President Shirley Ann Jackson has announced that the Institute has received a significant gift from The Lemelson Foundation to establish the Burt Swersey Inventor’s Studio, reinforcing the next generation of inventors and entrepreneurs. The studio was formally dedicated at a campus ceremony May 6.
Burt Swersey, who served as a lecturer in the School of Engineering’s Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering for more than 25 years, passed away in March 2015. Swersey was an innovation and entrepreneurship guru—a legendary teacher and mentor who lit the flame in many Rensselaer students to make a positive difference in the world. He believed that innovative technological solutions lead to a better and more sustainable world. He pushed students to exceed their dreams, both in the classroom and in their business ventures. His ability to motivate and engage students, and his dedication to advising, counseling, and mentoring, was unequaled. He taught the next generation of innovators how to identify problems and seek creative solutions so that they can have a positive impact on people’s lives.
“Burt Swersey believed in the power of Rensselaer students to change the world,” said President Jackson. “He was a truly magnificent teacher, who inspired many talented young men and women to push beyond their perceived limits, and to address, with confidence and courage, the grandest of challenges. We are so pleased that The Lemelson Foundation has ensured that his great spirit lives on at Rensselaer in the Burt Swersey Inventor’s Studio.”
The endowment of $500,000 from The Lemelson Foundation will establish the Burt Swersey Inventor’s Studio, supporting activities that pay tribute to Swersey’s work and his vision. The studio will host classes that focus on innovation, and students will have access to maker/tinker tools, such as 3-D printers, computer-aided design systems (CAD), and more, which are located across the campus. Students in the Inventor’s Studio and Introduction to Engineering Design classes, the Change the World Challenge and Design, Build, and Fly competitions, and the MILL (Manufacturing Innovation Learning Studio), as well as students from all five Rensselaer schools—Engineering; Science; Architecture; Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences; and the Lally School of Management—will benefit from this studio and its associated programs.
“Jerry Lemelson, founder of The Lemelson Foundation, believed in the potential of young inventors to improve lives by solving the big social and economic challenges of our time,” said Carol Dahl, executive director of The Lemelson Foundation. “Burt Swersey made that vision a reality. We are pleased this vision will be extended through the Burt Swersey Inventor’s Studio, providing opportunities for Rensselaer to cultivate inventors and innovators for generations to come. We can’t wait to see how these students change the world.”
Burt Swersey believed in the power of Rensselaer students to change the world. He was a truly magnificent teacher, who inspired many talented young men and women to push beyond their perceived limits, and to address, with confidence and courage, the grandest of challenges. We are so pleased that The Lemelson Foundation has ensured that his great spirit lives on at Rensselaer in the Burt Swersey Inventor’s Studio.”—President Jackson
“This studio will honor Professor Swersey’s legacy and amplify his efforts to educate students in technological innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Shekhar Garde, dean of the School of Engineering. “The Burt Swersey Inventors Studio embodies the spirit of multidisciplinary collaboration that is central to the concept of The New Polytechnic—a crossroads for multiplicity of perspectives and the most advanced tools and technologies to address global challenges. We envision that undergraduate and graduate students from all of Rensselaer’s schools will work together in the studio and harness other space at Rensselaer to invent and innovate, and translate their ideas into patents, seek initial investment for their companies, and commercialize their products.”
A portion of the endowment gift will also support continuing work by students and faculty from the School of Engineering, The Paul J. ’69 and Kathleen M. Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship, and the founders of Ecovative, who are currently collaborating to synthesize the essence of Swersey’s philosophy—from notes, lectures, and other resources—and integrating those teachings into curricula in order to “keep the flame alive” through innovative pedagogy and the courses he taught.
“This generous gift from The Lemelson Foundation will catalyze the leadership and entrepreneurial spirit of our students and faculty,” said Mary Simoni, dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. “The Burt Swersey Inventor’s Studio will include a physical space as well as new programs that will connect the classroom with the design studio to enable multifaceted education, feeding collaboration, creativity, and innovation. Our vision is aligned with both Burt’s passion and the interests of The Lemelson Foundation ‘to inspire and educate the next generation of inventors and to help provide them with the resources to turn their ideas into invention-based businesses and commercial technologies.’”