Rochester Institute of Technology is gearing up to welcome thousands of visitors on campus for its flagship creativity and innovation fest, Imagine RIT.
An all-day free event on April 29, this year’s exhibits total 354, up by nearly 100 from last year. More than 2,200 students, faculty, and staff will be involved with those exhibits, officials say. The festival marks its 15th anniversary this year.
“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,” says Ann Ielapi, festival director.
Launched in 2008, Imagine RIT is an opportunity for the public to sample innovation and creativity at the university. This year includes in-person exhibits from RIT campuses in Dubai, Kosovo and Croatia. The first 5,000 visitors will receive a festival poster, designed this year by Annelise Wall, a second-year new media design major from Pittsford.
Popular displays including the human hamster wheel and the concrete canoe are back. Other attractions such as a garment dewrinkler, robotic wind chimes, and a voice-activated robotic dental assistant await visitors, as does the opportunity to fly and navigate small drones and levitate objects with compressed air.
Imagine RIT is also an event to learn, whether it is reviewing criminal justice cases in Rochester, how STEM subjects can be taught to deaf students or watch a demonstration of molecular gastronomy.
Vietnam’s Hillary Le, who is about to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and a master’s degree in materials science and engineering, is the project leader for a device she hopes will recognize emotions and predict dreams. She has been working on her project with a team of computer science and software engineering students.
A headset monitors brainwaves and an artificial intelligence model predicts six different emotions experienced by the wearer.
“I’m very excited to show people this technology and have people try it out,” says Le. “This is definitely going to be the technology of the future that hopefully will relate emotions to memory and memory to dreams to predict what people are dreaming at night.”
AI makes more appearances at Imagine RIT. Haruspex: The AI Oracle Reads Your Future will use GPT-based artificial intelligence to interpret tarot cards drawn by visitors. An interactive robotic assistant, programmed by RIT faculty and staff, attempts to destigmatize mental health for children. Using an algorithm, ZenBuddy blinks, has happy facial expressions and flashes hearts around its face.
“Imagine RIT has opportunities for everyone of all ages,” says 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.”
Biomedical engineering major Haley Czerwinski is one of five students working on an easier way to open a contact lens package.
“We’re working on improving the design of a contact lens blister to lessen the initial peel force associated with peeling back the foil from the blister,” she says.
It is the first time she’s exhibiting at the festival. Her parents will be coming from Buffalo to see the exhibit, as will officials from Bausch + Lomb, RIT says.
“I’m pretty excited,” Czerwinski says. “This is something new, and people will get to see what we’ve been working on.”
Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected].