The Application Development Initiative, a group of coders and developers, is looking to change the way that Columbia students engage with tech culture.
ADI won Special Interest Community housing last semester, and plans to use this semester to rethink its programming and expand the tech community’s reach on campus.
“There’s a type of learning that happens inside classrooms, and another which happens on campuses by virtue of other students,” Chris Wiggins, faculty adviser for ADI and professor of applied mathematics, said. “You can’t catalyze this type of learning if there’s no space to collaborate and coordinate that education.”
Students in ADI also said that their new housing arrangement has significantly improved the ability for members to collaborate with one another on technology-related projects.
“It’s great for ADI, as we’re constantly together and learning from each other. It’s motivating and inspiring,” Christian Moscardi, CC ’14, said.
Members of ADI said that another important reason behind their desire to secure housing was the atmosphere that is created when students of similar interests live together.
“I’ve never been around a group of people I’ve learned more from,” Jett Anderson, SEAS ’16, said. “ADI is a close-knit community, and the new housing space means that there’s a lot more sharing of ideas and a lot more time to work on projects together, which is great.”
The new space and increased sense of community have also opened up ADI’s ability to focus on planning more outreach events this semester.
Many students on campus already know about ADI’s annual DevFest, a weeklong application development experience with events and resources to help student teams build web-based products that culminates in a 24-hour hackathon. The group hopes to expand beyond DevFest by planning different types of events in the future.
One of ADI’s new events, the Startup Job Fair, is scheduled for this Friday. Member Dina Lamdany, SEAS ’15, said that the job fair will give Columbia students the opportunity to learn more about the New York City tech community and how to get involved in it.
Other events, such as ADI’s weekly Cookies and Code meet-and-greet, focus on bringing techies and non-techies together to discuss programming problems and to engage with the rest of the campus community. Member Nate Brennand, SEAS ’15, estimates that attendance at these events is at least twice as large as it was last year.
For those who are not involved with ADI, smaller events like this are an easy way to check out what Columbia’s tech community has to offer.
Samantha Wiener, SEAS ’17, said she attended the Cookies and Code event because she “wanted to learn about what other students are working on and how to get involved.” She thought that ADI provided a good platform for that exposure.
“The paradigm that only techies should build stuff is antithetical for ADI. … We just help people build things, but CORE collaborates with us to expand your ideas into business plans,” Lamdany said, referring to the Columbia Organization of Rising Entrepreneurs, which often partners with ADI to host events and engage students.
This relationship between technology and entrepreneurship has grown at many schools in recent years.
ADI was founded in 2009 by Ryan Bubinski and Akiva Bamberger, both CC ’11, and since then, students say that it has steadily developed a larger presence on campus. Bubinski, a co-founder of Codecademy, which offers easy interactive courses in programming languages, is an example of how increasing numbers of students think about their technological skills in the context of startups.
Still, ADI wants to maintain its focus on developing the skills necessary to code and building on what students learn in the classroom.
“People like to use apps but rarely write them on their own. Textbooks teach you Java, but that’s outdated. We’re trying to bring people out of that phase,” Brennand said.
Lamdany said she hopes that ADI will continue to function as a community for students who are trying to find their places in the computer science field.
“I hope that by the time we graduate, there’s a much larger computer science community on campus,” she said. “And I’d like to think ADI would be one of the reasons for that.”