Forever True, For Iowa State

Innovating the education of innovators

Ayman Karmi is a drummer. He loves playing jazz on his kit with other musicians. He’s also a materials engineering major. And right now, the Iowa State senior is merging his two interests to innovate for a better world.

Ayman, along with more than a dozen other students and faculty collaborators, has been working on an idea to recycle discarded plastics into 3D printing filament that can be used to print musical instruments or vital parts like drumheads or mouthpieces for saxophones.

The REFORM Project (Recyclables Evolved From Offscouring Remade to Music) is just one of many progressive innovations being nurtured through Innovate at Iowa State, the university’s initiative fostering an interdisciplinary approach to developing big ideas, facilitating conversations and promoting execution.

Central to Innovate at Iowa State and to President Wendy Wintersteen’s vision of building a university where innovation and entrepreneurship are part of every college is the new Student Innovation Center on campus.

Made possible with $40 million in state appropriations and $44 million in donor support through the Forever True, For Iowa State campaign, including $30 million from an anonymous alumni couple, the 140,000-square-foot, five-floor facility is a resource serving the entire university, with unique facilities and workspaces to ignite innovation across all aspects of Iowa State’s land-grant mission.

In the new facility, students are empowered to reach across majors and colleges to find collaborators. “The diversity of students and faculty is an incredible resource at Iowa State. Everyone we’ve approached, from music professors to graphic designers, has been so helpful and helped us better understand our challenge or our approach to a solution,” says Ayman, input that could lead to a marketable product, a new service or a solution to a community issue.

The students of REFORM Project, for example, took full advantage of the Student Innovation Center and its suite of high-quality video equipment to record a promotional video showcasing their innovation they’ll use to seek seed funding.

“What really excites me about this project is how we can have an impact on our community in so many ways,” Ayman says. “We can get people involved in recycling. We can teach people about the possibilities of 3D printing. We can get students involved in innovating.”

Story adapted with permission from Student Innovation Center Communications. Photo credit: Collin Maguire