The Celebration Continues

Nov 21 2017 | By Melanie A. Farmer

Not only is it a milestone year for Columbia Engineering, it is, indeed, a significant moment for engineering overall. As Dean Mary C. Boyce has said through the course of her inaugural year at SEAS, there is an Engineering Renaissance taking place, and the impact could not be more evident and more alive than at the Engineering School.

“We are in an Engineering Renaissance, and the pace of translating technological innovations into real world impact has never been faster,” Boyce says. “Our faculty and students remain at the forefront of innovation, whether advancing disciplinary frontiers or working to solve society’s grand challenges. Through their great research, invention, and creativity, they are extending the School’s legacy of excellence and leadership into the next 15 decades.”

Special 150th banners were displayed on the front of Low Memorial Library during the School’s official anniversary kick-off.

The School officially kicked off its sesquicentennial in February with a week of events on campus that included a beautiful light display on Low Memorial Library. In the spring, Senior Design Expo gave the entire Columbia Community a taste of the breadth and depth of student innovation and creativity that goes on in and around Mudd. Typically, each department at the Engineering School hosts its own individual senior design day toward the end of the academic year. But in honor of the 150th anniversary this year, the School took the opportunity to more visibly spotlight its students and their senior projects, collectively. The Senior Design Expo for the first time brought together, on the same day and in the same place, all student teams, representing each of the nine Engineering departments.

On May 8, 2014, Roone Arledge Auditorium was packed, as teams of Engineering students demonstrated their 66 innovative projects, ranging from new medical devices with the promise of cutting costs and improving effectiveness, to clever new applications that address a variety of issues, to product solutions for the sports and fitness arenas. One student, Halvard Lange BS’14, proudly showcased his team’s design, Strandbeest, which won first place in the design competition for the Mechanical Engineering Department.

Pictured clockwise, from top left: A book of the School’s history. The exhibition included an array of documents, photos, and memorabilia drawn from the University Archives’ extensive collection on SEAS. In-depth timelines showcase the School’s rich history.

Lange and his teammates Ben Aguilar BS’14, Eric Laukkanen BS’14, Charlie Mackenzie-Smith BS’14, and Regina Zmuidzinas BS’14 designed a pedal-powered Strandbeest inspired by the work of Dutch kinetic sculptor Theo Jansen. “It was a purely mechanical project, involving over 1,500 parts, and my team and I had to custom make more than 400 of them,” said Lange, who added that the project was a challenge but the experience overall was more than memorable.

“To design, analyze, and manufacture a product of your choice together with four awesome friends was an incredible experience. I am grateful I got to work with such a talented group of people.”

It was a special event that brought together not just the Columbia Engineering community but also Columbia College classmates, science and engineering enthusiasts, and local high school students. As Dave Vallancourt, senior lecturer in the Department of Electrical Engineering, said, “The 150th Expo was like binge-watching five-minute documentaries on all things technical, except you actually got to play with real stuff and speak with the designers.”

Other exciting projects showcased at the Expo included engineered, replaceable “crumple zone” helmet inserts to reduce concussion rates among football players, a novel microfluidic platform for embryo maintenance to reduce the high failure rate of IVF embryos, and an app that accurately identifies foodborne disease outbreaks in New York City by analyzing data in real time from multiple social media sources.

Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library prepared a special exhibition, Columbia Engineering at 150, featured through September 5, 2014, celebrating the School through a vivid array of photos, documents, and memorabilia drawn from the archives’ extensive collection. Curated by Jocelyn K. Wilk, associate University archivist, the installation traced the origins and evolution of what began as the School of Mines from its founding in 1864. Topics explored in depth included the inimitable founding dean Charles Chandler, legendary innovator Michael Idvorsky Pupin, radio pioneer Edwin Howard Armstrong, the history of Columbia Engineering’s facilities and curriculum, and the School’s much-missed Camp Columbia.

This fall, Columbia Engineering will round out its sesquicentennial with two marquee events—an academic symposium scheduled for November 14, 2014, and a Founders Day Gala to be held at St. John the Divine on November 15. The 150th Anniversary Closing Symposium will feature faculty speakers who will give brief overviews, TEDx style, on research topics that span the School’s history, showing advancements in personalized medicine, sustainability, nanoscience, data science, and more. The entire Columbia community of students, faculty, and alumni are encouraged to attend this celebration of academic achievement. The Gala on the following evening will include an elegant cocktail reception and dinner and an opportunity for attendees to gather with faculty, administrators, select alumni, and government officials to mark the School’s many accomplishments through the years, as well as its bright future ahead.

Having Fun at 150 Years!

Here's a look at some of the ways the School is commemorating its sesquicentennial.

  •—Take a trip down memory lane and share your photos and Columbia Engineering memories on the dedicated 150th anniversary website.
  • Track anniversary updates using #seas150.
  • Pick up your copy of A Lever Long Enough: A History of Columbia’s School of Engineering and Applied Science Since 1864 (Columbia University Press) by Robert McCaughey, professor of history and Janet H. Robb Chair in the Social Sciences at Barnard College. Save 30 percent when ordering the book from Columbia University Press ( Use coupon code SEAS to receive the discount.
  • Trivia Giveaway! Check Facebook and Twitter routinely for a chance to win a SEAS umbrella and a copy of A Lever Long Enough.
  • SEAS in Pictures—a new photo book illustrating Columbia Engineering through the years, available this fall.
  • View the 150th Anniversary video
  • Learn more about the Senior Design Expo 2014:


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