Category Archives: Academics

RIT officially opens new MAGIC Spell Studios building

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Rochester Institute of Technology opened the newest building on campus—the 52,000-square-foot MAGIC Spell Studios. The building brings together RIT’s academic strengths in game design and development, film and animation, and digital media. The new facility—the only one of its kind in the Northeast—boasts the latest in technology and design, rivaling media production studios in New York City and Hollywood. More.

RIT/NTID earns National Science Foundation funding to explore augmented reality technology

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Using augmented reality to make science, technology, engineering and math content more accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing learners in live presentation settings is the goal of a $258,000 grant from the National Science Foundation awarded to Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf. Researchers and developers at RIT/NTID’s Center on Access Technology Laboratory will focus on hands-on learning and comprehension at science centers and museums.

According to researchers, prior work on augmented reality in education has shown positive results, however, this work has largely overlooked the deaf and hard-of-hearing population. This project represents the first step in a partnership between RIT/NTID and the Rochester Museum & Science Center, which includes the Rochester Challenger Learning Center.

The proposed project involves developing an AR platform that will allow deaf and hard-of-hearing visitors to receive signed or captioned instruction while still looking at and/or interacting with exhibits. The platform will allow for transmission of live and spontaneous (not only scripted or pre-recorded) instruction at museums and planetariums nationwide.

Deaf and hard-of-hearing learners, ages 11 to 14 from around the United States, will serve as a test audience for the pilot implementation. The team will collect data on the use of this technology to help set future directions for additional research and development.

This project focuses on broadening participation and promoting innovation in informal STEM learning, which is crucial for deaf and hard-of-hearing youth, who are frequently excluded from informal and incidental learning STEM experiences and subsequently enter STEM professions at significantly lower rates than the hearing population,” said Wendy Dannels, RIT/NTID research associate professor and principal investigator on the project.

Dannels says the development team working on these AR technologies will be composed primarily of deaf and hard-of-hearing students and faculty, framing the community as a source of technical innovation rather than simply being recipients of these solutions.

“This project represents a first step in setting future directions for research and development and to make educational materials more accessible to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community,” she added.

RIT among schools to receive $1 million for clean energy project

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Rochester Institute of Technology has won $1 million as part of the Energy to Lead Competition, which challenges New York colleges and universities to develop plans for local clean energy projects on campus and in their communities as the state seeks innovative solutions to combat climate change.

RIT will create a platform that integrates multiple data sources to enable a building’s existing automation system to manage operation schedules, adjust ventilation rates in classrooms and respond to peak demand days, according to Enid Cardinal, senior sustainability adviser to the president. Cardinal will serve as lead principal investigator on the project.

The platform, once tested and deployed at RIT, will be tested at Monroe Community College’s downtown campus and then made publicly available free of charge for other institutions to leverage. The project is expected to result in the avoidance of 108 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

“Through the ‘Energy to Lead’ competition, New York is fostering clean energy innovation to help fight climate change and protect our environment,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “I commend the students and faculty for their steadfast commitment to improving their campus and community, helping to create a cleaner, greener New York for all.”

The Energy to Lead Competition, announced by Gov. Cuomo in 2015, is part of the REV Campus Challenge, which recognizes and supports colleges and universities across New York state that strive to meet their financial, environmental, academic and community goals through clean energy solutions.

As a signatory of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) and member of the REV Campus Challenge, RIT has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2030.

“This project leverages many of RIT’s strengths, including our innovative spirit, the cutting-edge nature of our academic programs, and the way our campus serves as a laboratory for experiential learning,” RIT President David Munson said during yesterday’s announcement of the Energy to Lead grant inside RIT’s Golisano Institute for Sustainability. “We applaud Gov. Cuomo for investing in research that addresses solutions to global challenges and for recognizing the important role of higher education in working toward these solutions.”

Applicant schools were required to submit projects which demonstrate innovation in one or more of the following areas: project design, business model, partnerships, and/or curriculum integration. Schools and universities were also required to describe the project’s impact on greenhouse gas emissions, how they would measure success and how they would use the funding to advance the project. These projects are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2,125 metric tons over the next five years.

The competition is administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and open to two- or four-year public or private colleges or universities. The competition challenges schools to develop ideas for innovative projects in energy efficiency, renewable energy or greenhouse gas emission reduction on campus, in the classroom and in surrounding communities.   

