Rodney Yip, Computer Science ’82 (right) was instrumental in initiation and execution of a robotics display at the Ontario Science Centre over March Break.
When Rodney Yip (Computer Science ’82) sees someone or something that needs help and he knows he can make a difference, he dives in. It’s what makes him a tireless, priceless volunteer not just at Ryerson, but at the many community organizations where he gives his time.
“I’m driven by my desire to help and my ability to help,” he says. “I don’t volunteer if my knowledge and skills aren’t a match. But if I have the expertise to offer a boost or a fix, I’ll do it.”
Rodney Yip regrets that his volunteer involvement with Ryerson only began in the last decade, but he has more than made up for lost time. He reconnected with the school when he established a student award in the Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing. The award was matched by IBM, where he built a successful 33-year career in business continuity and disaster recovery before retiring in 2015. Since then, Yip has become a mentor at the Science Discovery Zone, a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council in the Faculty of Science, an advisor with the Office of the Vice-President Research and Innovation and a Director of the Ryerson University Alumni Association (RUAA).
He also serves as a strategic advisor on computational public safety for Dr. Alex Ferworn’s Network-Centric Applied Research Team (NCART), based in Ryerson’s Department of Computer Science. Leveraging his skills in disaster recovery, Yip helps the team turn research on robotics and drones into tools for first responders.
“Rodney has been a whirlwind of constructive ideas and effective action almost from the day he was introduced to us,” says lab director Dr. Alex Ferworn. “He entered an unfamiliar research environment, learned what we did and became a relentless proponent and ambassador for the computational public safety research we do in the lab. We owe a lot to Rodney as he goes about his business putting out our good news and inspiring the general public to get involved. It also helps that he looks for research funding as well as engagement opportunities.”
In December, Yip gave an impromptu tour of the NCART lab to Catherine Paisley (Business Management ’90), Vice-President of Science Education and Science Experience at the Ontario Science Centre, following a Ryerson SciXchange Coding & Cocktails event they attended. Impressed by what she saw, Paisley suggested the lab should have a display at the Centre on March Break. What resulted, under Yip’s leadership, was much more than a display.
The robotics event, which drew more than 60,000 visitors, featured 56 soapbox style presentations, 24 live demos and 80 feet of interactive displays. With the support and collaboration of multiple Ryerson faculties, experiential learning zones, students, alumni and startups, the event showcased robotics research from across the disciplines.
“One of the biggest challenges was trying to limit each child to only three minutes of robot time to keep the lines moving,” says Yip, who took every opportunity to promote Ryerson to all the young people and their parents. He even put Ryerson brochures in the “hands” of two bomb disposal robots from Dr. Ferworn’s lab and called them “Alumnibots.”
In addition to highlighting Ryerson as a destination, Yip used the event to spark interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education. “Canada needs to improve its STEM capacity for future economic sustainability, and I see Ryerson playing a vital role in doing that,” he says.
Underlying all of Yip’s professional and volunteer work is his deep-rooted belief that caring, innovative communities create a society that will be more resilient in the face of adversity. His volunteer commitments outside Ryerson include roles on Canada’s Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Trillium Childhood Cancer Support Centre and the Repair Café in Toronto — to name just a few. “We’re a stronger society when we look after each other and work together to solve real-world challenges.”
Interested in volunteering at Ryerson? Depending on your time and interests, there are many opportunities to give back.