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Columbia Spectator Staff

These engineers work where they play—and sleep. A new residential program has brought together 72 students from the School of Engineering and Applied Science to live together and develop business ventures together. Their residential community, on the eighth floors of both Hartley and Wallach, is called Res. Inc. "If the next Google or Foursquare comes out of there, I will be very happy," SEAS Dean Feniosky Peña-Mora, said of the program, which has replaced an earlier special-interest community centered around Gateway, a mandatory class for SEAS first years. For Andrew Mercer-Taylor, SEAS '15, one of the biggest advantages of the program is having a group of like-minded students available at his fingertips. "I know everyone else here has a similar interest in entrepreneurship," Mercer-Taylor said, adding that he's already spoken to his neighbors about several business ideas. "I would be surprised if I didn't have at least one start-up under my belt by the time I finish this year." Res. Inc. marks a larger shift at SEAS, as the school looks increasingly toward entrepreneurship. Last week, students participated in PitchFest, where they practiced pitching start-up ideas in a minute and 30 seconds to students from the Business School. Among the ideas suggested by Res. Inc. freshmen were an app to find friends and broadcast your location on campus, a program called KitcheNinja that searched for recipes based on ingredients in your refrigerator, and a virtual bulletin board. Katherina Barguil, SEAS '15, said she's enjoyed participating in the program and hopes it continues. "I think the new system has a lot to offer in helping us being independent thinkers as engineers, I think that's a big aspect of entrepreneurship. Not every one of us is going to go out and start a new company or new engineering firm, but it is important to have a very independent mindset." The pilot program was originally supposed to house around 20 students, but due to high interest that number was increased to 72. Forty-five of the program's participants are freshmen. The theme for this year's Res. Inc. is web applications, but Peña-Mora said the program accommodates engineers with a wide range of interests. "We are not limiting it only to computer people. If somebody is interested in electrical engineering, they may want to develop a new GPU [graphics processing unit]," Peña-Mora said. "So maybe these kids can develop these tools and give the prototype somewhere." Not all of the residents said they were enthused about the popular field of entrepreneurship. Andrew Paiva, SEAS '15, said he felt slightly excluded because he isn't involved in computer programming. "I hope they expand, because so far it seems to be focused on computer apps, and I'm a chemical engineering major so it's a little different from what I'm used to," Paiva said. Peña-Mora said he hopes that the program will one day be opened up to students from outside SEAS. "The ideal situation is that there will be a mix of engineers and college students. You will have artists, economics majors, all working together on their ideas, and it will be a very hectic beehive type of environment," Peña-Mora said.

Engineering SEAS special interest community Residential Life