Category Archives: Events

Panel on Surveillance

Tensae Andargachew (BSE ‘15)

From the moment you swipe your debit card to pay for something, to the moment you make a phone call to anyone, anywhere – you are being watched. Indeed, the ubiquitous trail of data that everyone leaves behind is being collected and possibly processed and surveyed.

Last Monday, in the Great Hall, there was a discussion held on this very issue – the issue of surveillance. The discussion, moderated by Paul Garrin (A’82), and featuring Stanley Cohen, Paul DeRienzo, James Bamford and Donna Lieberman was one that was very informative – telling the audience of the potential pitfalls of surveillance.

The first member of the panel to take the stage was Stanley Cohen. He began with a simple unrelated remark: “Lincoln was taller, but I have a better beard”. He then went on and acknowledged people who have made contributions to the discussion on privacy, rights, and surveillance: Chelsea Manning (formerly known as Bradley Manning), Edward Snowden, and Daniel Ellsberg. After this, he stated that the underlying culture of surveillance comes from the government’s need to do all that it can to protect itself.

Following Cohen’s introduction, Paul DeRienzo gave a number of case histories concerning instances of the government agencies of America spying on the citizenry. He told a story about a homeless woman who was taken to court after stumbling upon some sensitive documents. The judicial process incurred costs this woman had to pay that DeRienzo deemed outrageous relative to her crime. According to DeRienzo, his concerns over the cost of the proceedings were ignored because the accusing party was only interested in getting a conviction. He concluded his talk with a stark reminder that someone always watches us and a suggestion that the only way to combat the FBI is to use their own tactics against them.

After Paul DeRienzo came James Bamford, who spoke on the N.S.A’s history, and his understanding of the agency. He concluded his speech by asking the audience to be listeners, and stating that he believes the opacity of the N.S.A. would be cleared away some day, and become a totally transparent agency.

Finally, before the panelists had their discussion, Donna Lieberman took the stage and told stories of people receiving arbitrary convictions as a reminder that often, there is very good reason to keep their guard up. She also spoke on the ills of collections of big data, pointing out that it not only violates liberties, but also makes searching for the ‘needle in the haystack’ harder and inefficient.

For the next hour and a half, the panelists convened on the stage in the Great Hall, discussing many things – the differences between lawful and constitutional, and the erosion of privacy. After questions from the audience were taken, the event concluded. Everyone walked out more informed and more aware, but still watched. ◊

Online Portfolio Seminar

Matthew Lee (ME ‘15)

On Tuesday September 17th, Create@Cooper hosted an Online Portfolio building seminar taught by Eric Leong. The event was sponsored by The Hackerati, a Cooper Union startup hardware and software company. Sharang Phadke opened the evening with a broad overview of Create@Cooper: “It’s not a club; it’s more of a professional organization. The goal is to give Cooper students some real opportunities. We want to connect them with startups, and make some real impact with their work. We want people to be excited to show off what they’ve done.”

Eric Leong then took over, opening up Notepad++ on the projector. He rapidly typed out a few lines of HTML markup. In a couple short seconds, he saved his files and opened a new webpage in his browser containing his name and a short bio of himself. Throughout the hour, Eric demonstrated how to add various pieces of text, use CSS to format different fonts and colors, and move text around a webpage. “Making the website is simple; you can Google any tutorial on how to write some html or CSS. The hard part is having good content.”

Eric recommended Mozilla developer network, and to a lesser extent w3schools.com, to look up various tutorials and references on how to code. Leong constantly emphasized the importance of experimenting with the building of a website by inspecting the source code of other websites. Firefox and Chrome both have an “Inspect Element” tool that lets you examine the code that is used to format already existing sites. The lesson concluded with a short explanation of how to get one’s website online.

Leong recommended using Amazon S3 to host your files, and namecheap.com to buy a domain name. Rob Marano, one of the Co-founders of The Hackerati, and an adjunct Engineering professor at Cooper, gave some closing statements.

For more information about the Hackerati: thehackerati.com/

Free Cooper Union General Meeting

Joseph T. Colonel (EE ’15)

Folks who walked into the Rose Auditorium for Free Cooper Union’s General Meeting this past Wednesday were greeted by a half dozen stacks of miniature crimson manila envelopes vaguely reminiscent of the packets given and received on Chinese New Year. Unlike their Chinese counterparts, which typically contain money to usher in a new year filled with prosperity and good luck, these manila envelopes contained contents that outlined exactly why the Cooper Union projects a $16,000,000 deficit this school year, one bound to be fraught with tension, unease, and unrest. These “disorientation packets” contained a timeline outlining Cooper’s financial history, a reader describing Free Cooper Union’s demands and principles, and a zine containing five articles and a 990 form detailing the compensation of Cooper’s ten highest paid employees.

The meeting began at 9:15 PM with Casey Gollan (Art ’13) addressing the nearly full Rose Auditorium on the creation of Free Cooper Union and its actions up until this past summer. Vincent Hui (A ’15) went on to describe the occupation of the president’s office and the press it generated. Afterward Anna Vila (Art ’15) described summer activities associated with Free Cooper Union separate from the occupation, including workshops in Wisconsin about student power. The night concluded with a Q&A session moderated by Harrison Cullen (BSE ’15).