This round of Energy to Lead included 24 project submissions from 21 different public and private colleges and universities across the state. Applications were reviewed by an evaluation panel and winners were chosen based on project cost effectiveness, innovativeness, energy efficiency and clean energy measures, the impact on greenhouse gas emissions and how funding would be used to advance the project on campus and in the community.

For more information on Energy to Lead, go to NYSERDA’s website.

RIT/NTID honors researchers with Sponsored Programs Awards

Group photo of 14 smiling men and women with orange flower corsages.

Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf recently honored 12 researchers and program directors for their work leading to new knowledge, strategies or programs and services to improve the lives of deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals. 

Award recipients are:

Scholarship Portfolio Development Initiative (SPDI) – Internal seed funding opportunity for early-career faculty and contract research faculty, whose projects typically represent the initial stages of projects that could attract external support in the future. They are:

  • Robyn Dean, assistant professor in NTID’s American Sign Language and Interpreting Education Department: Investigating interpreter fatigue, and how it can be exaggerated or mitigated by varying the way in which pairs of interpreters work.
  • Jason Nordhaus, assistant professor in NTID’s Department of Science and Mathematics: Exploring the behavior of a black hole inside a giant star using dynamical 3D simulations.
  • Corrine Occhino, research assistant professor in NTID’s Sign Language Laboratory: Along with co-investigator Joseph Hill, examining the variations in ASL that correlate to diverse regional, racial, ethnic, and socio-economic factors and evaluating how ASL users regard the use of non-standard varieties of the language.
  • Jessica Trussell, assistant professor in NTID’s Master of Science program in Secondary Education and researcher in NTID’s Center for Education Research Partnerships: Developing and implementing an intensive approach to reading comprehension for deaf and hard-of-hearing readers that requires students to work in collaborative groups. 

NTID Sponsored Programs Awards – A new award program that recognizes individuals who have made a difference. Awardees are nominated by NTID faculty. Awards include:

Student Research Mentor Award to Bonnie Jacob, assistant professor in NTID’s Department of Science and Mathematics. Jacob’s work has supported 17 student researchers. She is the principal investigator of the first all-deaf and hard-of-hearing Research Experiences for Undergraduate (REU) program supported by the NSF. 

Up-and Coming PI Award to Jason Nordhaus, assistant professor in NTID’s Department of Science and Mathematics. Nordhaus is nationally known for research describing stellar evolution. He is affiliated with RIT’s College of Science and its world-renowned Center on Computational Relativity and Gravity (CCRG).

Collaborator Award to Keith Mousley, associate professor in NTID”s Department of Science and Mathematics. Mousley’s work collaborating with other researchers explores issues connected to teaching math and other STEM skills to deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

Co-PI Award to Myra Pelz, associate professor and co-PI for DeafTEC. For the past seven years, Pelz has been the full-time co-PI of DeafTEC, one of NTID’s signature programs with more than 29 partner high schools in 17 states.

PI Award to Matt Dye, assistant professor and Deaf x Laboratory director. Dye has successfully launched a long-range program of research in cognitive neuroscience supported by a total of seven awards from NIH, NSF, and the Swiss National Science Foundation, as well as one SPDI award. Dye’s funded projects presently employ a full-time research coordinator and a postdoctoral scholar, and support the efforts of graduate and undergraduate research assistants.

Partner Award to Matt Huenerfauth, associate professor in RIT’s Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences. Presented to a collaborator from one of RIT’s other colleges who has helped NTID realize its goals, the award recognized Huenerfauth as a key partner in projects investigating topics in mixed mode communication and communication technology. He is the founder of the Linguistic and Assistive Technologies Laboratory (“LATLab”), a bilingual (English / ASL) research lab.

Pioneer Award to Mike Stinson, professor and NTID research faculty member. This award recognizes Stinson for his pioneering work to develop speech-to-text technology for the higher education classroom, work that continues to the present in the guise of research on automated speech recognition. C-Print® is the first research-based speech-to-text (captioning) technology and service for educational usage, and has been used in educational environments across the country in grades 4 through postsecondary programs.

X-Factor Award to Donna Easton, research assistant, NTID’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Virtual Academic Community. The award, honoring those who support the work of a project team, was given to Easton for her critical contributions to 11 funded projects including C-Print® and the Virtual Academic Community.

Founders Award to Jim DeCaro, NTID dean emeritus. This award acknowledges a lifetime of achievement in educational programming for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, along with DeCaro’s success in spreading the knowledge and educational expertise of NTID faculty around the world. DeCaro’s vision and drive also were instrumental in establishing NTID’s first dedicated research facility, Rosica Hall, which is presently at full occupancy with four centers, one major program, one research lab, and other research projects that are largely funded by external grants. 

