Archive for the ‘Cooper Union’ Tag

Why Am I Still There?

Floating Staircases of dooooooom

Floating Staircases of dooooooom

Random Observation/Comment #212: Life isn’t as complicated as everyone makes it out to be, but I see now, more than ever, that we like to make problems for ourselves to solve. If we didn’t try to be self-destructive and dig ourselves a huge hole, we’d feel the opposite of complete – we would have a life with no problems and it would be the most boring thing ever.  There’s never the ultimate end-point of satisfaction in completing all of your tasks because we’re always pursuing problems that we won’t find the solutions to in our own generation.  It’s always been the stride for that greatness that has kept me going.  Where do I get my enthusiasm to always start new hobbies?  Looking back on how quickly college went, I know life is short.  Looking back on how many great memories I’ve had with friends and family, I know life is worth living.  I’m always looking for the next unexpected moment of uncontrollable laughter or indescribable happiness.  All I really want is something that makes me feel involved.  As a scientist (and general weirdo/geek/nerd/engineer), I’ve always been a spectator in this social experiment; why not start actively participating?  I think this is a valid excuse for not posting in 2 weeks.

I hear this phrase a lot when I’m around the new building: “What are you still doing here?”  It’s a simple question, but I wonder how many people want to hear the full story behind it or they’re just expecting me to say something like “Oh, I’m just visiting.”  It would honestly take at least 15 minutes and a few drinks to get the idea through because I’m still not yet sure myself.

I feel oddly attracted to Cooper – a place that has tortured me for 5 years and still continues to haunt me in my dreams.  I almost avoid seeing professors with fear that they can still make me do problem sets for them.  The nauseating feeling I get when I hear Professors try to explain safety rules to me just instinctively returns when I discuss Senior Projects.  So then, why did I write an article about the new building and then subsequently join the Cooper Pioneer to do an article about the pool tables if all of this stuff brings back dry heaving? I’m not really sure because it wasn’t a conscious decision; it just happened that way.

You know, it’s not even the question that surprises me: it’s actually the tone in their voice when they ask the question.  It’s a tone of confusion mixed with a hint of “don’t you have better things to do than to be a part of this place again?”  I must admit that, at first, it was just purely to continue taking pictures in my tourist state and then pursuing a curiosity about the new place after chatting about it so much.  I actually wound up being the designated tour guide for many of my classmates since I somehow knew the place best.

But, after a while, I felt myself arrive to the building out of habit.  It’s a nice building with decent wifi and a “smart-people environment” so, why not?  Would I look more grown up sitting down at a Starbucks drinking a tea and typing away on my computer so some hot Asian girl in a tight white jean skirt that comes there every morning recognizes me and will maybe sit down to chat with me?  Would I become that guy that sits at Starbucks writing random stuff on their laptop pretending to grab inspiration from the surroundings with hopes that the girl would ask me what I was doing?  Am I sitting in the Starbucks to capture the full details of the experience where I spoke with this random girl and accidentally gave her a wrong number? Do I avoid the Starbucks every morning because I waited too long to show up there as a routine anymore so now she thinks I am avoiding her because I didn’t enjoy our initial chat about monkeys in suits?… Maybe she’ll get it right if she tries subtracting the phone number I gave her by 400,000.

Anyway, I’m at Cooper because it’s still a nice place to do work.  Even if it’s a new building, I’m still somehow pushed to get things done by the smart-vibes that this environment exudes in cartoonish stinky waves.  It might be sad, or probably really creepy, but I’m just doing what I know works for me.  Plus, being able to stay in the “college community” in some way makes me psychologically avoid my most important current problem of growing out of the college phase.  I felt like the time I had in Germany was so incredible that if I could give Cooper another chance, it could make up for all those all-nighters with coffee and redbulls, and replace them with all-nighters with vodka and redbulls.

Above all else, trying to do work anywhere near the place where you grew up playing with legos and wetting your bed is a lost cause.  Even if it’s for the commute into the city and getting some fresh air, I just need to get out of the comfortable PJs, occasionally shave, and maintain sanity.  You may think job hunting and interview practicing is fun (if you’re crazy), but in reality, I can’t always write emails and search websites for this crazy opportunities; I need to keep moving and work on something interesting.  I never knew this about myself, but it’s good to know to know now: I need a new project every few months to challenge a different part of my brain.  And just like that (imagine I snapped my fingers), I decided to go into finance (just kidding, I love it).

