Innovation Lab @Ross Looks to the Future

Innovation Lab @Ross students recently closed out the program’s inaugural year with demonstrations of independent projects in which they used the hands-on skills they developed in engineering, design, electronics, robotics, and computer programming to explore their own personal areas of interest. The flexibility of the Innovation Lab, combined with the technological and human resources available to them, meant that these pioneering Ross students were able to scrutinize and investigate technologies that ranged from a millennium ago to the future.

Several students worked on historical projects inspired by the Ross Spiral Curriculum at the request of Ross School teachers. Malik Basnight and Luca Savarese constructed a ballista, a working replica of a Roman war machine that can launch arrows that are six feet long. Sara Kay Stewart handcrafted a variation of the Welsh longbow, a weapon important during the Middle Ages. In a test last week, Sara’s bow was able to fire an arrow over 100 yards. Next year, these students will not only demonstrate their projects in Cultural History classes, they will also share the experience of recreating these historical innovations with younger Ross students.

Looking to the future, several students took on projects that involved modern technologies, from building a Tesla coil to controlling a grand piano with a tiny computer chip. Harrison Rowan worked on a prototype for a solar-powered water purification system, while Jeong Ho Ha spent the year cultivating algae in order to extract biodiesel fuel from the cells. Almost all of these projects made use of students’ newfound electronics skills and their ability to design and produce custom parts for their projects using the lab’s 3D printer.

With a year of experience under their belts, Innovation Lab students are now prepared to move on to new challenges and even bigger projects. Next year promises not only additional courses on marine biology and entrepreneurship, but more contests and competitions, and special facilities for student research and project work. “I think this first year was a real success in terms of developing the students’ technical skills,” said Innovation Lab Director Dr. David Morgan. “I view next year as the opportunity to really put those skills to the test and unleash the Innovation Lab students on projects and experiences that will really challenge and inspire them.”