A recording of the event can be found on Free Cooper Union’s usteam account, on Free Cooper Union’s Facebook timeline, or at bit.ly/183n8jw

“Culture Central” Cooper’s Culture Show 2013

Yara Elborolosy (CE ’14)

On April 6th, hundreds of students filled the great hall for the annual culture, run by the South Asian Society. Sponsored by Dean Baker, the culture show demonstrates that Cooper Students can bring more to the table than their intelligence. The emcees for the night were once again Marcello Ricottone (ChE’14), Jonathon Ostrander (ME’14), Alexa Reghenzani (Arch’15), and Sharang Phadke (EE’14), entertaining the crowd between every act. The night started off with Poco a Poco, an instrumental group that just started up this year. They broke up their act into two parts, the first part composed of tubas, trombones, and trumpets while the second part composed of the string instruments. Playing classics that most of the audience recognized made the act a great way to start the night. Next up was SAS Girl Dance, a recurring act that manages to be different every year. They danced to a mixture of contemporary upbeat Bollywood music, which made the act enjoyable to listen to and watch. Afterword, the Cooper Union Breakdance club performed with some new recruits including, for the first time in my last three years here, girls.

Professor Lepek once again awed us by playing a classic on the piano, filling the great hall with beautiful music. Ballroom dance club danced elegantly, showing off their Argentina Tango and Salsa skills. Chinese Yo-yo, an act that started off as a one-man show, evolved into an eight-person group during the culture show. This allowed for many amusing tricks, such as passing yoyos to each other. To end the first half of the talent show, SAS performed the guy’s dance, which was just as wonderful as the girl’s dance. Once again, they picked upbeat music and kept the crowd in good spirits. After a fifteen-minute intermission, the culture show started up again with the Cooper Union Gospel Choir, a singing group that just started up this year. Singing with beautiful, strong voices, Gospel Choir had the entire audience joining in, either by encouraging spectators to clap to the beat or sing along. Afterwards, CooperNova, another group that also just started up recently, entertained us with their dance moves. Dancing to songs from all over, CooperNova integrated cultures from members of their group into one great performance. Sons of Pitches, a male acapella quartet took over after CooperNova. They sang two songs, one more well known then the other, but did a wonderful job with both songs.

A new act performed by Mary Madison Mazur (CE’15) was up next, an Irish step dance called Kilkenny Races, a unique and wonderful act, showing us a great dance we may have never seen elsewhere. Coopertones came up next, our very own singing group. Celebrating their last performance with one of the senior members of the group, Coopertones sang beautifully as always. The dombra, a two stringed lute from Kazakhstan was played beautifully once more. Playing two well-known songs, Diana Yun (Art’13) filled the hall with elegant musical notes.

Chinese Student Association (CSA) performed a Chinese cultural dance, similar to the one performed last year. Their Chinese cultural dance fused ribbon and fan dance together with great light effects to create a beautiful performance. Last but certainly not least was the SAS group dance. Group dance was a very upbeat and fun performance to watch, made even more enjoyable was the reaction the audience had when President Bharucha came out during the Group Dance and joined along. Ending the night with delicious food that, Culture Show 2013 was an amazing event. The unsung steer of this year’s culture show was its integration of the three schools, across all years, into its acts.

This year was a shining example of how much better the performances will be because of it. If you missed the Culture Show, be sure to check out the videos all over Facebook.

Photo credits to William Biesiadecki (ME’14)

NASA’s Don Thomas Visits Cooper

Caroline Yu (EE ‘15)

Sunrise and sunset are two of the most breathtaking things on Earth. Imagine seeing the sun rise and sun set 16 times a day from an orbiting space shuttle. This is just one of the many experiences Dr. Don Thomas, former NASA astronaut, shared during his talk in the Great Hall.

After graduating with honors from the Case Western University with a degree in physics, Dr. Thomas received a masters and doctorate degree in Materials Science from Cornell University. These education degrees were pursued in hopes of becoming an astronaut, which Dr. Thomas was set on becoming since the age of six after seeing the first human be set off into space.

Dr. Thomas emphasized how important it is to work hard and do everything possible to achieve life dreams. The first time Dr. Thomas was not accepted into the space program he received an impersonal postcard in the mail and decided to look at what skills the people who were accepted had – even if those skills were not necessarily required.

After learning how to fly a small plane and skydive and even being interviewed by NASA and having family and friends background checked the third time he applied to the program, Dr. Thomas was still not accepted. Everyone has doubts from time to time, but it was clear that Dr. Thomas had no intention of giving up on his goal. In 1990, Dr. Thomas was hired by NASA and went on to serve as a communicator, direction of operations, mission specialist, program scientist at different times for NASA and go on four space missions.

When asked why there is a need to send people to space, Dr. Thomas answered by saying that humans explore: “This is what humans do.” He compared space exploration to pioneers who explored the land west of the Mississippi – at the time “it was risky to travel in a canvas-covered wagon.” Dr. Thomas also described the distinction between a picture of Neil Armstrong on the moon compared to a picture of just the Moon’s landscape. To him, it was the simple fact that humankind is able to get a human to the Moon that makes all the difference.

