Smiles that stick

Since the start of 2023, Lecturer in the Chemistry Department Dr. Steven Tysoe has generated many smiles on campus by giving out stickers. Tysoe shared his story in an interview with The Polytechnic on how he began handing out stickers and the message he hopes to share with students.

Tysoe’s inspiration for the stickers began with the origin of the “Mr. Yuk” sticker, created by Dr. Richard Moriarty. Mr. Yuk features a green circle making a disgusted face and was created in 1971 to prevent children from drinking household poisons. Mr. Yuk led to Tysoe’s sticker distribution through his participation in Rensselaer Alpha Phi Omega’s “Meanest Man on Campus” competition. During the competition in 2018, Tysoe built his campaign around Mr. Yuk and printed out Mr. Yuk stickers to hand out to students. However, one day he accidentally printed thousands of “Mr. Yuk” stickers instead of hundreds. Unsure of what to do with the surplus, he offered them to students and watched as they happily accepted the green stickers. The sticker escapade continued when Tysoe attended a conference in Rochester and spotted a table full of stickers with catchy science slogans. Intrigued by the idea, he began giving out his own science-related stickers at the end of his chemistry lectures at RPI. As the stickers quickly disappeared, Tysoe expanded his collection beyond just Mr. Yuk and science-related stickers. Before long, there were thousands of stickers for students to choose from, with anything ranging from puppies and movie characters to flowers and inspirational quotes. After choosing from the pile, students excitedly covered the back of their once-blank laptops with colorful arrays of stickers.

The sticker operation turned even more large-scale when Tysoe began printing custom-made stickers from the vinyl printer in the Forge. The printer itself was donated by David Walker ’71, who was a member of the Engineering Dean’s Leadership Council. The printer allows for any image to be printed out in sticker form. To this day, the sticker process runs through a general rotation that involves both custom made and regular stickers. A WebEx group entitled “Sticker Image Submittal'' holds over 2,000 students and contains every submission from students that want a custom made sticker. Once a student has an idea of what design they would like, they can post the photo in the chat, and Tysoe will respond to the request. Tysoe has designated sticker collection times where students can come pick up their custom made stickers. His dedication to making sure the sky’s the limit when it comes to sticker requests is a rather admirable feat and a source of joy for students as they can decorate their laptops to their specific liking.

When prompted about what he meant to achieve through this operation, Tysoe had a simple and humble answer. His favorite motto, “be the reason someone smiles today,” served as his inspiration for ensuring that each and every student gets the sticker they want. He hopes that stickers inspire students to stay positive, push for change, and to continue to smile no matter what.

Anna Stubbs/The Polytechnic