The Engineering Student Council elected Print@CU creator Sam Aarons, SEAS ’14, its new director of technology on Monday.
Aarons will assume the position in the spring semester following the resignation of this semester’s director, Vanshil Shah, SEAS ’15.
Aarons will act as a liaison to Columbia University Information Technology, build tools for the SEAS student body, and push various administrative departments to make data more transparent to students.
“I think I’ve hit the limit of what I can do on my own without administrative help, outside help, or resources data, which is a huge part,” he said. “And I think joining the ESC kind of gives me that leverage, but it also allows me to give back.”
One project that Aarons wants to work on is interfacing with the Columbia University Information Technology Advisory Committee to create a global print queue, which would allow students to send their documents to a global printer and have them available to print at any location.
“I could see it as something I’d want to build, just because I have some experience in that domain, and it doesn’t seem so hard based on the research I’ve done,” he said.
Print@CU, which is owned by Spectator Publishing Company, is used widely by students to print to campus printers without installing any drivers.
Aarons has interned with the website Everlane, where he created a REST API layer for common actions. He has also developed several projects as a consultant for Rearden Commerce and as an engineering intern for academia.edu.
ESC President Siddhant Bhatt, SEAS ’14, said he enjoyed seeing a senior step up and take on the role in his last semester and give back to the Columbia community.
“One of the benefits of joining super late in my Columbia career is that I probably won’t get burned out as easily. It’s only one semester. It’s a known time commitment,” Aarons said.
Aarons is currently developing more features for Housing@CU, which he created for a hackathon at Columbia, and he has taken over management of WikiCU. Aarons also helps run the tech team for Bwog.
ESC Vice President for Finance Brian Wu, SEAS ’15, said in an email, “Sam has built and continues to maintain some great tools for Columbia students. He definitely has the practical experience to accomplish difficult tasks as our DoT,” Wu said. “I believe he understands the tech atmosphere at Columbia, and can focus on what students truly need in terms of technology.”
Aarons said he would like to use the resources available to ESC to build projects that the council or other students envision.
“I think there could be an opportunity to have student-run projects, or student-built projects that serve everyone’s needs,” he said. “And they may not be the best projects in the world, but I think it goes a long way in empowering students interested in application development, or any kind of programing.”
Wu said he thinks the tech services that are used frequently at Columbia are outdated, difficult to use, or simply do not have all the information that students want.
“For example, a great CourseWorks mobile app is long overdue. At the same time, there are plenty of student developers that would love to build better apps for our school given the resources,” he said.
He added, “As a council, we should push for more input from students as to exactly what they’d like to see with campus tech, and then connect CUIT and our student developers with the appropriate resources, notably consistent and reliable data.”
Earlier this year, the student councils formed an advisory committee with representatives from the student councils as well as from Application Development Initiative. The committee was created to review technology on campus after numerous student complaints had been lodged about inadequacies in the system.
The committee, which will only be able to make policy recommendations, still plans to tackle many of the technology complaints on campus, from the NINJa printing system to LionMail’s inability to support Google Drive.
ESC sophomore class representative Abdulrahman Khoshaim, SEAS ’16, said that the CUIT Advisory Committee project is one that is of interest to many people on the council.
“Sam is definitely more interested in creating than maintaining,” he said.