Aboard the USS Intrepid, Columbia Engineering Students Inspire the Next Generation

Mar 08 2017 | By Jesse Adams | Photos by Timothy Lee Photographers

Mikhail Karasev `20 and his colleagues in the Columbia Space Initiative help future engineers design parachutes for space vehicles while teaching them about aerodynamics.

Perched on stepladders above the hangar deck of the USS Intrepid, students from the Columbia Space Initiative prepared to test cloth parachutes made by children—miniature parachutes for model spacecraft, that is, that they had showed the budding young engineers how to design. It was all part of an interactive lesson on the fundamentals of aerodynamics and kinetic energy, and just one of the countless ways Columbia Engineering volunteers have been serving communities in and around New York City.

Columbia Engineering students were among the star attractions at Kids Week this February at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. They took part in an array of presentations, workshops, and demonstrations aboard the aircraft-carrier-turned-museum to inspire the next generation of students to explore the universe of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).

Members of Columbia’s Society of Women Engineers created a station for “pendulum painting,” where they showed participants how ellipses marked on sheets of paper by a swinging pendulum get bigger or smaller based on drag and the amount of energy introduced into the system.

“All of us are dreamers, and we hope to inspire others to dream with us in our visions for a cooler future,” said Leon Kim ’19, co-president of the Columbia Space Initiative.

Across the deck, future engineers of all ages heard from Mike Massimino, a former NASA astronaut and now professor of professional practice in mechanical engineering at Columbia University. Massimino shared stories of his space adventures and showed the audience some of the equipment used by astronauts with Allison Bolinger of NASA.

“When you’re on a spacewalk, your spacesuit is like your own little spaceship,” Massimino told the crowd while describing how he worked on the Hubble Space Telescope while floating in space.

Giving back to the community is a priority at Columbia Engineering. In addition to tutoring and hosting events for young people in the New York City area, students and faculty mentor high school robotics teams and organize math and engineering competitions.