Imagine RIT: Creativity and Innovation Festival set for April 27

Nearly 400 exhibits are part of the free community event

Scott Hamilton/RIT

Tens of thousands of visitors typically attend the Imagine RIT: Creativity and Innovation Festival, including these from last year’s event. This year’s festival is set for Saturday, April 27, on the RIT campus. The free event showcases nearly 400 varied propjects and presentations that students, faculty, and staff have worked on in the past year.

Detecting deepfakes, a device to help grocery stores like Wegmans inspect strawberries and reduce waste, and even the economic impact of Taylor Swift are just a few of the nearly 400 exhibits at this year’s Imagine RIT: Creativity and Innovation Festival from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 27.

Since 2008, the campus at Rochester Institute of Technology has welcomed tens of thousands of visitors one day each spring to get a glimpse of the creativity and innovation that students, faculty, and staff have every day.

“We are so happy to once again invite the public to see what our brilliant students and faculty are doing to solve problems, create businesses, expand the boundary of possibilities, and make our world a better place,” said festival director Ann Ielapi.

Nearly 50 more exhibits are planned this year than last, with more than 2,850 students, faculty, and staff accompanying those exhibits. Some are class, senior, or capstone projects, some are demonstrations from a few of the more than 300 student clubs and organizations at RIT, and some are prime examples of the fun you can have while learning.

“Imagine RIT has opportunities for every one of all ages,” said RIT President David Munson. “This is an interactive festival. So don’t be afraid to try something and ask the exhibitors lots of questions. Let’s inspire the next generation of problem solvers by connecting young people to the wonders of science, technology, engineering, math, design, business, health sciences, the liberal arts, and the arts.”

Parking and admission are free, as is parking and shuttlebus service from Monroe Community College. Food will be available for purchase at the various RIT Dining locations during the festival, as well as from 13 food trucks on campus.

And the first 5,000 visitors will receive a free festival poster designed this year by Jessica Hall, a second-year new media design major from Kennett Square, Pa.

Visitors are urged to visit the Imagine RIT website and review the exhibit offerings in advance, find the location of each exhibit, and add them to their itinerary. More than a dozen color-coded zones will greet visitors this year, with exhibits in the Health Sciences Hub, Green Place, Technology Quarter, Computer Zone, Engineering Park, Imagination Station, Science Center, Business District, The Think Tank, Creative Corridor, Tiger Zone, RIT Central, Global Village, and Think. Make. Launch.

Returning perennial favorites such as the human hamster wheel, the concrete canoe, and a spectacular K’Nex display by the RIT Theme Park Enthusiasts (this year’s theme will explore outer space) are part of this year’s festival.

But there are always plenty of new things to see and do. A team of 15 first-year imaging science and motion picture science students are presenting its berry analysis machine, a result of the team’s Freshman Imaging Project. It is hoped their device can be used to scan berries to monitor quality. Right now, samples are inspected, cut open by hand, and go to waste even if they are fine.

“We built this in collaboration with Wegmans here in Rochester. They helped us better understand the process and how our device could be used in warehouses for more accurate fruit scaling,” said Luke Chrzan, of Middletown, N.J. “We designed it by identifying issues strawberries have and the best way to detect them in mass, via imaging.”

Many of the exhibits offer hands-on opportunities for visitors to experience themselves. A five-member team of engineers has even modified a drone that visitors can fly for the team’s senior design project.

“We want it to be a museum display to allow children to be interactive with it and get to fly it,” said Nathan Mack, a fifth-year mechanical engineering major from Spencer, N.Y. He said the museum wants to include it in its “How Things Work” exhibit and needed newer technology for the display. The team has been soldering connectors, affixing a tether, adding bumpers around the propellers, and will have it flying in a 5-foot dome for safety.

Another exhibit will allow visitors to learn more about the AI technology that can detect deepfake audio. Visitors can attempt to detect what audios are real or manufactured.

“I’ve been working on this project with a multidisciplinary team since I was in high school, made possible with a National Science Foundation grant through the University of Maryland, Baltimore County,” said Kifekachukwu Nwosu, a first-year computer science major from Ellicott City, Md. “I’m excited to put it out there. The end goal is to create algorithms to detect deepfakes. And we’re almost there.”

And proving great things can come as a result of interdisciplinary talents, Transient is an interactive, musical exhibit utilizing animation, live-action video production, and modern technologies to visualize music played on a keyboard. It is the result of a radial cinema workshop class, taken by Colin O’Brien, a third-year film and animation major from Albany, Calif. He collaborated with Will Hagele, a third-year computer engineering major from Philadelphia, and Avyay Natarajan, computer science major from Dayton, N.J.

RIT’s Hospitality and Tourism Management program has turned a classroom in Max Lowenthal Hall into Echos of the Midnight Manor: An Escape Room Experiece. Groups of six will follow clues to complete a series of games, puzzles, and similar activities to eventually allow them to “escape” the room (no doors will be locked). Once completed, participants can get their pictures taken to celebrate their victory. 

Students in Matthew Vollmer’s digital marketing, consumer behavior, and business analytic classes at Saunders College of Business are planning a Taylor Swift symposium, discussing “Swiftonomics,” or the economic impact the singer and her Swiftie fans have created.

“Taylor Swift is a popular talking point in my classes,” Vollmer said. “A lot of my students incorporated her in our group discussions.”

Visitors to the festival can make and keep their own beaded friendship bracelets, popular with Swift and her fans. Visitors can also attempt to answer Swift trivia questions, such as the economic impact of her Eras Tour. And seven students will give short presentations from their Taylor Swift research from their classes, followed by a Q&A session.

A dozen students from RIT’s international campuses are flying to Rochester to present their exhibits, including, for the first time at the festival, students from RIT China, who will have an EEG wearable headband that will translate brainwaves into a visual digital experience. Other international projects include a VR happiness generator created with AI from RIT Kosovo students; RIT Croatia students from Dubrovnik will have an interactive exhibit with scientific equipment to explore the impact of human activity in a delta’s ecosystem; and RIT Dubai students will have a 3-foot tall AI-powered model of the Burj Khalifa skyscraper, complete with a light and sound show.

The popular Futurists Symposium with distinguished RIT alumni or faculty this year will be held at 4 p.m. Friday, April 26, to allow attendees more time to visit exhibits during the festival on Saturday. The event, in Wegmans Theater in MAGIC Spell Studios, will feature Robert Morreale, ’92 (medical illustration) ’93 (visual arts); Jeyhan Kartaltepe, an astrophysicist in RIT’s School of Physics and Astronomy; Chukwuma “ChuBoi” Morah, ’09 (industrial engineering); and Karen E. Roth, ’06 (software engineering).

Among the exhibits, 34 are in the performing arts category, in various venues. One of them, “Broadway Bake Off,” is an hour-long musical theatre cabaret with the theme of food and/or competition. There will be one opening group number, eight duets, and one closing group number. The event, in the Sklarsky Glass Box Theater in the SHED, will showcase the acting, singing, and dance talent of RIT’s performing arts-oriented students.

The folks in Saunders College of Business wanted to show off their new addition this year, so they’re featuring “The World’s Largest KerPlunk Game” in its four-story atrium. The game is 33 feet tall, constructed with PCV tubing and poultry mesh, and will be filled with 50 beach balls, each labeled with company names or images such as RITchie that can award bonus points.

“I was sitting here looking at our new atrium, and thought, what can we safety drop from here?” said Senior Lecturer Rick Mislan.

Visitors at Imagine will be greeted on the main floor by students and given the chance to play actual KerPlunk games. Contestants will be invited to the third floor to pull sticks on the giant version, and until beach balls fall to the ground floor. There will be 10 prizes of the world’s smallest KerPlunk games as prizes.

His message to visitors?

“That Saunders has fun too,” Mislan said. “There will be some business tie to it about how the stock market works, but ideally we want to show that business students can have fun.”

Rochester Regional Health is this year’s premier sponsor of the festival.