“NTID’s 50th anniversary year is an excellent time to introduce this recognition program,” said Gerry Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean. “The program celebrates why principal investigators seek funding – because they need resources so that they can continue to make a difference in the world.” 

RIT/NTID honors inaugural group of Maguire Scholars

Five students standing with Dr. Gerry Buckley. Students are in casual dress and Dr. Buckley is in a shirt and tie.

Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf has named its first group of Maguire Scholars. The students, who are deaf or hard of hearing, will each earn $5,000 per year, up to four years, and must maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.0 while actively participating in extracurricular activities or community service.

This year’s RIT/NTID Maguire Scholars are Ty Brady, a transfer student in biology from East Central University in Ada, Okla.; Cameron Carey, a first-year computing security major from Carlisle, Pa.; Trinity McFadden, a first-year criminal justice major from Norwalk, Conn.; Ethan Misal, a first-year undeclared engineering technology major from Mechanicsburg, Pa.; and Nathan Murray, a first-year visual communication major from Harrisburg, Pa.

According to the website, the Maguire Scholars program “supports and enriches the leaders of tomorrow by providing an opportunity for an excellent education.” The Maguire Foundation is committed to improving the quality of life for people by investing in education, arts and humanities, and relief of hunger and homelessness and provides last-dollar scholarship support to up to five students in each institution’s incoming class. NTID was selected because of its history of excellence in providing educational programs that lead to successful careers.

“RIT/NTID is proud of our partnership with the Maguire Foundation,” said Gerry Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean. “The students who have earned this prestigious scholarship are among the best and brightest at our university, and we look forward to watching them flourish in their academic pursuits and continue along their path to success.”

RIT among the top universities in the nation

aerial shot of RIT brick and glass buildings in foreground with trees and blue sky in background.

Rochester Institute of Technology is among the top third “National Universities,” and among the top 50 choices of high school guidance counselors, according to "U.S. News & World Report" rankings. In this year's rankings, RIT also tied for 43rd among 145 national universities as a “best value school,” comparing the value of the education received to the price a student pays. More.

RIT named among the nation’s ‘Best 384 Colleges’

Rochester Institute of Technology is considered one of the nation’s best universities for undergraduate education, according to The Princeton Review. The education-services company features RIT in the just-published 2019 edition of its annual book "The Best 384 Colleges." Only about 15 percent of America’s 2,500 four-year colleges and only four colleges outside the U.S. are profiled in the book, which is one of The Princeton Review’s most popular guides.

Students cited RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf as “providing amazing accommodations for deaf and hard-of-hearing students who attend the university, including notetaking, interpreters and CPrint technology.” More.

RIT students learn value of entrepreneurship through Simone Center, Saunders College, NTID joint program

Manufacturing machine with small blue round disks.

Rochester Institute of Technology student Jim Heaney started his rapid manufacturing and prototyping business when he was just 14 years old. Five years later, and with the guidance of RIT’s Saunders Summer Startup Program, Heaney and his team are hoping a successful pitch to potential investors will take their business to the next level.

Heaney’s business, Venator Technologies, is among 15 student start-up companies in the program, which encourages multidisciplinary student teams to jumpstart their ventures at the small-business launch pad in hopes of kick starting real companies. It culminates with Investor Demo Night, which will be held at 6 p.m. on Aug. 8 in Ingle Auditorium, Student Alumni Union. A networking reception immediately follows. The event is free and open to the public.

Creating a backpack that suits the packing needs of today’s gamers, solving mass refrigeration concerns on Sub-Saharan farms, and developing a wearable device and mobile app that helps veterans transition into civilian life are a few of the uniquely innovative early-stage business ideas created by student teams during this year’s program.

The program is sponsored by Saunders College of Business and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, and is hosted by the Albert J. Simone Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.          

Throughout the summer, each of the startups is offered a stipend, a team expense fund, working space in Institute Hall and support from RIT faculty, assigned mentors and community business leaders.

Heaney, a second-year industrial engineering major from Montgomery, N.Y., says that his experience with the Saunders Summer Startup Program has helped him develop confidence in his business and has moved his team ahead of the pack.

“Even though my business is somewhat established, this program has provided my team with details on the finer points of business including access to countless business contacts, information on marketing and research and development funding, and tips on effective public speaking and pitching to investors, which are all so invaluable to running a successful business,” said Heaney. “Thanks to the top-notch mentoring that we’ve received from our entrepreneurship coaches and the staff at The Construct at RIT, we have learned how to create a solid foundation for our business.”

