Crowdfunding innovation

Ainsley Buckner at think[box].

Crowdfunding innovation

A new capital campaign will support the university’s research centers and institutes, including several with connections to the Case School of Engineering

A coordinated crowdfunding campaign launched Feb. 15 aims to support eight of CWRU’s centers and institutes, including several that are pushing the boundaries of science and engineering.


As it seeks small gifts from a range of donors, the “Think Big: Institutes and Centers Campaign” will offer a glimpse into where CWRU is focusing its resources and expertise. The campaign will support the Great Lakes Energy Institute, the Human Fusions Institute, Xlabs, Sears think[box], the Veale Center for Entrepreneurship, the Social Justice Institute and Interactive Commons. 


In addition, it will support and showcase ISSACS, the Institute for Smart, Secure and Connected Systems, one of the youngest and fastest growing institutes on campus.


“Our faculty are working on some of the most important work of our time—fairness and equity, the interface of human and machines, energy, and entrepreneurship,” said Mitch Drumm, interim vice president of research and technology management at CWRU. “The institutes in this campaign represent some of the best interdisciplinary work on our campus.”


ISSACS illustrates that interdisciplinary work. It was born in 2016 at the Case School of Engineering to develop expertise in the emerging Internet of Things, the array of  Internet-connected objects and systems of everyday life. IoT is impacting industries and communities as it opens up new sources of data and ways to act upon that data. Some experts expect connected machines and objects in factories to fuel a “fourth industrial revolution.”


In 2018, ISSACS was promoted to a university-wide institute to better coordinate efforts across campus and with regional partners. ISSACS is a charter member of the IoT Collaborative, a partnership with Cleveland State University that aims to enhance the economy and the quality of life in Northeast Ohio.


Since its inception, ISSACS has attracted more than $15 million in research funding, including support from the Cleveland Foundation. That money has gone toward creating new engineering courses, recruiting and hiring faculty with IoT expertise, and supporting student and faculty  projects that are using IoT to solve problems. For example:


  • Working with Internet provider DigitalC, a Case visiting scholar is building out a low-cost broadband network to help close the digital divide in Cleveland – a project made more critical as the pandemic forces remote work and school
  • With the support of the National Science Foundation, Case students and researchers will be deploying air quality sensors around the region to try and illuminate connections between particulate pollution and diseases like COVID-19
  • In collaboration with Cuyahoga County and The Fund for Our Economic Future, Case researchers are working to apply technology to transportation to address the “spatial mismatch” that separates many city residents from job centers

Through the Think Big appeal, institute leaders are hoping to raise money to support such projects—and something more. They want to raise awareness of ISSACS and Case’s growing IoT expertise. 


“Developing new courses and labs is a priority for ISSACS – preparing our students for a connected, digital future, regardless of their major, is critical,” said Nick Barendt ’95, MS ’98, the executive director of ISSACS.


To learn more about ISSACS and to help the institute reach its crowdfunding goal of $5,000 by the end of February, please visit ISSAC’S campaign page, HERE.


Each of the eight centers and institutes has identified an area where small gifts can have the greatest impact. To learn morevisit the Think Big crowdfunding campaign website. The campaign continues through the end of February.

What is ISSACS? A catalyst. Meet the Institute for Smart, Secure and Connected Systems.

Nick Barendt, executive director of ISSACS

"Developing new courses and labs is a priority for ISSACS — preparing our students for a connected, digital future, regardless of their major, is critical."

— Nick Barendt


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