~See Lemons Flutter

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Cooper Grad Reviewing the New Academic Building

Cooper's foundation building from the new building

Cooper's foundation building from the new building

The NAB presents itself as a multitude of different concepts for students, faculty, alumni, and New Yorkers. To some, it is a beautiful architectural achievement which is comparable to the innovation of the Cooper Union Foundation building across the street. To others, the building brings some frustration with functionality and accommodating to new environments. However, with either perspective, the building will eventually become the homes of the students and an icon in Manhattan. It will grow and finally mix the art, architecture, and engineering schools – if not to study in the same space and interchange ideas, then to socialize and enjoy the city location and eccentric personalities.  We’ll all have criticisms, but it really is a change of scenery that didn’t epic fail as many early skeptics thought it would. Everyone from within started with a bad taste in their mouth for the lack of feedback and transparency in the process. For me, being proved wrong in my pessimism makes me slightly optimistic. The dust will settle and the schedules will be more organized with time.

As a recent Cooper graduate walking around the New Academic Building, I felt this strange feeling of being extremely old. It wasn’t that the building looks like an Apple store with less curved edges, but rather the fact that I no longer felt connected to Cooper the same way I was just a few months ago. The Wollman Lounge in the old engineering building really helped everyone mingle and relax, but now it’s just a little disconnected. Walking through the glowing building with the floating staircases and very stylish designs along the walls makes it feel like a futuristic museum that was built to help guide the tourists through the whole building without missing any exhibitions. Although I would love to see this building as a museum, it’s a school and I think the idea of functionality wasn’t the main focus of the design. It was quite a challenging project for any architect with high expectations, high demands, and annoying air space restrictions, so I do applaud Thom Mayne for a wonderful achievement. It’s been a headache for everyone involved to complete on schedule, but I’m sure the small complaints will subside and our familiarity will welcome the new additions.

In the architect’s defense, many people loathe big changes so there will always be nit-picky jabs of criticism. It’s probably because we just get used to our own little hacky fixes – it makes everything more personal when you know all the back doors, little secrets, and interesting stories behind the history of the building.  Hopefully this building grows similarly with Cooper history and will tell its own story in the future.  To all the best.

~ See Lemons Content

Cooper Union Alumni Message

Old School

Old School

The easy path would have been to take the Credit Suisse well-paying IT job in Manhattan, and start my life as a young professional with a bright future in finance. I saw all of my EE graduates tempted by these delicious dangling treats, and many of them gladly following the flow and natural subsequent phases. It was a difficult decision choosing between money and exploration, but it was a bold move that I’m very glad to say was the right decision. Starting with a 3-month study abroad program in Osaka University, I caught the travel bug and began looking for the less conventional methods of enjoying life after obtaining a Cooper education. While I was still in Japan, I connected with the engineering department in Hamburg University in Germany for another research opportunity. With the free semester in-between, I finished and defended my master’s thesis at Cooper. I was able to do this in a speedy-manner because I finished undergraduate with 25 credits more than required.  These credits were mostly graduate level courses, so I only needed to finish a thesis to obtain a Master’s degree.

From February 2009 to the beginning of September 2009, I worked on an artificial intelligence algorithm applied to robotics at Hamburg University. With my free time, I conducted my personal comparisons and social experiments between German, Japanese, and American work ethics.  However, the majority of my observations involved weekend, solo backpacking travels at hostels in major cities around Europe.  It may have seemed like a continuous journey of posting thousands of pictures, videos, and status updates (which to the untrained eye looks like I was only partying), but I was actually learning some of the essential socializing techniques that were completely stunted by the Cooper professors’ endless problem sets and impossible exams. I tried my best to communicate with strangers in order to practice being more friendly and learning from these eccentric individuals’ experiences to narrow down my personal preferences for career choices.

I was told recently that my personality was unusually extrovert for an engineer. Not that all engineers are socially inept, but to be honest, we don’t get much practice talking to living things. I remember nights screaming at my computer programs for not working properly. After observing different environments and following the life cycles of more projects, I slowly matured into (what I consider) the thinking of a true-engineer.  I discovered the importance of community and teamwork as projects grew more complicated and deadlines piled on top of each other.  My initial notions of competition and grades were immature and silly.  In a crazy backwards way, I discovered the importance of liberal arts.  It took 6 months after 4.5 years of neglecting liberal arts to find how unbelievably important it is to realize the complexity of people and the numerous different options a person has to feel successful.

A little more than a year has passed since I’ve graduated, but with the majority of the time abroad and finally seeing things from another perspective, I know I’ve made the right decision to think outside the box by literally leaving the box to look back in.  My adventures are far from over – I am returning to Osaka University for 6 months in January 2010 to work on a different application of artificial intelligence to robotics.  Who said “settling down” and “growing up” were strictly inclusive?

~See Lemons Continue as Always