Inventor Ryan Rusnak visited the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC) on Friday, Feb. 25 to speak to Halifax County High School dual enrollment students in Digital Art & Design, Product Design & Development, and Hi-Performance Technology classes.
Rusnak has made a name for himself in the world of physical computing with his invention of the beverage cannon. The cannon is a converted mini-fridge that will launch the beverage of your choice with the touch of an iPhone app button.
During the lecture, “What’s in your toolbox,” Rusnak encouraged students to gain a broad set of skills and to seek out different experiences. Rusnak is an example of what he preaches. He attended Virginia Tech as a psychology and biology major, and is currently working for an accounting firm in Northern Virginia. “I did some construction in high school and I know some limited programming. I’m interested in design and engineering, and physical computing ties a lot of that together. I couldn’t have made the beverage cannon without have a broad set of skills,” Rusnak said.
Physical computing involves connecting the physical world with the digital world and is an increasingly large part of our lives. From car thermostat controls to mini blinds that open and close according to sunlight, physical computing is all around us.
“A lot of people think the Digital Art & Design program is just a graphic design program, but it’s not. It has design at its core but you have to think about the future of digital art for building interfaces for things like the iPad or websites and making all of these devices talk to each other. That’s the nice thing about physical computing,” said Ben Capozzi, curriculum coordinator for the Business of Art & Design program offered in partnership with Danville Community College.
Throughout the lecture Rusnak encouraged students to collaborate with others, and to leverage the people who have the skills they need. He explained that to build the beverage cannon he had to collaborate with two friends—an engineer to work out the launching aspect, and a graphic designer to create the graphics for the iPhone app. “It took the three of us putting our knowledge together to build this,” he stated.
Finally, Rusnak shared how the power of the Internet, and specifically Youtube, enabled his beverage cannon to reach a global audience. “Youtube is a game changer. Rather than telling someone what you’ve done you can show them what you’ve done,” he said. His Youtube video of the beverage cannon, the only one in the world, received 4.2 million hits over the course of one month, and led to the invention’s feature on Great Britain’s “The Graham Norton Show” and Rusnak’s appearance in Britain’s “The Sun” newspaper.
When asked why it was important for Rusnak to speak to students Capozzi said, “The idea that you can use digital technology and the insight of creative people to figure out how we should interact with our physical environment is a very rich world of future possibility for students interested in bridging the gap between art, engineering, science, and creativity. I thought it was really important that the students be able to meet with someone who’s done that. Here’s a guy who doesn’t have a background in art & design, but who’s found this really rich outlet for creativity in his spare time.”
Rusnak ended his presentation with high praise for the SVHEC and the Prizery, “You have an amazing facility here. This makes MIT completely jealous.” He was also struck by the caliber of students in the programs, and offered an opportunity for collaboration, “I want you guys in my toolbox,” he said.
The Hi-Performance Technology class is offered by Southside Virginia Community College, and the SVHEC’s Digital Art & Design and Product Design & Development classes are offered in partnership with Danville Community College.
Parents and high school students may learn more about dual enrollment opportunities in Digital Art & Design and Product Design & Development by attending the Business of Art & Design Open House on March 17 from 6-8 p.m. For more information about the Business of Art & Design or the Open House, email email@example.com or call 434-572-5566, and toll free 1-800-283-0098 ext 5566.