J-Term SuperLab Engineers Creativity

For six days a week, over two and a half weeks, the first-year engineering students would board the morning bus to the Center for Science and ...

Jan 25, 2014

For six days a week, over two and a half weeks, the first-year engineering students would board the morning bus to the Center for Science and Engineering, riding the bus for up to an hour before arriving at the “superLab.”
The class, Engineering Foundations: Design and Innovation, is a three-week-long intensive design and engineering course that was created to introduce new engineering students to high-paced project development.
Now in its fourth year, the course was designed by the engineering department to underscore project-based technical competence, cultural competence and social responsibility.
This year, the projects had a healthcare focus. The class was split into six groups, each instructed to create a new communication project that would enhance the relationship between a patient infected with the given disease and their loved ones.
The students presented working prototypes of their projects to a full audience at the Downtown Campus Multipurpose room on Jan. 22.
Introducing the class and the engineering program, Dean of Engineering Sunil Kumar said that this course was designed with a regard to "engineering in the new era."
Research Professor and Associate Dean of Engineering Ramesh Jagannathan also spoke before the presentations. He emphasized that the class was an incubator and said that the challenges faced by the freshmen engineers — ambiguities, constraints and deadlines — provided training for challenges of global leadership.
The six groups presented and defended their projects before the audience, ranging from a t-shirt that assisted families with autistic children understand their child’s frustrations to a spice machine that could be controlled remotely to assist breast cancer patients interacting with their families on a more personal basis. The students had a wide range of tools available to them at the CSE, including a laser cutter, vinyl cutter, sewing machines and conductive textiles, computer controlled embroidery, 3D printing and crochet hooks.
Each of the groups were assigned a health condition, ranging from Alzheimer’s to deafness, for which they would build their projects. One team designed a t-shirt for autistic children that would detect increased emotional activity, helping parents and children understand and learn from emotional triggers. Another group created a 3D-printed spice grinder that could be operated remotely, allowing a hospital patient to interact with their family through cooking.
Freshman Pablo Pacareu, one of the students in the class, said despite worrying the class would be overwhelming, he found that the twelve or thirteen hour days were worth it.
“You spend all day learning new stuff and applying that new stuff and that is amazing,” he said.
“I had zero knowledge but I ended up really loving that and it made me realize that I like what I’m getting into.”
Junior Alf Lim, who attended the superLab presentations, was inspired by the students’ projects.
“Having taken physical computing and worked with a little bit of programming, I know how much work it takes to get things working,” he said.
Lim said he would like to see the superLab become a permanent fixture of NYU Abu Dhabi once the university has moved to the Saadiyat campus.
“You’re creating a space that’s open to creative thinking and flow, mashing ideas together.”
Alistair Blacklock is editor-in-chief. Email him at
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