I asked Dr. Thomas of what he does when he is sharing his experiences with someone not necessarily interested in space missions:

“For the people not interested in science and exploration I try to emphasize the personal and human aspects of flying in space. I think the more personal you can make it the better chance you have of connecting with them. So I try to share my experiences in terms of imaging what it is like for that human being to be in that location (on the moon, on the way to Mars, on the ISS, etc).

“The key to scientists and engineers explaining the significance of their work to other individuals is to keep it in very simple terms and try to relate it to something in everyday life. Look for connections as to why the work or results are important or might be important in the lives of others. I always recommended that everyone should be able to describe their research and explain it to someone like your mom or dad at home. The minute you start talking over their heads, you lose them.”

But, there are many of us at Cooper who could listen to space mission stories all day. For more, read Professor Hopkins’s article in a national amateur radio magazine about how Dr. Thomas has been an inspiration to him as well at https://engfac.cooper.edu/pages/bob/uploads/9_Minute_QSO_Feb1.pdf

Dr. Thomas described his incredible experiences orbiting the Earth but the way in which he related our lives on Earth and the entire mission of his experience was truly inspiring. Personally, my favorite stories Dr. Thomas shared were how important it was to build up and maintain muscle mass and bone density in preparation of the flight as well as during the flight.

He described how one of the astronauts wrapped her feet around a pole to stop herself from moving backwards in a zero-gravity environment while she typed on a computer (this would happen due to Newton’s 3rd Law of motion), and how good it felt to eat refrigerated and non-powdered food on Earth after each mission.

With so many astonishing images of Earth from space, Dr. Thomas found the ones that demonstrated the impact of humans on Earth: “There are so many pictures of the Earth that stand out in my mind. I think seeing the entire continent of South America under a smoke pall from the deforestation and burning of the rainforest really made an impression on me, as did seeing the border between Israel and Egypt in the Gaza Strip. Both examples illustrate the impact that humans are having on the planet that is visible from 200 miles up.”

In addition to these pictures, it was incredible to see the pictures of Earth’s beautiful natural locations: the difference between desert and fertile land at the Nile River’s delta and the Himalayan mountain range where Mt. Everest was surrounded by mountains that looked quite similar.

It was hilarious when Dr. Thomas showed a picture of the top of Mt. Everest and joked how he saw the top of the tallest mountain on Earth “the lazy way.”

Traveling at five miles per second or conducting 80 experiments during a 15-day space mission is mindboggling, but Dr. Thomas’s stories and advice are what inspired me to never give up on what I hope to accomplish and always take great stride in human advancement and achievement.

Cooper GLASS’s First Drag Race

Josephina Taylor Conquistadora (EE ‘15)

On Thursday, March 29, Cooper Union’s GLASS (Gay Lesbian and Straight Spectrum) club held a drag race in the Rose auditorium, and we ain’t talkin’ bout no cars Miss Thing.

The anticipation was mounting as the minutes ticked by. Hercules and Love Affair played through the speakers of the Rose Auditorium, failing to satiate the appetite of an audience that filled nearly half of the space.

A picture of RuPaul, drag queen extraordinaire, shined on the projector and smiled upon the artists and engineers waiting for the show to begin. The music stopped, and the audience began to shift, itchy. It was supposed to start at eight, right?

A petite Asian girl came on to the stage and clumsily made her way to the podium, wearing a form fitting grey dress, black leggings, heels, and a blonde bob with fierce bangs. The audience erupted into applause, some stamping, some brought nearly to tears with laughter.
The girl flipped her hair, put a hand on her hip, and introduced herself: “Hi everybody, my name is Lulu Lemon, and welcome to Cooper Union’s first ever Drag Race!”

Emcee Lulu Lemon, four drag queens and one drag king, all sickening, left an audience that filled half the Rose Auditorium gagging on their eleganza. Lulu Lemon, Rosie, Erika, Benedick O. Steele, and Harry Vagina stomped the stage, kicking off the drag race with a runway walk to RuPaul’s “Cover Girl (Put the Bass in Your Walk).”

Events of the night included a literal race around the Rose Auditorium, a lipsync to Carly Rae Jepson’s “Call Me Maybe,” a group twerk to Azealia Banks’s “212”, and a pole dance. There were more than a few standout moments: Erika, serving up middle aged Asian mama realness, conquered the lap dance competition, leaving Benedick O. Steele covered in lipstick; Rosie’s flawless harassment of the audience, complete with winding and grinding on the mainstage; Benedick O. Steele giving all the queens a turn.

Most impressive, was Harry Vagina’s multiple surprise wardrobe changes, transforming her outfit from red carpet couture to daytime drag to Kinbaku swimsuit fierceness.

After all was said and done, the audience voted Harry Vagina as the winner, who won an Amazon gift card. The night was great fun, a welcome change from the doldrums of an often busy and flustered existence here at Cooper. Many look forward to the return of the Cooper Union Drag Race in the upcoming academic year.

Photos by Jenna Lee (ME’15)