Category Archives: Events

AIChE in San Fran

by Robert Godkin (ChE ’18). Photos by author.

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From November 11-14, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers hosted the annual Student Conference in San Francisco, where students studying chemical engineering were able to attend presentations, learn more about the field, and compete in the annual world-wide Chem-E-Car competition. It was truly an amazing experience, and witnessing the collaboration and organization from the hosting school inspired everyone who attended. With the help of the Career Center, Cooper ChemEs were able to fly out and participate in the student events.

After arriving in San Francisco, Cooper students explored a bit of the city and met some of the hosts of the Conference.  The weather complied with the event, and allowed for everyone to take in the sights near Fisherman’s Wharf, Lombard Street, and of course, the Golden Gate Bridge. The conference involved back-to-back days of lectures, presentations, and student events. Some of the highlights included talks on process safety in the chemical engineering industry, topics on particle technology involving solids handling, as opposed to standard fluid handling, discussions on processes of brewing, and new methods of energy efficiency. Though Cooper did not advance to the national Chem-E-Car competition, an event where student teams build and design chemical reactions to fuel a car to move a designated distance, students went to support and cheer on some of the other teams in participation.

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Additionally, students were able to attend the AIChE career fair, where many companies and graduate school were in attendance. Because of the large ratio of students to employees, the lines were long, but students were able to speak with representatives from Chevron, Honeywell, and more companies. Following many of the events, Cooper undergraduates met up with some of the ChemE graduate students, alumni, and professors! Professors Davis, Lepek, and Maidenberg met with Cooper students, and then stayed for the professional AIChE conference for the remainder of the week. ◊

More photos on Instagram @cu_mx

Ten Days in Mexico City: Third-Year Architects’ Travelling Studio Class

By Pranav Joneja (ME ’18)

This semester, third-year architects are studying architecture in the Mexican capital region—but they’re going about it in a way that’s never been done before at Cooper. In fact, it’s not even technically at Cooper. On September 23, the entire Architecture Class of 2019 embarked on a trip to the Mexican capital and returned just yesterday. Travelling with them was Dean of Architecture Nader Tehrani as well as Prof. Mersiha Veledar, Prof. Maria Gonzalez Pendas, Prof. Michael Young and Mauricio Higuera. Mauricio planned the logistic intricacies—he even has a 3-foot-by-6-foot map of Mexico City hanging in his office, with pins marking all the sites they intend to visit.

Their itinerary was packed with “site visits, exploring buildings not open to the public and discussions with expert scholars,” according to Dean Elizabeth O’Donnell, Associate Dean of the School of Architecture. In her experience, “once you’re an architect, you’re no longer a neutral tourist. Even though you’ve seen photos, and designs and models of the structures, visiting the thing itself is so important.” She referred to the works of architect Félix Candela she taught the same students about last year. She added, “To study something abstractly—through photographs and structural concepts—is one thing, but to actually climb the shell and feel the curvature in your bones and walk the scale yourself is another thing entirely.”

More photos on Instagram @cu_mx
More photos on Instagram @cu_mx

Such a trip is unprecedented. The idea to incorporate a travelling portion to the curriculum originated from a student, Kevin Savillon (Arch ’19), while in discussion with Dean of Architecture Nader Tehrani. Faculty said that Dean Tehrani’s immediate interest in having an ‘on the ground’ research component made the trip academically compelling and ultimately possible. It took over two semesters of meetings between Savillon, Dean Tehrani and others to make the trip happen. They just had to figure out how to incorporate it in the jam-packed architecture curriculum and then pick a place to go.

The trip to Mexico is folded into the curriculum halfway through the students’ Cooper career. It is part of the requirements for Analysis Studio, a class in which the students each pick a work of architecture and conduct research through nearly every lens imaginable—from studying street-grid traffic to learning about how climate effect and solar conditions affect the design. In previous years, third-year Design Studio classes picked buildings around a theme, like libraries or focused on precursors to modernism. But they never had the opportunity to visit the sites they studied so intensely. That’s what is different about incorporating this trip in Design III.

The question on their mind while choosing where to go was “what would be the most culturally and experientially powerful choice” that was not too far away (so as to keep costs down). Indeed, costs were an important deciding factor. The trip was funded within the School of Architecture’s Special Project Fund—that is to say, within the budget of the school, without any outside donations. So is that justified in the context of the Cooper Union’s steep budget cuts and demands for even more cuts coming soon to reduce deficit spending?

