The Engineering Student Council voted unanimously on Monday to approve a new initiative that will provide five $1,000 grants to students interested in creating their own engineering projects.
Groups composed of four to eight undergraduates can apply for the grants until early January, provided that half of the students in each group are from SEAS. None of the funding can go toward projects that will be used for a class grade, such as a senior design project.
“In terms of how we’re actually funding the project, we’re going to have students build their projects in stages and tell us the materials they need … so we have some oversight into how they’re actually spending the money,” Brian Wu, SEAS ’15 and ESC vice president of finance, said.
Selected groups will have to follow a timeline set by ESC and will complete their projects in two months during the spring semester.
ESC president Siddhant Bhatt, SEAS ’14, said that the project is a way for the council to reach students directly.
“We represent students, not groups,” Bhatt said. “We’re not targeting groups per se ... we’re targeting students that want to make a difference.”
Wu said that the program serves two main purposes—to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the School of Engineering and Applied Science and to build school pride.
“This project is a celebration of engineering spirit,” Wu said. “We’re hoping to get people to actually come out and build engineering projects that they want to build.”
“There are so many talented people on campus,” he said, adding that he has heard of students building instruments and automating their rooms.
“It seems like a cool idea to offer money to students who actually want to build cool things and make Columbia Engineering proud,” he said. “It’s my vision to … see student teams build these projects that make me want to say, ‘Oh wow, I can’t believe I go to school with these kids.’”
In spring of 2012, the Columbia College Student Council introduced its own project grant initiative that promised to fund 13 student projects. Only three of those groups actually ended up securing funding from CCSC.
Bhatt said that the engineering projects are different in nature because they have the potential to generate a deliverable product.
“That’s what engineers do—they build stuff,” Bhatt said. “It might not be exactly the final form that was envisioned, but if they put in time and effort using our resources, they’ll have something to show.”
Wu said that once the projects are completed the council will consider showcasing them to the engineering community and to the rest of Columbia.
“We’re not exactly sure what type of projects are going to come in, so we don’t know exactly how they will be showcased yet,” Wu said. “But we plan to potentially showcase them either at the end of the spring semester or the beginning of fall semester next year during NSOP.”
“What I envision is someone building a catapult on Low and destroying watermelons, or something like that,” Wu said. “The idea is that they’re doing something that they’ve read about or they’ve seen so many times but they’ve never actually built or learned how to build.”
“I want to see cool technical projects come to life,” Wu said.