All posts by The Cooper Pioneer

Out on a limb where there should be a bridge - featured

Out on a limb where there should be a bridge

Joseph Colonel (EE ‘15)

“That’s a valid argument, that’s not what they care about. That’s not how they think.

“We can’t have a conversation like that. They get heated.”

“Look at them, how they can get away with doing that for three days.”

“It makes me mad, I have so much work to do. They’re not doing anything. #artists #assholes”

These are a few of the comments I’ve heard made by students in the New Academic Building regarding the people protesting inside the Peter Cooper Suite and the people supporting them in front of the Foundation Building. That these comments have been lifted out of context is irrelevant. To a passerby these statements seem inflammatory, divisive, and ignorant. It is surprising and upsetting to hear such words come out of the mouths of students attending one of the top undergraduate engineering colleges in the country. It is disturbing and disappointing to hear these words spoken by my colleagues and peers.

These types of statements spewed from “both sides of the issue” embody a more startling trend I have noticed since entering the Cooper Union last fall: engineering students disregarding the opinions and intellect of art students. Discourse and collaboration between the Art, Architecture, and Engineering schools cannot happen until students abandon this type of rhetoric and attempt to uphold mutual respect and understanding for their peers.

The time for sarcasm and jokes in legitimate discussion has long since passed. Whether or not it ever existed I leave up to you. We as students owe it to one another to uphold a policy of honesty and transparency in conversation, both face to face and online, should we expect any sort of exchange of ideas or collaboration to exist between students.

Shouting across the lobby of the New Academic Building at one another or putting up posters that mocking claim that we can summon the ghost of Peter Cooper who will shit out enough money to solve Cooper’s financial troubles should we wish hard enough do nothing but strengthen the bi-partisan trend overtaking the Art and Engineering schools.

As said by Kurt Vonnegut, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful who we pretend to be.”

Healing this apparent divide between the Art and Engineering schools begins with the recognition that anyone you talk to or talk about is a human.

Like you, these people were conceived in some manner, and have spent the entirety of their lives on or near the surface of the Earth, where they have grown up and accumulated life experiences that have shaped them into the people they are today. Referring to the people in the Peter Cooper Suite and those supporting them outside the Foundation Building as “the artists” is not only fallacious but also dehumanizing. As one person told me, “We shouldn’t let our interests define us. I’m a Cooper Union student before I am a Cooper Union Art Student.”

On the topic of Cooper’s Future, that same person went on to say, “It would be unfair to expect everyone to think the same.” In a time where the future of our institution is uncertain, it is ludicrous to believe that everyone will come to the same conclusion as to how to protect it. Respect these opinions, for that is all they are: opinions.

Engineers, artists, and architects are all creators based around certain guiding principles. Engineers typically design with practicality and efficiency in mind. Some artists may create in the name of aesthetics or provocation. Some architects design in the name of progress. It must be recognized by everyone that each of these disciplines has its merits and its place. By no means should any be belittled; these differences should be celebrated and explored by each party individually. Some may see how a wider scope during the creative process can produce beautiful results.

I applaud the action taken by Unify Cooper Union, a group created by Rob Brumer (ChE ‘14) and dedicated specifically to generating interschool dialogue and collaboration. The group hosted an event named “Common Ground,” held on December 6th. The event was created by Brumer and hosted by Caleb Wang (EE ‘13). The Facebook page for the event states:

“As artists, architects and engineers, we all love our school. When things get heated it is hard to remember [what] we all have that in common. This event is about trying to understand each others’ perspectives by getting to know one another and why we are passionate about what we do.

“We will do this by splitting up into small groups of 5 or 6, ideally with at least one person from each school in each group. After a brief introduction from representatives from all three schools, the groups will go through the studios, classrooms, and labs to collaborate about the engineering, art, and architecture projects that we are all working on.”

The event received nothing but enthusiasm and praise from those that attended. Talks of student-run courses and lectures to be held for students from all three schools have been met with the same response. I hope that this movement pans out, and that it is not simply a moment of clarity to be lost among the commotion of daily Cooper life.

Everyone has the well being of the Cooper Union at the bottom of their hearts and the forefronts of their minds, of that I am certain. Hopefully a revised rhetoric will allow more fruitful dialogue to exist between all members of the Cooper community.

Photos by Jenna Lee (ME’15)

Cooper Union Origami’s David Yurman Windows

Caroline Yu (EE ‘15)

If you walk by the David Yurman designer jewelry store in Manhattan (as well as three other locations nation-wide), you’ll see a 33’ origami torus made of 105 sheets of hand-cut paper. These creations are covered with approximately 35 red origami berries. The “berries” have LED’s wired into them so that they light up at random intervals, making the model twinkle.