The idea is to fund this trip in this way this year and then get it endowed by an outside donor for years to come. Of course, there were other projects that the Special Project Fund would have been spent on but now must be
foregone. Still, the value of this trip is substantial and enduring. Not only is the trip valuable to the travelling students’ own practice, but the trip also fosters bonds with other architecture scholars internationally but also builds an incredible archive of global work and understanding that will be familiar to future Cooper architecture students.

This trip in the present has the potential to radically change the students’ practice and identity now and even decades from now. ◊

More photos on Instagram @cu_mx
More photos on Instagram @cu_mx

Student Comments:

“There’s a moment so surreal when one physically enters a space that has only been experienced through literary references and secondhand representations. The implementation of a traveling portion within the ‘analysis’ studio gives students the opportunity and fulfillment of experiencing a built structure in-person in tangent to its site, culture, and history.

Five days after visiting the building that I will be analyzing for the entire semester, my class took a trip to School of Architecture at UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México). During that visit, we were shown the ‘Archive of Mexican Architects’, wherein I found countless original drawings of the Museo Tamayo. There were drawings of construction details, isometrics of electrical mapping of the building, to the details of screws used to holster up the skylights—none of which were digitized or copied and stored elsewhere.

But what was even more interesting and enlightening about traveling to Mexico were the conversations that I have had with professors and historians about the history of the building, the construction and political process in developing the project, as well as their personal experiences in visiting the building 30 years ago.

I hope this experiment of traveling abroad in tangent to the analysis semester proves successful and continues for years to come. Cheers to Dean Nader Tehrani for taking a risk and making this program come to life!” - Kevin Savillon

More photos on Instagram @cu_mx
More photos on Instagram @cu_mx

This trip was so fantastically educational for me. I come from an incredibly monotonous suburb in a country without much cultural identity, so the opportunity to be immersed in a place with so much heritage and ambition that translates architecturally was so great and really moving. – Joyce Li

“Mexico city seems to be a collage of different cultures and eras, and it is precisely this mixture what Mexicans feel represented by. It is apparent in the architecture we have seen the influence of the country’s heritage and geographic location: from Barragan’s use of color to the way a great amount of buildings play with rain water, such as Ramírez Vázquez in Museo de Antropología.” - Mireya Fabregas 

“Apart from the architectural riches Mexico has to offer, I find the traveling studio to be a great way to get to know the my fellow students and the professors. First time excitement not only on a geographical base, but also in terms of social and intellectual interaction. I could not have imagined a more delightful introduction to The Cooper Union!”
- Bastiaan Vandersanden

More photos on Instagram @cu_mx
More photos on Instagram @cu_mx
Concert.fish team working. Photo by Wentao Zhang (ChE '19)

HackCooper

By Brandon Quinere (CE ’19)

There’s a scene in the TV series Silicon Valley where the gang at Pied Piper recruit a young programmer known as “The Carver” to configure their application to the cloud. After spending the night going through each line of code to fix an error, he crashes on the couch. “You said you could code for 48 hours straight.” An extremely lethargic Carver replies, “How do you think I do that? Adderall.” While there were no traces of Adderall at Cooper’s third annual student hackathon over the weekend, there was a whole lot of caffeine.

HackCooper was held over a 24-hour period in the NAB, opening the doors of our building to students eager to explore their maker side. Whether you were new to hacking or already adept at a programming language, all students were encouraged to register and participate in this weekend-long event in the hopes of winning from a selection of prizes.

Using the resources at hand as well as their own individual skillsets, participating students at HackCooper teamed up with one another to brainstorm through the night and develop an original project. “Cooper’s hackathon is all about giving students the time and resources to discover and explore work that really interests them,” said coordinator Zach Tzavelis (ME ‘19) on the goals of HackCooper.

Submitted team creations were evaluated by a judging panel and appropriately awarded in a number of categories including Most Technical Hack, Best Data Privacy Hack, and the biggie: Best Overall Hack. Prizes for each award varied, given the wide variety of sponsors supporting the event including Facebook, LinkedIn, Bloomberg, Viacom, and Autodesk.

Mentors from the sponsors were also available for mentorships throughout the night, allowing students to communicate one-on-one with industry professionals about their hack. In addition, various tech talks were given in both Rose Auditorium and classrooms. Furthermore, Major League Hacking, the official student hackathon league backing HackCooper, made available different software packages and hardware for teams to use in their projects. And of course, in typical hackathon fashion, there was much “swag” to be given out.

Virtual Reality. Photo by Wentao Zhang (ChE '19)
Virtual Reality. Photo by Wentao Zhang (ChE ’19)

Designated classrooms and labs were open for teams to use, allowing them to camp out in their workspaces and develop their creation before the submission deadline in the morning. Because this was an overnight event, student coders were aware of the imminent risk of sleep deprivation, but excessive caffeine consumption was definitely not encouraged. The onsite rep from Major League Hacking, Li Chen, put it best: “If you’ve never had a Red Bull before, tonight’s not the night to try it for the first time.”

