Mercer Lab Encourages Student Tinkering

Support from Douglas Mercer '77 and Analog Devices, Inc. fosters innovation
Rensselaer students demonstrate their “tinkering” skills to President Jackson. The Mercer Laboratory provides students with the opportunity to conduct hands-on learning, using state-of-the-art hardware.

Douglas Mercer ’77 believes that it takes more than lectures on theory, reading textbooks, and taking exams to make a successful electrical engineer. Mercer is convinced that “the art of tinkering” is an essential experience that students may lack in the standard university setting. That is why he was eager to create the Douglas Mercer ’77 Laboratory for Student Exploration and Innovation in the Department of Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering (ECSE) at Rensselaer.

As Mercer says, “There are many famous stories about how great technology companies got started by tinkerers in their garages in places such as Palo Alto, CA. One way to think about this new lab is to picture it as one of these garages in the middle of a great research university, to bring together students, faculty, and industry. I can’t think of a better scenario to foster innovation.”

Philanthropy Makes It Possible

The lab was made possible by a $500,000 endowment gift from Mercer, Class of 1977, who was a fellow at Massachusetts-based semiconductor firm Analog Devices Inc. (ADI) from 1995-2009 and is now consulting with the company on university-related projects. Mercer will support lab operations with an annual gift of $50,000. ADI donated $160,000 and is founding corporate sponsor of the lab.

...Hands-on work in the lab was the source of discovery, deeper understanding, and breakthrough product innovation...

David Robertson, ADI Vice President of Analog Technology

“As a fellow at Analog Devices, Doug showed that hands-on work in the lab was the source of discovery, deeper understanding, and breakthrough product innovation,” said David Robertson, ADI vice president of analog technology.

Group in lab
President Jackson and Mercer tour the Douglas Mercer ’77 Laboratory for Student Exploration and Innovation.

Lab Provides Unique Opportunities

The lab will provide an open shop environment for approximately 500 students each year to work on class design projects, using state-of-the-art hardware.

“Tinkering is an American tradition that fosters innovation and promotes integrative learning and intuition,” said Dr. Kim Boyer, professor and department head, electrical, computer, and systems engineering. “We are so proud to provide our students with this world-class facility, thanks to the extraordinary generosity of Mr. Mercer and the critical support of our partners at Analog Devices.”

In an article in the Albany Times Union, David Herbert, a 22-year-old electrical engineering major at Rensselaer, said, “The Mercer Lab gives you that power to take the curiosity you generated through years and years of class and apply it to a real-world setting. Learning in the lab is unlike any other type of work. Skills like soldering are increasingly a lost art.”

Make a Difference

You, too, can join with Mercer and ADI to make a difference at Rensselaer. Make your gift today. Each and every gift matters. Thank you.