These displays were created by The Cooper Union Origami Club.

The fact that all four displays were designed and constructed in less than a week makes them even more incredible. Origami Club president, Uyen Nguyen (ME ‘14) says that “the timing was our greatest challenge…the group effort was amazing, and I was personally touched by the incredible amount of effort my club members put into this. I honestly believe that, of our group’s current regular members, had we been down by even one person, we would not have finished the job. I am amazed and thrilled by the dedication my members have to this club.”

The idea of having origami as a window display was proposed by Richard Barrett, who works for David Yurman. He was unsure of what to do for a window display but when he went to Parents’ Day at Cooper because his son is an architecture student, he saw President Bharucha talking about the Origami Club. The Origami Club had made the President a torus and Richard Barrett thought that origami would be a good idea to use in their holiday window display. Richard Barrett then contacted student services, who then contacted the Origami Club.

Approximately 300 man-hours were spent making the torus. The club pulled consecutive all-nighters to finish the torus. Uyen describes it as a “club meeting that lasted more than 72 hours.” Harrison Cullen (EE ‘15), believes that “[he] couldn’t find a better group of people to fold paper with…while horribly sleep deprived.”

All compensation that The Cooper Union Origami Club received for their work will be donated back to Cooper. If these displays inspire you to fold something amazing, join the now-esteemed Origami Club!

Little Shop of Horrors

Matthew Lee (ME ‘15)

The Cooper Dramatic Society put on a terrific show last Sunday with their rendition of Little Shop of Horrors. The show was an amazing success, bringing a large portion of Cooper’s student body out to see it. The most intriguing aspects of the performance were the impressive Audrey II plant puppets that were used throughout the musical.

The well coordinated duo of Alejandro Acosta (EE ’15) manning the puppet with Kal Megati (ChE ’15) on vocal duties worked together to give the puppet incredible realistic movement and a fantastic singing voice. Other standouts include Joseph Colonel’s (EE ’15) hilarious act as sadistic dentist Orin Scrivello, as well as several other small roles that required a quick backstage costume swap.

Cooper’s Hurricane Sandy Response Team

Sean Cusack forward by Yara Elborolosy (CE ‘14)

Hurricane Sandy affected people in seven different countries and in twenty-four states across the U.S.A, killing two hundred and fifty three people and costing at least 65.6 billion dollars, 63 billion being in the U.S. alone. 41 Cooper Square lost power initially and tried to use a back-up generator to compensate but the back-up generator failed by the next morning. Inspirational stories of people helping out those devastated by the storms could be found in every newspaper and now, the Pioneer will thank Cooper’s own personal heroes. This article was kindly provided to us by alumnus and adjunct professor Sean Cusack.

In the dark of the power outage, with no sign of the early morning light outside, figures are dragging industrial equipment up the stairs. It’s the Thursday after Superstorm Sandy, and the 1-Megawatt diesel backup generator had failed. Jeff Hakner (EE ‘91), and Jody Grapes, Director of Facilities, are carrying a smaller spare gasoline-powered generator up eight flights of stairs to the Alumni Terrace and within reach of the computers that need electricity. They and a small group of staff and engineers arrived before the police-enforced 6 am curfew to check critical systems, repair any damage that might have occurred, and prepare the campus for the next few days.

A week earlier, with forewarning about the storm, the systems seemed to work according to plan. Cooper was ready with a day’s diesel in its generator, in case of temporary blackout. The fuel could be stretched if additional facilities were shut down. But sometimes, fate intervenes.

The generator kept up with demand for eight hours during the blackout, then suffered a failure due to low oil pressure and went dark. The computer systems were abruptly shut off in the middle of operation, and with the computers down, so went and email.

Administration reacted and called in tech specialists to repair the generator, but soon discovered the problem went beyond the low oil pressure. The local team didn’t have the parts necessary to discern or repair the problem. A new plan was hatched on Wednesday night by President Bharucha, TC Westcott, Jody Grapes, and Bob Hopkins to bring up critical systems and to restore internet and email service and the website if possible.

Back on the 8th floor on Thursday, the gasoline-powered generator that is usually only utilized for small outdoor lighting and power tools is only 3500W, barely enough to run a few of the servers behind the computer center. Jody, his team, and Jeff get it running outside on the Terrace – the generator cannot run indoors due to the risk of carbon monoxide.

Meanwhile, on the 10th floor, engineers continue to work on the diesel generator but even the service tech can’t get it up and running; the main repair team from Detroit Diesel will have to come in. They won’t arrive in time during this blackout.