By the morning, familiar classroom arrangements were left unrecognizable as teams tirelessly worked to submit their hacks on time. After a preliminary round of judging on Sunday afternoon, the participants and judges gathered in Rose to see the eligible teams present and demo their projects onstage. Winners were determined and announced shortly after these final demos. This year’s submissions can be found at: http://hackcooper2016.devpost.com/submissions

Best Overall Hack went to Concert.fish, a project made with the intent of making music listening more collaborative through listener feedback. Concert.fish was developed by the team consisting of Rafi Mueen (BSE ‘19), Michael Lendino (EE ‘20), Andrey Akhmetov (EE ‘20), Richard Yee (Art ‘18), and Michael Ossienov. The team was granted an all­-expenses-­paid trip to the Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, CA to participate in Facebook’s own hackathon. ◊

Chris Watkins (EE '19). Photo by Wentao Zhang (ChE '19).
Chris Watkins (EE ’19). Photo by Wentao Zhang (ChE ’19).

Consent Workshop Mandatory at First-Year Orientation

By Tandis Shoushtary (Art ‘20) and Juan José García (Art ‘20)

On September 2, the last day of first-year orientation before classes started, crowds of first-year art, engineering, and architecture students filled the Great Hall to begin their mandatory full-day Healthy Relationships and Consent Workshops. After some welcoming remarks by Dean of Students Chris Chamberlin, and an introduction to Grace Kendall, newly appointed Title IX Coordinator and Director of Student Diversity and Inclusion, students were able to attend the first of three workshops of their choice in the new full-day program aimed at educating students on the topic of consent in college communities. The event was led by Anti-Oppression Resource and Training Alliance (AORTA) representatives.

Interview with Chris Chamberlin, Dean of Students

How did you get in contact with AORTA?

We actually got in touch with them a couple years ago, we were working with some students to bring a group to campus to talk about consent and do consent-related activities, and AORTA was one of the groups we found. We used their help for two consent workshops last year.

How did students engage with the workshop last year?

Last year, it wasn’t really a part of orientation. Attendance for the first one was not mandatory, so I think we had about four to eight students show up. It was a good workshop, but it just wasn’t what we were looking for in terms of turnout. So we reconvened, and we went back and forth about making a consent workshop mandatory because it almost seems counterintuitive to make a consent event mandatory. Still, we felt that the content was important so we made it mandatory and had a larger turnout for the event. It was good but it was also different, because it was a large space and it didn’t allow for a lot of one-on-one interaction, so some people get lost in the back. We learned a lot from that experience.

There are certain federal and state statutes requring that certain information must be given to students—such as Title IX, and The Violence Against Women Act on the federal level, and under New York law Enough Is Enough. Years ago, we used an online training to fulfill legal requirements, but based on feedback from last year, we wanted to make it offline, real-time and part of orientation. Last year, quite frankly, it was sort of thrown at the students at the last minute, and some of them didn’t want to be bothered. Once classes start it’s very difficult to find time when
people are free, so we knew that if we didn’t get it in during orientation [this year] it would’ve probably never happened.

Tell us more about the change in format.

A lot of the credit goes to AORTA. I met with them to discuss the pros and cons of what had happened last year, and how we could appeal to an audience in different ways. People may want to focus on different areas, and some of the topics can be really personal for folks and people have different experiences that they can bring to the table, so we wanted them to have the ability to pick and choose what they wanted to do. We came up with this conference-style day where there are three different block periods during the day and in each of those periods there would be a series of four workshops; students can select the workshop they go to.

The idea was to give people a spectrum of choice in some broader areas of consent in general, like how to help build a positive community, and also focus on some more narrow topics, like how to support a survivor. We have no formal survey yet, but the general feedback from students has been very positive.

Why do you, personally, think these workshops matter at college communities, specifically at Cooper?

In particular, because Cooper is a college, and students are in that age range where they’re changing from their parents’ care to becoming young adults and living on their own—and doing their own thing. In the research, this period is called the “red zone”, particularly with first year students.

At Cooper we have three really rigorous academic programs, and so we have a niche body of very high-achieving students, some who may come from a more specialized high school background.

The small size of the school means that it can be a really small, intimate environment, but that can be a downside sometimes. This is the kind of place where you can’t fade into the background, and that’s why some of the tools, like bystander intervention, were really important to our community at Cooper.

