Here at IIT, there are many opportunities for students and faculty alike to innovate. The first example that comes to mind is the Idea Shop, a prototyping lab that has two different types of laser printers, a laser cutter, CNC milling machines, a vacuum former, 3D scanners, as well as various more traditional shop tools. Getting started in there is as easy as walking in and asking the shop manager, John Welin, to show you around to get started. If you’ve ever heard of the X-cube, sold in shops around the country now, that was an invention prototyped in the Idea Shop.
Another chance to step up and make something new are the IPROs that are part of the degree plan of every IIT student. An interview with an IIT alumnae who now works for ComEd (the largest electric utility company in Illinois) as a hiring manager shed some light on the role IPROs play in looking for jobs and internships. Paraphrasing, this former IIT student stated that IPROs are one of the things employers look at most when hiring IIT students, as IPROs are essentially semester-long projects to solve real-world problems presented by academia and companies alike. It isn’t uncommon to be working on an IPRO sponsored by a company and then be offered a job or internship at the company if you produce good results in your project. Some students and faculty have even turned their results from IPROs into their own start-up companies!
It’s safe to say that if every opportunity to innovate on campus were shared, this post would be way too long. Therefore, I’ll end on this note: IIT has begun its plans to make a new innovation center, the Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovationn and Tech Entrepreneurship, which will host the Idea Shop, IPROs, and its Entrepreneurship programs all in one place. The building is anticipated to open its doors in 2017!