Rensselaer launched the Douglas A. Mercer ’77 Innovation and Exploration Laboratory on November 9 at the Russell Sage Dining Hall.
Video Recording from 11/9/2022 10:30 AM EST

The new and expanded Douglas A. Mercer ’77 Innovation and Exploration Laboratory (The Mercer XLab) is made possible by a new endowment gift of $2M by Douglas Mercer ’77.  The new gift, in combination with the existing Mercer Endowment, will enable the Laboratory to focus on developing, launching, and disseminating nuanced, personalized learning tools embedded within innovative learning approaches while supporting student led innovations.  In addition, the gift will help cross-pollinate ideas to multiply impacts through the expansion of the Mercer Distinguished Seminar Series and dedicated spaces for resource sharing and collaborative discussions. 

Shayla Sawyer, Professor of Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering, will serve as the inaugural director of the Douglas A. Mercer ’77 Innovation and Exploration Laboratory (The Mercer XLab) .  Dr. Sawyer has long championed hands-on, design-infused engineering education with open-ended inquiry and societal awareness to deepen connections for students.  She is excited for this opportunity to expand and amplify the many pedagogical innovations at Rensselaer to help advance personalized learning and encourage a dynamic, collaborative learning ecosystem.

The Douglas A. Mercer ’77 Innovation and Exploration Laboratory (The Mercer XLab) aims to establish, sustain, and pollinate a culture of exploration and innovation.

The three pillars of the Mercer XLab are:

Students work with virtual simulation tools
Curriculum and Self-Directed Learning Innovation

The Mercer XLabs will be a platform to develop, experiment, launch, and sustain curricular, technological, and social innovations within engineering education to facilitate the connection to a broader innovation ecosystem beyond engineering education.

Student poses in front of laptop connected to different circuits
Student Exploration

The Mercer XLabs will foster student tinkering, open-ended design experimentation, and intellectual curiosity by providing access to a dedicated, centralized space to find tools, mentorship, workshops, exploration opportunities harvested from faculty, connections to related RPI programs, and an interconnected learning community.

Students working a robot and laptop
Idea Exchange through Cross-Pollination

The Mercer XLab will facilitate the gathering of ideas through tool sharing, access to assessment expertise, and strategic planning toward high impact external dissemination opportunities. Strategic diverse partnerships, faculty mentors, student leaders, advisory board members, external speakers, and visitors are invited to bring in wider range of perspectives on education innovation, societal trends, and government policy. The Mercer XLab strives to widely disseminate tools, experience, and results of innovative approaches across the globe.

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