Jeff splices custom power extension cords and runs wires from the Terrace into the server room behind the Computer Center. Each server takes almost 1000W, so there’s not much room for error keeping basic services alive. After removing the redundant backup power systems and pulling line cards in the servers to reduce the amperage draw, email and internet come up.

Jeff is able to fix the hard power-off software issues. For now everything is running on the gasoline, but there is not enough fuel to last for very long. Unfortunately, the natural-gas powered Co-Gen plants in both buildings – though they work properly – can only share load on existing ConEd power lines, and with the ConEd lines dark, the Co-Gen Plants cannot provide power. With some modification they could be independent but that’s something to plan for another time.

As the gasoline starts to run out, the team looks for any nearby source. But just like everyone else in Manhattan, they find it impossible to access any. This time, knowing that another outage is coming, Jeff properly shuts down all the systems so they will be easy to reboot when the power is up. Cooper goes dark gently. Come Friday morning, there is still no gasoline to be found and Jeff Hakner is driving through Connecticut searching for some when he gets the call that ConEd will soon be bringing the power up. When the lights all turn on again in the East Village, Jeff is able to bring the Cooper Union systems back up remotely from his home, thanks to shutting them down correctly the evening before.

On Saturday morning and with driving restrictions still heavily enforced, Brian Cusack (ME ‘01), takes a 3-hour bus ride from central New Jersey into the Port Authority and, with the subways still shut down below 34th Street, catches a cab down to Cooper. He spends the morning plugging the line cards back in and replacing the redundant power lines. After removing the low-power usage special settings put in place two days earlier, he brings all the other servers back up to normal. The web is up! Datatel also seems to have suffered no serious damage, though it will be until the next week before that is officially running, thanks to more effort by John Kibbe.

Thanks to the hard work and long hours of Facilities, Security, and the Computer Center staff, and despite an unforeseen generator failure, Cooper had power while many did not and was running full-steam ahead by the beginning of the week immediately following Hurricane Sandy.

How Do We Look? - featured

How Do We Look?

Jenna Lee (ME ‘15)

An old adage claims that “everyone is an artist”, but is it really true?

This year’s exhibition, “How Do We Look?” shows an attempt to use science and technology as a foundation for art by engineering students in last semester’s Scientific Photography class. Can photographs express motions? Time? Right next to the entrance of the exhibition, Michael Pimpinella’s (ME ‘14) work asks these questions to the audience. Against the preconception that photography is a static art form, students including Ferdy Budhidharma (ChE ‘14), Joann Lee (ChE ’13) and Eric Leong (ME ‘14) toy with time and the photographic medium.

Their work has the theme of motion and time in common, skillfully depicting the lapse of time in a single snapshot. Some raises more fundamental questions about our perception of the world: Mindy Wong in work identifies herself using a collection of magnified images of her hair, skin and other parts of her body.

Robert Yankou (ME ’13), on the other hand, questions our understanding of “color”, as it is mathematically displayed using a limited, discrete set of numbers.

William Biesiadecki (ME ‘14) questions how reliable our memory is, comparing human memories to evanescent ripples on the pond.

Elizabeth Kilson (EE ‘14) tries to get the closest view on animals using her camera, offering a different look on the small creatures we run into every day. There are also explorations on technology of photography, as Uyên Nguyễn’s (ME ‘14) holograms, or Victor Chen’s (EE ‘13) attempt to abandon normal flat images and to see the world in a different angle, a distorted, fish-eye way.

All in all, the exhibition shows that engineers can also be great artists, raising similar questions as artists do, only using more scientific tools such as microscopes and infrared lights. Would it be a mere coincidence that Joann Lee’s pictures strikingly resemble Magritte’s The Empire of Light?

Photos by Jenna Lee (ME’15)

2012 Election Summary

Matthew Lee (ME ‘15)

Tuesday, November 6th marked the re-election of Barack Obama as President of the United States. President Obama won the election with 332 electoral votes to Mitt Romney’s 206, a notable drop from then Senator Obama’s landslide victory over Senator McCain of 359 over 179. In addition, the 2012 popular vote was won by only about 3,000,000 votes, where the 2008 election carried Obama by more than 10,000,000 votes.

This year Obama won more votes from non-white voters, young voters, women, and those in big cities. Romney won more votes from college graduates and those with higher incomes.

Republicans lost 2 seats in the Senate, which were replaced by 1 Democratic and 1 Independent Senator. In the House of Representatives, Republicans lost 9 seats, Democrats gained 2, and the remaining 7 Representatives are of neither political party.

