Spider-Man, and the Cartoon Network’s popular Adventure Time animated series.

After watching his two children—Natalie, 9, and Lorenzo, 4—take part in simulations flying and floating in outer space, Brandon Pastore of nearby Henrietta, N.Y., said the Imagine RIT exhibit is a must-do for his family at the festival.

“We came here a couple of years ago and now the kids have to come back every year,” Pastore said. “It’s great the way the scenes are different every year. My kids love it.”

The “Next Big Idea”

The festival provided a dress rehearsal for six teams of students from the National Technical Institute for the Deaf who are competing in Thursday's “Next Big Idea” competition.

The contest, sponsored by ZVRS, offers cash prizes for the top three teams who come up with innovative products, businesses or ideas that benefit the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. The six finalists were chosen from 19 entries.

Their ideas included an app that would notify police, fire or ambulance with the press of an icon on a phone, captioning for televisions that can be personally programmed to an individual's preferences and a vibrating alarm clock that can be programmed by a smartphone days in advance.

David Goldstein, a criminal justice major from Brighton, N.Y., and Shawn Ribaudo, a new marketing interactive design major from Wichita, Kan., worked on a device intended to recognize sounds a vehicle makes that can signal a trip to the mechanic.

“We can't hear, so this can help us catch it before it gets worse,” Ribaudo said. “Otherwise, we'd have to rely on a hearing person to tell us. This app could tell us where the sound is coming from and what may be wrong.”

What sustainability means

RIT’s sustainability efforts were also showcased across campus, but especially inside the Golisano Institute for Sustainability where visitors were picking up “sustainability passports” at each entrance.

The passports led visitors on a fun scavenger hunt during which they could solve clues and learn about significant research being performed by students, faculty and staff at GIS. At each stop in the self-guided tour, guests could get their passports stamped while discovering alternative energy and fuel cells, solving “the case of the missing e-waste,” seeing how electronics are shredded for recycling and material recovery, and how falling water can be used to make energy.

Guests finished up the scavenger hunt at the Staples Sustainability Innovation Lab, where they learned about what makes products more sustainable and completed their passports so they could enter a drawing to win a new tablet computer.

Mike McAllister of Spencerport, N.Y., who watched as his daughter, Lilly, enjoyed having her face painted with environmentally safe materials, said his 3-year-old is already showing a keen interest in science.

“She really loves the hands-on nature of science,” McAllister said. “This (GIS) building is amazing. We’re having a great time.”

By the end of the day, an estimated 32,000 people made their way through campus, a relief to organizers who thought the overcast skies and occasional drizzle might keep people at home.

“The greater Rochester community embraces the hard work of RIT students, faculty and staff as they interact directly with the cutting edge of creativity, the intensity of innovation, and the essence of interdisciplinary teamwork that captures the imagination, hearts and minds of all ages,” said Barry Culhane, Imagine RIT chairman. “The outpouring of festival goers, including those who traveled from out of state, demonstrates that our 32,000 visitors have an insatiable thirst for new knowledge and creativity.”

Next year’s festival will be held on May 2, 2015.

Related story:
Saunders College of Business hosts Tiger Tank business idea contest

201405/ecoforce.jpg

A. Sue Weisler

President Destler’s E-Vehicle Autocross kicked off the Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival on May 3. Electric Vehicle Team took first place.