Burt Swersey, senior lecturer in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering and founder of the Inventor’s Studio course, has received the Sustainable Practice Impact Award given by the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators (NCIIA). Swersey was honored at NCIIA’s 18th annual Open Minds showcase of student invention and innovation in Silicon Valley on March 22. NCIAA is an education network that “cultivates revolutionary ideas and life-changing inventions.” The award recognizes companies or an individual demonstrating outstanding achievement in developing clean technologies; implementing sustainable practices in their businesses; or providing exceptional education opportunities to university students.
With support from the Lemelson Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and a membership of nearly 200 colleges and universities from across the United States, the NCIIA engages approximately 5,000 student entrepreneurs each year, leveraging their campuses as working laboratories for invention and innovation and incubators for businesses, and ultimately helping them to bring their ideas to market. “Our goal is to harness the ingenuity of student inventors and help them turn their ideas into innovations with global impact,” said Phil Weilerstein, executive director at the NCIIA.
“It is imperative to be environmentally conscientious about the new products and businesses we create so that we do not irrevocably damage the planet for the future,” said Carol Dahl, executive director of the Lemelson Foundation, who presented the award along with a $10,000 prize. “Burt Swersey is a leader in ensuring students ask what impact they will have with the inventions they create, touching not just on the aspect of financial value, but also on how their ideas will have social and environmental impact.”
“Burt Swersey is a leader in ensuring students ask what impact they will have with the inventions they create, touching not just on the aspect of financial value, but also on how their ideas will have social and environmental impact.”—Carol Dahl
Swersey has been teaching at Rensselaer for more than 20 years. He founded the course Inventor’s Studio, which is part of the interdisciplinary Design, Innovation, and Society major. He has received many awards and honors, including the Darrin Counseling Award given by Phalanx, Rensselaer’s student leadership honorary society, in 2012; the NCIIA Olympus Lifetime of Education Innovation Award in 2007; and the ASME Design Education Curriculum Innovation Award in 1994. He holds 15 patents.
“Our students must be the future leaders who will change the world and save people and planet from the threats that surround us all,” Swersey said in his remarks. “They can do far more than they think they can. Let’s all work to insist that they do it.”