Interview with Kane Huyn (Art ‘20)

What did you think of the day as a whole?

I thought it was a very rigorous day, I learned an intense amount of information… Some moments within the workshops especially the ones related specifically to the queer and trans community were very taxing… Overall it was a very humbling experience, more in relation to the personal stories shared by fellow students during the workshops, rather than the information being offered by the reps

Why do you think it is (or isn’t) important to have events like these for college communities, specifically at Cooper?

I think it’s super important to have events related to social integrities and conduct because no matter how much students of our age think we know about how to handle situations that we find ourselves in, we can never know enough. Events like the consent workshop not only teach lessons that some may have never learned, they conjure discussion and deeper interaction between the student body. It’s impossible to be completely aware of everyone’s stories and lives, and for me, workshops that humble you and bring you closer to others around you are extremely helpful to the bettering of yourself as a person and a participant of an active community.

Interview with Ariana Freitag (EE ‘20)

Which workshop was your favorite?

I found the ‘Consent in Queer and Trans Communities’ workshop the best because I felt like I was surrounded by people that I felt safer around talking about things that I wouldn’t want to talk about with non-LGBT people. Also, I really like the topics we talked about and the people who hosted that workshop.

What did you think of the day as a whole?

I thought that the day was really valuable, and I’m glad that we were required to go, but it was also a very long day. I think the organization that hosted the workshops did a great job, but by the end of the day, I felt almost overwhelmed by how much we had to sit through.

Did you like the format of the workshops?

Yeah I appreciated that [the format was conference style rather than a lecture]. I do wish some were even more interactive though.

Why do you think it is (or isn’t) important to have events like these for college communities, specifically at Cooper?

I think that people brush consent and sexual violence under the rug at Cooper because it’s such a small school, but the matter of fact is that rape is an epidemic at every college or university campus, including here. It’s important for the administration to set a precedent at the beginning of someone’s Cooper career that rape and sexual violence is not okay. Yeah, you might not want to spend time talking about these topics, but it’s extremely important to stop rape on college campuses. I just hope the support for victims and survivors started with this event will be continued by the actions that the administration takes when rape or sexual violence is reported.

Interview with Valerie Franco (Art ‘19)

What was the format like when you attended the workshop last year?

It was just an hour-long lecture with the entire first-year class. That was it. I don’t actually know if it was really an hour, but it wasn’t an all-day event.” [Editor’s note: it was two hours].

How did the students engage with the lecture?

People weren’t taking it seriously; some people kept on laughing and making irrelevant comments. It just wasn’t well-structured and they kept on making us participate and answer questions but in general nobody was interested. At one point someone raised their hand and asked “why do we need to learn about this? It’s so obvious.” which just showed how many people in the community are largely unaware. I remember thinking “if it were so obvious, we wouldn’t have so many cases.” It was just a complete disaster.

Why do you think events like these matter at college communities, especially at Cooper?

“I think it matters because colleges are so diverse, specifically Cooper. It’s important to assure that, even if you have been educated on it before, people have a good understanding of what consent is and its repercussions.”

What do you wish had been different about the workshop you attended as a freshman?

“I wish it had been more informative, it wasn’t even really a lecture but more of a talk on what we had completed on the online courses.”

According to the Association of American Universities, approximately 23% of women report being sexually assaulted while in college. If you’ve experienced sexual violence and would like a confidential resource to talk to, The Office of Student Affairs is open on the third floor of The Cooper Union Residence Hall. ◊

Orientation Recap

By Michael Pasternak (ME ’17)

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“Welcome to Cooper, you’ll love it here!” That was the routine line students used to greet the first year students on move in day.  Their reactions were very mixed, some wanted to figure out if they were being sold something, some responded with a cheerful greeting, and others were too nervous to really show any reaction at all.

Since that first day of move in, there have been dozens of events to introduce the newest Cooper students into the community.  That might not seem like a big deal to the older students of the school, but it’s worth pointing out that freshmen orientation was almost entirely student-run.  Many of the active clubs participated, in the hopes of finding like-minded first years to join them in their hobbies and passions.  Such an orientation is only possible because of the welcoming nature of the Cooper community and the size of the school.

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The events were generally well received.  A particular winner was the dinner cruise as it was an excellent way for students to bond both with each other and with the city—a definite possibility for a repeat event in the future. Intervarsity Christian Fellowship (IV) and fraternity Zeta Psi collaboritvely organized volunteers for move-in.

Additionally, this year included a much longer sexual assault and consent workshop than in the past—a full day of orientation as opposed to an hour.

