Friday, April 15, 2022
Dedicated students, distinguished colleagues and dear friends,
Next week we will break ground for perhaps the most important facility on our campus in decades: our own Innovation Lab! As the late Clayton Christenson highlights in Disruptive Innovation, an organization must disrupt itself to advance and, to foster disruption to innovate, standalone spaces are needed to create, test and refine ideas.
Our $40 million, 50,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art student Innovation Lab will become a reality and will draw from every educational discipline and program from across the campus and beyond. To play, the students must transcend their own disciplinary boundaries, work in teams, and draw from science, art, technology, and, most importantly, imagination, to invent, design, develop and deploy disruptive concepts. Human-computer interaction, design for sustainability, biometric integrated systems, adaptive design and many more exciting fields that are ripe for innovation will be up for grabs for our students and faculty of all majors.
Of course, invention and innovation have been a part of our DNA since the inception of this wonderful institution. Delbert Day, an S&T graduate and retired professor, co-invented microscopic, bioactive glass beads used to treat liver cancer as well as a glass fiber to treat hard-to-heal wounds. Another graduate, Farouk El-Baz, used his remote-sensing expertise to help discover the site for the Apollo 11 moon landing. Mervin Kelly, a 1914 graduate, fostered innovation as a leader of AT&T Bell Labs, which came to be known as the “idea factory” during his tenure. More recently, alumnus Gary White teamed with actor Matt Damon to bring clean water to the world.
We all know that many of our discipline-specific facilities such as the Kummer Student Design Center and the Collaboratory for years have provided for teams of students and faculty to work on specific projects such as designing combat robots, improving sanitation in parts of Central and South America, and creating a story map of the Trail of Tears journey across Missouri.
The Innovation Lab, however, is designed to provide opportunities for the collision of ideas at the intersection of engineering and physical sciences with fields such as health care, environmental sustainability, social sciences, safety, economics and more. After all, innovation is not an endeavor in which the genius plays alone; rather it is a team sport where distinctively different ideas come from diverse minds and thoughts resulting in tremendous efficiencies and creative solutions to critical challenges.
Our bet is that innovation is a teachable skill, and we fully intend to foster that concept and encourage disruptive thinking.
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