Research Highlights / Full Story

Tinkering Welcome

Under the helm of the Simone Center for Student Innovation and Entrepreneur­ship, The Construct relocated to its permanent home on the fourth floor of Institute Hall in October 2014. Turning right from the elevator, students gain entry to a 3,000-foot, brightly lit, loft-like hive of innovation where they can gather together to build or take things apart.

“The Construct is a university-wide resource available to all students at RIT,” said Richard DeMartino, director of the Simone Center. “It was developed in large part through student leadership and the assistance of many faculty from the colleges who recognized the importance of creating a safe place for students to create their own innovations.” 

Tinkerers at The Construct have access to a variety of high-tech and low-tech equipment: CNC router and mill, laser cutters, 3D printers, drills, saws, soldering irons, electronic circuitry, and woodworking and metalworking supplies.

Open to all disciplines and skill levels, the communal space can be used for self-directed projects, entrepreneurial ventures, and even tasks as seemingly mundane as fixing high-tech gadgets when they break. 

Take it from three Kate Gleason College of Engineering students who have found the workspace invaluable.

Roy Cohen, who hails from Tenafly, N.J., claims it was the labs and the co-op program that led him to RIT. Now he is fulfilling part of his dream at The Construct, where he also works as a part-time lab manager. “The Construct is the perfect place for our club, the RIT Launch Initiative, to build a high-powered amateur rocket engine because everything is under one roof—3D printers, laser cutters, soldering equipment, and high- precision machinery like the CNC mill to cut metal. If you want to build something, these are the kinds of tools you don’t have in your garage or dorm room.”

Matthew Glazer, a senior from Long Beach, N.Y., agrees. He’s been using the lab to revamp his electric long board that enables him to reach speeds of 15-20 miles per hour. “I’ve always wanted to tinker around and so after I bought my Enraged Panda Board as a freshman, I’ve installed LED lights on the sides and a power box with rechargeable batteries. I can’t say enough about the lab because it’s a place where you can get help and advice while working on your project.” 

And then there’s Samuel Feine from Houston, who said he started building things as a child—from little cities made out of recycled materials to a bedroom door lock with radio-frequency identification. He believes the sense of like-mindedness is the connecting thread of students who come to The Construct.

“It’s a different education model where we learn through doing and can help one another and meet people who share the same interest.”

All agree that the best part of the lab is “the cool tools that are available when you have a shared resource.” 

But above all, it’s safety-first for lab manager Michael Buffalin, who constantly monitors student progress at work stations with help from trained student lab assistants who are experienced in handling the equipment.

“The Construct caters to the inventor mentality, the entrepreneur who wants to take that extra step while here at college and who doesn't have access to other labs,” said Buffalin. “It could be a business student who wants to make a sign, a design student who wants to make housewares. Anything and everything is possible here. 

“The Construct is a lab for anyone who has an idea or a dream.”