Coming Soon: AACE Lab

September 12, 2018

Members of the proposal team discussing next steps for the lab. Photo by Lea Bertucci

Members of the proposal team discussing next steps for the lab. Photo by Lea Bertucci

In early 2018, The Cooper Union was awarded a $2 million grant from the IDC Foundation to create a new multidisciplinary lab space. This foundation was born from the Institute of Design and Construction, a former Brooklyn-based nonprofit that trained more than 30,000 New Yorkers before closing in 2015. The IDC Foundation is a charitable institution providing funding for scholarships, fellowships, and grants to educational institutions for students in the design, engineering, and construction fields. IDC released a request for proposals for its first round of grants in the summer of 2017. In addition to Cooper, Columbia, NYIT, NYU, and Pratt also received various amounts of funding.

Cooper’s proposal was a collaborative exercise, involving members of the development staff, deans, and associate deans of the different schools. Each school identified three to five high-level concepts which were then narrowed down to two main themes. Leaders solicited ideas and feedback for each theme from the faculty. The idea of an interdisciplinary fabrication lab became the clear front-runner. “The discussions about the ideas and possibilities for collaboration between the schools were enjoyable and eye-opening,” says Anita Raja, associate dean of the Albert Nerken School of Engineering and a member of the proposal team. “The grant-writing process proceeded very smoothly despite it being our first foray into such a large-scale interdisciplinary effort.”

The resulting Art, Architecture, Construction, and Engineering (AACE) Lab will serve as a catalyst for integration across the institution, with equipment allowing projects that involve “making,” from 3-D printers to robotic arms to virtual-reality technologies. The space will take advantage of one of Cooper’s longstanding salient qualities—translating intellectual activities into practical applications.

Raymond R. Savino, president of the IDC Foundation, was excited about the opportunity to support interdisciplinary collaboration at The Cooper Union. “President Sparks and her team are impressive in their commitment, creativity, and vision in educating the next generation of industry leaders,” he says. “Their aims and aspirations match up nicely with the mission of the IDC Foundation and the legacy of the Institute of Design and Construction.”

Students will be introduced to the lab in their first year through a shared workshop in the space. The committee expects other cross-disciplinary courses as well as Cooper’s outreach programs to use the lab. Opportunities to engage the public through workshops will also exist. “We anticipate that the AACE lab and the associated projects and courses included in the proposal will provide strong stimulation for more interdisciplinary opportunities that will be exciting prospects for students and faculty alike,” says Raja.

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.