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2021 Educational Innovation Grant Program

POSTED ON: December 6, 2021

In the fall semester of 2019, Dean Barry Shoop initiated the first Educational Innovation Grant Program for faculty, students, and staff. The purpose of the grant program was to advance one or more of the approved Core Values or Strategic Goals of the Albert Nerken School of Engineering 2025 Strategic Plan, Sustaining a Legacy of Innovation. 

The inaugural grant application process sought proposals that included the development of new courses, curricula, and/or modern pedagogical approaches; efforts to create a positive organizational culture; and programs or activities that build community and celebrate diversity.
It further identified that preference would be given to the following types of proposals:

  • Proposals that advance interdisciplinary approaches at the intersection of art, architecture, engineering, and the humanities and social sciences
  • Proposals for educational activities that collaborate across disciplinary boundaries to create innovative solutions to societal challenges
  • Proposals for course and curricular experimentation to improve instructional techniques and educational pedagogy
  • Proposals that advance methods of promoting community and celebrating diversity

The request for proposal (RFP) resulted in 12 high-quality proposals that all supported elements of the new strategic plan. While all of the proposals were creative and with merit, the successful projects had broad impact, many across multiple departments and schools, and included faculty and in some cases students. A short description of the funded projects follows:

  1. Neveen Shlayan (EE), Mili Shah (Math), Dirk Luchtenburg (ME), Austin Wade Smith (Architecture), Ben Davis (ChE), Amanda Simson (ChE), Ninad Pandit (HSS), Kit Nicholls (Writing Center), and João Enxuto (Art). This team will design and implement a cross-disciplinary pedagogical model that can be integrated into the existing curriculum across all three schools and the Humanities and Social Sciences department at The Cooper Union, focusing on the ecological, technical, and social implications of the word “autonomy.” This inaugural model will focus on a multitude of perspectives related to autonomy: transportation, food security, energy, and the social practice of community identity and solidarity. This project will develop relevant Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) for integration in the curriculum.
  2. Alexa Jakob EE’22 and Michael Lange ChE’20 will host a series of events next April in celebration of LGBTQIA+ Pride. The Cooper Union’s Pride Week celebrations will support the core values of diversity and respect for differences by celebrating, uplifting, and bringing visibility to The Cooper Union’s LGBTQIA+ community.
  3. Amanda Simson (ChE) and Ben Davis (ChE) will develop a novel interdisciplinary course on sustainability that is intended to engage students of all majors and disciplines (art, architecture, and all majors in engineering). This sort of course would be relevant to current affairs related to social and income inequality, pollution and our overwhelmed ecosystems, and the economics of technical and cultural change.
  4. Suyeong Han CE’20, Mudong Jung Arch’21, Tae Hyun Koh ME’21, Kelly Lu BSE, Jessica Martinez Art’20, and Dhvanil Shah EE’20 with Faculty advisors Neveen Shlayan (EE) and Austin Wade Smith (Architecture). The combination of engineering and design is the most transformative language of our time, shaping the way we move, communicate, and think. By partnering across the three schools, this team hopes to shape solutions to societal challenges while fostering interdisciplinary growth through the lens of urban agriculture and hydroponics. In our current EID101 section, “Smart” Urban Agriculture for Emerging Communities, architects and engineers collaboratively study this language to explore more secure and just ecological futures. We, along with our non‐profit partner Teens for Food Justice (TFFJ), believe that urban hydroponic cultivation can provide cheaper, healthier, and fresher produce to food insecure areas.
  5. Dirk Luchtenburg (ME) and Mili Shah (Math). This team’s goal is to teach a rigorous robotics course with hands‐on modules and open‐source software and hardware. They previously taught a course in which “hands‐on labs” were based primarily on software simulation, since robotic arms were not available. Based on feedback from students and industry contacts, it is essential to integrate small open‐source robots and workstations where students can get familiar with the practical aspects of robotic systems. They propose to have the course rely on the open-source system Linux using the Robotic Operating System (ROS). In order to have students learn these systems in an efficient manner, they suggest a flipped-classroom pedagogical model in which students take an online course as homework, while they develop labs that focus on the more theoretical and practical points in the classroom setting.
  6. Daniel Lepek (ChE) will establish a seminar series for the Albert Nerken School of Engineering that is focused specifically on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). Professor Lepek requested to collaborate with the team from Project #2.

