Honors College students recognized for ingenuity

Honors College students recognized for ingenuity
Shinola award winners
Honors College Dean Graeme Harper is flanked by Shinola award winners Brian Neumeyer and Alexa Ruhfass.

This past week, two students in Oakland University’s Honors College were recognized for showing exceptional ingenuity outside the classroom. Alexa Ruhfass and Brian Neumeyer each received awards sponsored by Shinola, the Detroit-based company known for its handcrafted products, including watches, bicycles and leather goods.


“Shinola is without doubt an exemplar of ingenuity,” said Dr. Graeme Harper, Dean of the Honors College. “As a company they’re resourceful, they’re inventive and they’re creative. It’s both appropriate and very exciting that these fabulous student awards are sponsored by such a brilliant company, a company that is based right here in metro Detroit.”


Shinola Ingenuity Award


Ruhfass, who received the Shinola Ingenuity Award, has displayed ingenuity through her gifts as a textile artist. Each semester, the liberal studies major expresses her “thoughts, opinions, feelings and learning outcomes in knitted forms.” Her inspirations for these creations include her volunteer experiences at the Student Organic Farm and Hoop House on OU’s campus, as well as a liberal studies course focused on the challenges facing the city of Detroit. The Detroit-inspired creation – a turquoise shawl – is especially close to her heart. 


“This is truly my favorite, like the city I choose to be my second home,” Ruhfass wrote in a letter to the Shinola Ingenuity Award Committee. "I like to express a ‘second look beauty’ with my artwork, the same astonishing beauty Detroit evoked in me 22 years ago when I came here from Germany.”


Star Ingenuity Award


Neumeyer, a senior mechanical engineering major, received the Star Ingenuity Award for his work at Dataspeed Inc. in Troy. With a knack for increasing efficiency, Neumeyer has contributed to numerous company projects, including the Baxter Mobility Base, an intelligent mobile robotic platform capable of observing its surroundings and moving with a payload autonomously. In one of his most recent projects, Neumeyer redesigned and manufactured a part for a water jet, which uses high-pressure water and abrasive to cut through materials.


In a letter of recommendation, Neumeyer’s employer wrote, “When designing a component, (Brian) considers not only how it will work, but how it could possibly fail … along the way, he optimizes the part so that the end result is a high-quality component.”


With their awards, Ruhfass and Neumeyer will meet with Shinola executives, tour the company’s facilities in Detroit and also receive Shinola products.


“Detroit and this region have an incredible legacy of ingenuity, and we’re happy to play a small role in helping recognize these talented students who will no doubt go on to advance our community and the world through their work,” said Jacques Panis, president of Shinola. “We look forward to welcoming Alexa and Brian to our headquarters and factory in Detroit to meet our team and show them our operations and learn more about their skills and interests.”


Learn more about OU’s Honors College at oakland.edu/hc.