Stevens Science and Technology Studies Program Receives Grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology

11/13/2013

The Science and Technology Studies program in the College of Arts and Letters (CAL) at Stevens has been awarded a two-year curriculum development grant by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), an agency located within the United States Department of Commerce.

Professors Andrew Russell and Lee Vinsel will oversee the project, “Design for Standardization,” and their collaborative research will examine the processes behind common 21st century technical standards such as communication technologies, food safety, state building codes and consumer product safety.

As a result of the grant, CAL will offer a new semester-long course on “Standards and Society” as well as instructional modules that can be integrated into undergraduate and graduate courses in art, music, science, management, systems and engineering, including the Stevens Design Spine.

Russell and Vinsel will also investigate how students can get involved in the standards-making process as well as ways that they can use their knowledge of standardization to design better products, accelerate innovation and enhance their own careers.

According to Russell, the “Design for Standardization” project is a natural progression of research interests that he and Vinsel have developed throughout their careers. Russell won the Standards Engineering Society’s 2006 World Standards Day paper competition, and is the author of a forthcoming book, Open Standards and the Digital Age: History, Ideology, and Networks (Cambridge University Press, 2014). Vinsel completed a dissertation at Carnegie Mellon University in 2011, in which he analyzed American federal regulation of automobiles – including “technology-forcing” performance standards that pushed private companies to be more innovative.

Vinsel, who teaches a spring course on “The History of Stevens,” notes that standardization has a long history at Stevens.   

“Stevens has been involved in standards from its inception, when engineers were standardizing such things as screw threads and steam boilers,” he said. “Standards that allowed screws to be used interchangeably and kept steam boilers from exploding were major engineering accomplishments of their day. In a sense, our grant allows us to continue a long tradition here.”

Russell and Vinsel are off to a fast start with their research. They will bring a group of students to a standards simulation exercise in New York City on Nov. 19, organized by the American National Standards Institute. Russell believes that such hands-on experiences are crucial for their project.

“We will know we have been successful if our students see for themselves why they should contribute their energy, creativity and expertise to the standards-setting process,” he said.

About Stevens Institute of Technology

Stevens Institute of Technology, The Innovation University®, is a premier, private research university situated in Hoboken, N.J. overlooking the Manhattan skyline. Founded in 1870, technological innovation has been the hallmark and legacy of Stevens’ education and research programs for more than 140 years. Within the university’s three schools and one college, more than 6,100 undergraduate and graduate students collaborate with more than 350 faculty members in an interdisciplinary, student-centric, entrepreneurial environment to advance the frontiers of science and leverage technology to confront global challenges. Stevens is home to three national research centers of excellence, as well as joint research programs focused on critical industries such as healthcare, energy, finance, defense and STEM education and coastal sustainability. The university is consistently ranked among the nation’s elite for return on investment for students, career services programs and mid-career salaries of alumni. Stevens is in the midst of a 10-year strategic plan, The Future. Ours to Create., designed to further extend the Stevens legacy to create a forward-looking and far-reaching institution with global impact.