Other events included the Engineering Student Council (ESC) information session and the annual Block Party. The Block Party brought in longtime friends and alumni of Cooper alongside current students from all three schools. A plethora of materials concerning Cooper’s history and the recent Free Cooper Union protests were distributed at the party.

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Dinner Cruise for Freshman Orientation. Photos by Office of Residence Life.

The ESC information session gave first years an idea of the problems that Cooper faces day to day. In fact, there was a focus on giving a realistic picture of Cooper as a school which has been through a lot but is doing its best to move forward. Students felt more welcome knowing the flaws rather than being given a whitewashed view of the school.

“Students felt more welcome knowing the flaws rather than being given a whitewashed view of the school.”

The variety of events was neither overwhelming nor sparse. The first years felt welcomed to the school in a way that made them prepared for the coming academic year. In general, majority of the first years felt the upperclassmen were open and helpful concerning both orientation events and the beginning of classes. They all felt it was a natural lead-in, even students who lived off campus. ◊

 

Not the March Madness You’re Thinking of, the Other One

Toby Stein ( CE’18)

March Madness 1 PC Winter

Professor Yecko (above) and Professor Baglione (below) present at the 2nd Annual March Madness event on Tuesday, March 29. Photos by Winter Leng (ChE ‘18).

March Madness 2 PC Winter

It was March, and it was Madness. What can only be summarized as a semi-packed Rose Auditorium gathered to hear our own professors orate on the topics that they held most near, and most dear to their hearts. As professors slowly trickled into Rose, the excitement in the air was palpable, like the buzz before a championship game. All week the professors practiced their three-minute drills. What they would do under pressure? How would they keep their composure after a call did not go their way? Only time would tell.

After a quick coin flip and introductory statement, Dean Anita Raja took the snap, and handed it off to the first back, perennial contender, Professor Mintchev. Starting of the game strong, and setting the bar high, Mintchev spoke about his interest in mathematical neuroscience, however, he drew a five yard penalty due to his lack of regard for the apparently strict ‘only five words after the buzzer goes off’ rule.  Following right after him was the rapid-fire duo of Professor Cataldo speaking about the green roof on the Javits Center, and then Professor Baglione explaining possible energy efficiency improvements to the engineering building, as well as research within the vibrations lab. Batting cleanup was Professor Davis who hit an absolute tape measure home run with his explanation of designing chemical processes that are more sustainable and have less impact of on the environment. Much to the tangible anticipation of everyone in the audience, Professor Yecko stormed the stage, ignoring the doctor’s advice, and boldly playing through his broken hand to deliver a MVP performance in discussing the intricacies of transport and control in time dependent and stochastic flows. As the first quarter wrapped up, it was shaping up to be an absolute blowout, but the oncoming professors were confident primed for a strong inning in the next round.

Unfortunately, the second period began with a bit of a sad start, as Professor Topper was reported out for the rest of the game due to sickness. The fans, however, were still given a show, watching his power point in silence for the duration of what would be his time. The audience described it as “the most hard hitting presentation of the day” and “the silence spoke volumes to his research”. Similarly, Professor Cumberbatch also reported an injury, as he had a case of ‘being in Ghana’, and his
presentation had to be delivered by his replacement: perennial senior Chris Curro. Blazing through the middle innings were Professor Dell with his description of engineering the impossible, Professor Raja with her crusade towards predicting preterm birth, and Professor Wolf with his use of high speed video cameras to study a variety of engineering and science topics as well as building with magnetic fields.

Quickly emerging from the locker room, with his “basement prototype” Professor Smyth explained how simple introductory linear algebra could be coupled with some cannibalized Logitech instruments to create a mouse that provided the user with motion with six degrees of freedom. Professor Fontaine quickly asserted his play calling expertise in demonstrating how you “cheat” to represent information with less data than the theory requires. Point guard Professor Sidebotham explained a new theory on space heating technology, much to the chagrin of the chilly audience members who were seemingly affected by the quick change in the rink’s weather conditions.

The bottom half of the genetic engineering set was covered by outside hitter Professor Medvedik, as he explained what is innovative on the frontier of recombinant DNA technology. Next, Professor Luchtenburg discussing his research into modeling and feedback control of complex systems, with specific reference to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Professor Wootton’s investigation into better classifying and quantifying sleep apnea put major points up on the scoreboard, and he left the stage confident that his final score would put his team over the top so that they could snag the victory.

Overall, March Madness was a resounding success yet again, drawing a massive crowd, young and old alike. If you were a complete hooligan of a human and did not show up, but are interested in doing some research into some of the presentations discussed above, I encourage you to talk to a professor, and find out what you can do this summer to help them out!