This election had some other notable results. This election marks the first time since 1820 that three consecutive incumbent presidents have been re-elected. Due to Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey voters were permitted to email their votes in, the first time in history this has ever occurred. Two astronauts voted from the International Space Station. The first Asian-American Woman and the first Buddhist Senator was elected in Hawaii, Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii). Mrs. Hirono was a member of the House of Representatives, and her successful election gave way to the election of the first Hindu Representative, Tulsi Gabbard.

For the first time, marijuana was legalized for recreational use in Colorado and Washington. Medical Marijuana is currently legal in 18 states. Same-sex marriage was legalized in Maryland, Maine, and Washington. These three states are the first to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote, rather than by legislation or litigation. Minnesota became to first state to reject a state-wide constitutional ban against same-sex marriage. 38 states currently have same-sex marriage bans, 9 states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage, and 3 have no laws for or against same-sex marriage.

Your Flu Shot Counts: Get One

Tensae Andargachew (ME ‘15)

On Monday, November 12, 2012, the Cooper Union offered students, faculty, and a staff a free flu vaccination, attempting to entice the community with a chance at winning an Amazon gift card and the opportunity to throw a pie at Dean Wolf’s face. Although the latter was only allowed should 60% of the Cooper population get vaccinated, which we failed to accomplish, an estimated 230 people (roughly 25% of the school) got the flu shot that day. An additional 70 people had also received a flu shot, either from Cooper’s October flu shot program, or from CVS, Walgreens, or their family doctor, meaning that for all intents and purposes approximately 30% of the school has received the 2012 vaccine.

What does this mean for the Cooper community? For starters, almost 1 in 3 people we meet in the halls, on the staircases or in the Foundation Building will have been vaccinated. So suppose there was an outbreak of the flu in the school. Dean Wolf provided a computer simulation, written by Shane Killian and modified by Robert Webb, whose work has been featured in PC Plus Magazine, written to mathematically model what might happen in the case of an outbreak. I ran a simulation with 30% of the population inoculated, to see a possible outcome:

At the end of this simulation, 99.63% of the people who were not vaccinated got the flu, while 50.58% of the people who were inocculated got the flu. Of course, this is a very general stochastic mathematical model, which may not be the most accurate model of what might happen to our instituition, should there be an outbreak. The model assumes a population of 800 while our population is closer to 1100. This model also seems to assume complete and total interaction of the population, which is not necessarily what happens to the extent the model presumes.

Moreover, the model also seems to assume that the people who are vaccinated are randomly dispersed throughout the population. However, the data suggests otherwise – 22% of the students of the School of Engineering received the vaccination, while 18% of the students from the School of Art and 20% from the School of Architecture did.
This model may well be a best case scenario for the school, which should be a very sobering fact. Had 80% been inoculated, we would have reached “herd inoculation” which would have protected almost all of us.

However, there is one thing that this simulation does tell us which is unfortunately even more dour – the flu virus is an incredibly contagious disease.

This year’s vaccination tackles three different strains of the virus – one influenza A H3N2 virus, one influenza A H1N1 virus (swine flu) and one influenza B virus.

All three are particularly nasty and someone getting one of these during the school year, introducing it into the school would not bode well for many of us. Many people don’t appreciate the difference between the common cold and the flu. Flu symptoms are often much worse, and can last for up to two weeks.

There is however at least one good thing that did come of this: those who were vaccinated have a reduced chance of getting the flu, as will the people they associated with, according to some studies. Also, if you are vaccinated, and still get the flu, your symptoms are likely to be less severe. Still, despite the extended hours for getting a flu shot and the relative ease of getting a shot – at best roughly 30% of the school is vaccinated. What might be attributed to the low turnout?

One possibility is that the hours did not work for all students. And while it is true that the School of Art, School of Engineering and School of Architecture have different hours, it seems unlikely that ten minutes could not be spared by more people. Dean Wolf believes that, in part, the low turnout was due to some misconceptions that students have about the vaccination itself.

As he went around the school on Monday night, advocating all get the flu shot, he had encountered some students who believed that because they ate healthy and exercised regularly, the flu shot was not necessary. Some believed myths about the flu shot – such as that it gave Alzheimer’s or autism. None of that is supported by medical science, for the record.

There is another possibility, and it is the case with so many other times in life – people figured that “everyone else will do what needs to be done (get a flu shot), so I don’t need to. But failing to get a flu shot because you believe others will is free riding on the sanitary responsibility of others.”

The numbers from this round of flu vaccinations at Cooper do not indicate that to be a safe bet at all. The safest, and wisest, thing to do is to get the shot because you will be protecting your health and the health of others.