CSE Team & Citi Tech Innovation

This fall the Computer Science & Engineering Department added after-school Robotics for Middle School through the Encore program. Most recently the inaugural Lower and Middle School Robotics team took the tram to Roosevelt Island to visit the Cornell Tech campus. Thanks to parent Brian Hellman’s relationships at Citibank, we were hosted by Citi’s Tech Innovation Department located within the Tata Innovation Center.

Why take this group of boys to visit New York City’s newest urban campus? Opened in Fall 2017, the Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island is located in Browning’s backyard. The facility was designed as a place for discovery, alive with debate, both intellectually and physically. The campus architecture isn’t just a backdrop for what is going on inside the buildings. It is, itself, a model for innovation that inspires and keeps our high aspirations on track.

Cornell Tech joins faculty, business leaders, tech entrepreneurs and students in a catalytic environment. Together they produce visionary results grounded in significant needs that will reinvent the way we live in the digital age. Therefore, how could we not take advantage of meeting our neighbors and building a new relationship within the tech community?

Start-up culture is the lifeblood of Cornell Tech. Step into the lobby of The Tata Innovation Center, where academia and industry collide. One-third of the building is devoted to academic use, including the Masters Studio Maker Lab. The other two-thirds are devoted to external companies, including our hosts, Citigroup. Designed by award-winning Weiss/Manfredi and developed in partnership with Forest City New York, the Tata Innovation Center was envisioned as a flexible space poised to adapt to the evolving needs of tech research and education.

Anderson Harp, Jeremy Katz and Browning parents Maria Dell'Oro, Jon Fascitelli and Amy Daley chaperoned the field experience with 13 boys in Grades Three through Six. Our visit was a special treat with exclusive access to secure sections of the campus. The boys were inspired by graduate work in the Masters Studio Maker Lab and given a tour of the state-of-the-art graduate school classrooms for Cornell’s computer science program. Next, we visited the NYCFirst Robotics Center with its full-scale fabrication lab, robotics field and machine shop. Finally, ascending to one of the top floors, we entered Citi’s Tech Innovation Hub. The secure space was vast with massive curved computer monitors at each station. Engineers were either working through thousands of lines of code or video conferencing with project partners located internationally. Our hosts escorted us to a corner space resembling something that can only be described as straight from a Silicon Valley giant such as Google or Facebook. The flexible seating and multiple whiteboards on casters provided the perfect setup for the boys, who participated in a Design Thinking session lead by the Citi engineers. These real-world computer scientists and engineers led a jam session around phishing prevention and guided the boys through the ideation process for solving real-world problems.

Mrs. Dell’Oro remarked on the experience, “Our Citi hosts and I were impressed by our boys during the brainstorming session. They conducted themselves with poise, presented thoughtful ideas and shared smart projects and solutions.

“I hope this is the first of many visits and the start of a long working relationship and collaboration with tech firms throughout the city, especially the growing Cornell Tech Campus just a few blocks from school. Our boys were truly lucky to have been the first to have had this opportunity.”

Mr. Fascitelli said, “The trip really allowed the kids to see how they could apply what they were learning in class to the real world. They absolutely loved it. My son, Charlie, went so far as to announce that he planned to get his master’s at Cornell Tech.  I think our hosts at Citi Tech Labs had as good a time as the kids. It will be great if we can find more ways for Browning to integrate with the tech campus in the coming years. Great job, Mr. Harp!”

Following this trip we will offer additional programs for Middle and Lower School students who are passionate about more computer science and engineering experiences. Our partnerships with teachers, students, parents and community members will further such innovative learning experiences, thereby inspiring our boys to succeed. I am grateful for our community members and our new relationship with the team at Citi Tech Innovation, which will further support our boys’ natural curiosity about how the world works.