Category Archives: Events

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

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)

Silent Protest on the Grand Staircase

Marcus Michelen (BSE ‘14)

At 12:30 in the afternoon on March 6th, students from The Cooper Union came together to sit on the Grand Staircase.  The original plan was for the student body to meet on the grand staircase and then move to where the Board of Trustee’s mythic March meeting was taking place.  According to a Facebook post advertising the protest, “The protest will be non-violent and completely silent, but it will be an opportunity to show the board that we can stand as one whole in support of our school.”

At 12:35, the protestors turned completely silent.  The Grand Staircase was entirely covered in students, save for a small aisle to allow the occasional passerby to walk down.  There were far too many students there to count.  Every whisper seemed loud enough to be heard as passersby stood around in the lobby.  Students were walking around on the fourth floor, taking pictures of the protestors.  From the second floor, the sound of each of these shutters clicking was very audible.  It was a deafening silence.

A few minutes later, student Pete Halupka, an organizer of the event, singled out each of the three majors and asked all students of that major to raise their hands.  The representation from each of the three majors was fairly even.  He then asked that all students raise their hand, in an effort to show that our majors are merely a superficial boundary we must conquer.

Halupka then informed the silent protestors that the Board of Trustees meeting had been moved to an off-campus location, and that this is the first time that such a meeting has been moved off-campus.

Another student, Caleb Wang spoke briefly about the planning of the silent protest and explained that the differences in opinion between students can only be a good thing, and encouraged interdisciplinary discussion and civil debate.

Near the end of the protest, a student stood in lobby and asked the protestors to raise their hand if they agree with the mission statement of the school as it is currently written.  Nearly every protestor raised his or her hand.  He then asked if the protestors agree that “an injury to one is an injury to all.”  Again, nearly every protestor raised his or her hand.  This was followed by applause.

Wang spoke a few words before the protest ended, again encouraging inter-major discussion and debate as Halupka wrote “We Care” on pieces of duct tape that he handed out to the protestors.

The event ended a little before 1 pm.

NSBE’s Charity Date Auction

Yara Elborolosy (CE ‘14)

This past Thursday, the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE for short), held the charity date auction to raise money for Socialite, a project led by Cooper faculty member Toby Cumberbatch to bring more solar powered lights to Ghana. These lights are carried around as lanterns to light the path at night since many of the towns there do not have sufficient lighting.

The charity date auction was held in the rose auditorium at 9pm Thursday, January 31st, and it was packed with not only engineering students but also art studnets as well. What was being auctioned off was a date for Feb Ceb, Cooper’s annual spring party held in the great hall.
People who want to be auctioned fill out a survey about themselves. Everyone has a song playing in the background as they walk to the stage and has their introduction read out loud. Bidding for men starts at three dollars while for women it starts at five dollars. You can even be sold as a set or a couple if you are too scared or uncomfortable to go on by yourself.

Everyone in the audience has a paper plate with a number on it which is how they raise the bid. It’s a pretty interesting way of bidding, with the risk of being offensive, insulting, or disrespectful. The students who did attend seemed to have no qualms with how the auction was in a sense selling humans as if they were cattle.

At the end of the night, this went on for about two to two and a half hours, over $2000.00 was raised, which beat last years record of over $1500. It goes to a wonderful cause but whether or not it is morally okay to reenact the selling of humans is a personal moral issue that each of you can determine for yourself.

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.

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)

New York Maker Faire - featured

New York Maker Faire

Saimon Sharif (ChE ‘15)

The World Maker Faire 2012 occurred on September 28th and 29th at the New York Hall of Science. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say many Cooper students attended Maker Faire. About 90% of students acknowledged they attended when Professor Wolf conducted an informal survey in physics lecture. Their motivation for attending was likely the same as the majority of the public. Maker Faire is ridiculously cool. Between 3D printers, life size mousetraps, ice cream eating competitions, Phineas & Ferb kites, there’s no reason to not make time for Maker Faire.

Beyond being entertaining for a day or two, Maker Faire serves the higher purpose of engaging both the public and children in science and engineering. A bit reductionist perhaps, but the more we engage the public in these fields, the more likely funding for them will increased. Furthermore, I can safely say that many of my fellow classmates would not have gone into science or engineering if they had not been exposed to the fields at a young age. We, as students, should present our projects as makers and inspire the next generation while passing on our passion for engineering and science.

Photos by Henry Wang (ME ‘15)