This summer’s student teams are:

  • Sniffy: A mobile app that improves the relationship between humans and animals by providing incentives for dog walking, and information on pet stores, groomers and other dog owners.
  • Op-Sixx: A support network comprised of wearable devices and a mobile app that connects veterans and their families to help them transition into civilian life.  
  • OurDiet App: An easy-to-follow direct resource offering personalized information based off of an individual’s self-described disease database.
  • Phase Innovations LLC: Provides novel stack-based technologies for energy conversion and storage applications.
  • TERP (two student teams): Aims to become a central marketplace for sign language interpreting services, making it easier for deaf and hearing people to submit interpreter requests.
  • PAL: A wearable technology company that empowers the autism spectrum disorder community with early notification of triggered meltdowns.
  • QuickTix: Allows small, independent theaters and school districts to publish events, sell tickets and promote on social media. Immediate feedback is provided on sales numbers, money earned and seats filled. 
  • Project Object Tracker: Provides tracking software that enhances customer service by evaluating the position of customers in retail stores and calculating whether the customer has been waiting too long for service.
  • Venator Technologies: A multi-service manufacturing company utilizing 3D printing and laser cutting to serve small businesses and individual customers.
  • SerVu: Provides a platform that connects bar owners with potential bar employees that fit the culture and style of the establishments. 
  • Hive Refrigeration: Works to solve the issue of mass refrigeration and the reduction of food waste on Sub-Sharan farms for those lacking access to cold storage refrigeration.
  • Backpack for Gamers: Creates a backpack that suits the needs of modern-day gamers.
  • VeeTV: A video streaming service that offers programming with sign-language content
  • Tiger CGM: A glucose monitor designed to provide comfort, freedom, confidence, privacy and accuracy.

For more information on the Saunders Summer Startup, go to www.rit.edu/research/simonecenter/saunders-summer-start-program.

Study abroad experience highlight for hospitality student

Light skinned male with short brown hair wearing hoodie, tan jacket and backpack in front of a world map.

RIT/NTID's Connor Draughn wanted to get out of his comfort zone and try something new, so the hospitality and tourism management major decided to spend a semester studying at RIT Croatia.

“I learned a lot about myself,” said Draughn, who is from Raleigh, N.C. “For sure it is a highlight of my time at RIT.”

Draughn was helped by the Constellation Brands Study Abroad Fund, which supports hospitality students who want to study in Croatia.

Ginny Clark, senior vice president of Public Affairs for Constellation Brands, said given the importance of global learning, Constellation felt that this opportunity for RIT students would be a meaningful way to give back.

“Today’s business world is global—and the key to a successful global business is building strong, trusted relationships,” said Clark ’06, ’08 (hospitality and service management, service leadership and innovation). “Constellation believes that creating this scholarship opportunity for students to study abroad supports the experiential educational efforts that RIT sees as a critical component to a student’s education.”

Supporting hospitality students, Clark added, made sense for Constellation Brands, which is a global beverage alcohol company—but at its core is a hospitality company.

“It was quite natural that Constellation would see a strong connection with our philanthropy and the School of International Hospitality and Service Innovation,” she said.

Draughn, who got his associate degree in hospitality and services management from NTID in 2016, started pursuing a bachelor’s degree last year. He spent the fall semester of 2017 in Dubrovnik, Croatia, taking hospitality and tourism classes. He is minoring in history, he said, so he enjoyed living in the historic city and learning about the culture and the country.

After he graduates from RIT, Draughn said, he plans to pursue a master’s degree in hospitality and tourism. He hopes to one day become a travel coordinator for a professional sports team or for a Fortune 500 company.

The study abroad experience had such an impact on Draughn that after he returned, he got a job as a Global Ambassador coaching other RIT students about opportunities abroad.

“I like helping people,” Draughn said. “I like telling other students about my experience so they will think about doing something different while they are in school.”

RIT included in ‘Fiske Guide to Colleges’ 2019 edition

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Rochester Institute of Technology is among the universities included in the 2019 edition of "Fiske Guide to Colleges."

The 2019 edition highlights RIT’s “big focus on connecting students with careers” and says RIT is “strong in anything related to computing, art and design and engineering.” The guide this year also cites RIT’s flexible general education program, which has added more than 80 academic minors within the past few years. More.