The first of these innovation grants resulted in the approval and fall semester 2020 offering of the Vertically Integrated Project (VIP) course structure. During Academic Year 2021, we offered three VIP courses: one on the topic of Smart Cities, another focused on Solar Decathlon, and the final one was Cooper Union Motorsports. In the fall semester of 2021, in addition to these three VIP courses we added a fourth: Frontiers of Bioengineering. View our VIP teams here.

The third of these innovation grants resulted in the development and introduction of EID247 Introduction to Sustainability and Alternative Energy in the spring semester of 2021. The inaugural course attracted an interdisciplinary group of students including six from art, one from architecture, and 17 from engineering.

The fourth of these innovation grants resulted in the Cooper Union Sustainable Agricultural Project (CUSAP) which is now part of the Smart Cities VIP course.

After a year hiatus due to the pandemic, in the fall semester of 2021 we again offered the Educational Innovation Grant Program for faculty, students, and staff. This year, preference was given to the following types of proposals:

  • Proposals for initiatives, programs, and activities that foster an environment supporting student success
  • Proposals for initiatives, programs, and activities that promote community, celebrate diversity, and advance racial equity
  • Proposals for curricular and course experimentation that introduces educational innovation or leading-edge math, science, and engineering pedagogies
  • Proposals that advance interdisciplinary approaches at the intersection of art, architecture, engineering, and the humanities and social sciences

The latest RFP resulted in 11 high-quality proposals that all support elements of the strategic plan. A short description of the funded projects follows:

  1. Brandon Bunt BSE’22 and Minah Ali CE’22 with Faculty advisors Neveen Shlayan (EE) and Austin Wade Smith (Architecture). Cooper Union Sustainable Agricultural Project (CUSAP) project will center around tackling issues of food security, self-sufficiency, and community engagement and develop. CUSAP is part of the Smart Cities Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) class and includes a diverse mix of art and engineering students.
  2. George Sidebotham (ME), Daniel Fishkin (ME), and Zachary Poff (Art). This team will initiate a long-term process that produces a musical culture at The Cooper Union, one that incorporates the structural engineering-based knowledge from the Albert Nerken School of Engineering, and also the formal and aesthetic experience of the art and architecture students at Cooper. The team will develop a novel interdisciplinary course in Electroacoustic Sound Design to serve as a companion to the existing Musical Instrument Design course which is being offered this semester with 21 students: 11 artists, 3 architects, and 7 engineers.
  3. Daniel Lepek (ChE). ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE – An Immersive Theatrical Experience on Engineering Ethics. Here, an informal, semi-staged reading of ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE will create an opportunity through multiple voting opportunities located at various inflection points throughout the play. Audience members will be able to weigh in regarding the characters’ ethical decisions and determine the future direction of the dramatic story.
  4. Julia Buckley ME’22, Samuel Shersher EE’22, and Brandon Bunt BSE’22 with faculty advisors Neveen Shlayan (EE) and Sven Haverkamp (ME). The group proposes an interdisciplinary high voltage inverter design project to support Formula-E and Hyperloop teams and VIP courses. The goal of this initiative is to design and build a high-power motor drive to be used by Formula-E and Hyperloop VIP courses and in future competitions. Additional goals include bringing tangible power electronics projects to Cooper and establishing new safety standards for faculty and students working on power electronics at Cooper.
  5. Stan Mintchev (Math) and Mili Shah (Math). The pair will establish a Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) student chapter at Cooper. The "leaky pipeline" metaphor is used often to describe retention problems in STEM fields, with particular attention to women and people of color who leave or "leak" out of the system. The goal is to provide a new opportunity for exposure to speakers, trips, and conferences through a student chapter of SIAM at Cooper.

The School of Engineering Educational Innovation Grant Program has enlisted the creativity and innovation of our faculty, students, and staff, resulting in substantive and lasting contributions to our curriculum and the foundational principles and goals that are guiding our organization.

  • 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.