Undergraduate Programs

All About Clarkson Ignite

Artist rendering of the new renovations to be completed at Clarkson's Educational Resource Center

Hi All! My name is Erin Draper and I am the managing director of an exciting new initiative called Clarkson Ignite. I am also a double Clarkson alumna — I received my undergraduate degree in business administration and communications in 2003 and my Masters in Business Administration in 2014.

Let me share some of the biggest new Ignite programs with you (you’ll hear from some of our student interns in future blogs, too).

What is Clarkson Ignite?

At its core, Clarkson Ignite encourages critical thinking, hands-on learning and open-ended problem-solving. Our programming supports the work being done in classrooms, laboratories, maker spaces and incubators around the University. We are also involved in a major renovation of the Educational Resources Center into an Innovation Hub that will provide inspiration and opportunities for collaboration across all disciplines.

In my previous role, I led our nationally recognized Reh Center for Entrepreneurship where I saw firsthand how the skills developed by students — recognizing opportunities, navigating and taking risks, gathering resources, leading teams and developing market-ready solutions — are valued by our corporate partners. Through Clarkson Ignite, we’re helping all students develop these same skills to help them be leaders, wherever they land!

I’m excited to share with you just a few of the exciting new programs launched this year and to give you a bit of a preview of what’s to come — and, of course, I encourage you to reach out with any questions you may have!

The President’s Challenge 
In August 2017, during first-year student orientation, President Collins announced the first of many new Clarkson Ignite programs — the inaugural President’s Challenge. The challenge asked students to identify opportunities for universities to use autonomous and/or intelligent technologies to improve how we live and learn on a college campus. With $25,000 in prizes on the line, our students dove right in; we announced the winners in two special ceremonies on April 13-14, 2018. I enjoyed meeting a number of teams and seeing their final products. One team, “Five Broke Girls,” even allowed our campus videographer to capture its progress at various points along the journey. Here’s a little about them:

Five Broke Girls

A team of female students working on the President's Challenge

Inspired by President Collins’ challenge at orientation — and looking for a share in the prize money — first-year students Michaela Tangredi (mechanical engineering), Gillian Kurtic (engineering & management), Carolanne Switzer (chemical engineering), Allison Ryan (electrical engineering) and Randi Rondeau (environmental engineering) dug right in. Members of the team began by observing their own experiences as students and then interviewed students and new Clarkson employees. This allowed them to identify a common challenge – finding one’s way around campus. Through meetings with Ignite staff, faculty and University administrators, the team developed an app-based solution that assists users with locating any room on campus. Follow their story on Clarkson’s YouTube channel.

Shiny 'Clarkson University Ignite' stickers
All President’s Challenge participants also received one of these shiny stickers for their laptops (or wherever they like to collect awesome stickers!)

Speaker Series

Over the past year I’ve been truly inspired by the experts we’ve brought to campus to share their knowledge and experiences with our students. Having them here also creates opportunities for connection, inspiration and motivation. You can find many of their stories on the Clarkson YouTube channel under the Ignite Playlist, but here’s the list for your quick reference:

J.P Allen — author, Technology and Inequality: Concentrated Wealth in a Digital World.
Tony Collins — president, Clarkson — Igniting Leadership at Clarkson University.
Andreas Resmini — information architect — Master Class in Studio Methodology.
Ken Camarco ‘85 — president and founder, Boundless Breakthroughs LLC — Alumni Success Series.
Achieving Success in Crowdfunding.
Rick Klauser ‘85 — CEO, Sprout Organic Foods Inc. — Alumni Success Series.
Heidi Neck — Jeffry A. Timmons Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies, Babson College — Teaching Entrepreneurship Across Disciplines Workshop.
Tyler King and Ann Novelli — Designers, IBM — IBM Design Thinking Workshop series.
Guha Bala and Jan-Erik Steel — Velan Studios and Velan Ventures Inc. — Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Game Design.

The Studio

Last fall, we challenged several students to transform an existing computer lab into a space for making, collaboration, creativity and design — and they delivered. (I like to involve students in projects like this as much as possible; I think you’ll find that’s true of many administrators and faculty at the University.) With a lot of hard work and creative problem-solving — and a few pizzas — they created what is now referred to as “The Studio.” The space is staffed by a team of undergraduates who are members of the Clarkson Innovation Network student club, which is led by current junior Matt Hawthorne. The space contains white-board walls, flexible furniture, 3D printing and other rapid prototyping capabilities, a large format printer and teleconferencing equipment. This year we are also adding a telepresence robot that can be remote controlled from anywhere in the world (we’re working on the ability for alumni and prospective students to beam into the robot and take a tour of The Studio / talk to students this fall, stay tuned!)

A workshop run by Clarkson professors

We’ve also used The Studio to host a variety of workshops, including a series on the IBM framework for design thinking. I’ve used this methodology in my own entrepreneurship class and have also given several guest lectures in engineering and management and electrical engineering. Here I am guiding a group of senior electrical engineers through the design thinking process. Getting them out of their comfort zones was fun; the class participated in the President’s Challenge – you can see their robotics solutions on YouTube.

Ignite Fest

a t-shirt reading 'Ask me about The President's Challenge'

Ignite Fest happened in November 2018 – and it was awesome! The day was a celebration of innovation and included the display of many of the great resources that exist to help support innovation. We all wore shirts (here’s mine) that invited students to ask us about one of our areas of expertise.

As a bonus, any student who went around to all of the tables scored one of these awesome Ignite water bottles and was entered into raffles for prizes like an Apple Watch, gift cards, 3-D printing pens and more. Be sure to keep an eye out in November because we’re definitely doing this one again, and we’ve got some pretty cool giveaways (sneak peek below… shhh)!

Colorful Camelbak water bottles, given as prizes at Ignitefest 2017
These great Camelbaks were given to participants at IgniteFest 2017
Ignite hats
Sneak peek of the 2018 IgniteFest giveaway – only available to students that attend!
Rendering of renovations to be done to the ERC at Clarkson

The Innovation HubThis is a very exciting time at Clarkson! This spring, the University officially kicked off a large-scale renovation to the Educational Resources Center (ERC). The lessons learned while building and using The Studio have been carried forward in this new facility – and you’ll be seeing many new resources coming on board throughout your first year on campus.

Rendering of renovations to be done to the Makerspace in the ERC at Clarkson

The MakerSpaceOne of the new spaces in the Innovation Hub will be the MakerSpace. This area will provide all students with access to the technology and tools necessary for rapid prototyping and the iterating of physical products. It will be a space for students and faculty to work together in a hands-on environment and will enhance the curriculum through access to a variety of equipment that can be used for hands-on classroom projects. What I’m most excited about is that this space, located at the center of campus, is not tied to a specific major. Students in all majors will have access — after the appropriate training, of course! Imagine the possibilities!

Bye, For Now

There’s so much more I could tell you about Clarkson Ignite. I’m truly excited about these changes and am passionate about continuing to create new experiences for our students. In the meantime, be on the lookout for opportunities, ask questions, seek alternative solutions. I hope to meet you in the fall!

Think. Make. Ignite.

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1 Comment

  1. Wow! What a wonderful opportunity for students! Many of the comments I often hear about today’s High School and college students is that they lack creative and proactive skills. Being a veteran Art teacher in the North Country, an increasing portion of my job, is to guide students through the creative process. I applaud Clarkson’s efforts to foster a collaboration of disciplines in this creative endeavor!

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