The place innovators call home

Published Dec. 3, 2009

Visitors to RIT’s new Center for Student Innovation are greeted by a sight that looks similar to what one would find in any college building—flyer-style “classified” ads tacked to bulletin boards. But these ads are different. They don’t seek roommates, band members or a way to get rid of an old refrigerator. These ads seek innovators.

Each contains a summary of a project that the advertiser is developing, along with a description of the skill-set they are seeking to help their idea become a reality.

These ads demonstrate what the Center for Student Innovation was designed to accomplish, which is to provide a place where students from RIT’s diverse assortment of academic programs can gather and utilize each other’s talents in an effort to accomplish something extraordinary.

“The world is eager for young people who are eager to change the world,” says Jon Schull, who teaches a class called Innovation and Invention at RIT. “And the best approach to solving the world’s trans-disciplinary problems is to work in cross-disciplinary teams.”

The center, which formally opened during a Sept. 25 ceremony, has already become a hub for students seeking to spawn new technologies, innovative products and services, for-profit businesses and other enterprises that address societal challenges.

In one area of the center, which is housed in a 10,000 square-foot circular glass building, a fleet of student-created experimental electric vehicles are on display. Another area serves as home to RIT’s MAKE club, a student group that gathers and generates new ideas for materials that might otherwise be discarded. Recently, students from the center teamed with M&T Bank to help design innovative software for a Microsoft Surface device that is being used at the bank’s Park Point branch.

“The desire to be different is an innate American characteristic that is exhibited by our students each and every day,” says RIT President Bill Destler. “The center will help channel that passion in constructive ways as we work to foster leadership in technical innovation and the creative arts.”

For a more in depth story on the development of the Center for Student Innovation, read the Fall 2009 article in RIT: The University Magazine.