Week 10 March 30 - Columbia University Field Trip Part II


The second trip to Columbia’s Medical Campus was in Washington Heights; I had only been to this area a few times, but remembered how unique this section of the city is and how much of the architecture is still in its original state.

We began the visit with a tour of the medical building and how conversely its architecture has changed over the years to accommodate the growing population and demand of the facilities.  After this quick tour of the facilities, we began the presentations starting with Dr. Stan Kachnowski.

Dr. Kachnowski gave us an overview of his current work in the healthcare technology field, where he studies and analyzes new health devices and technologies to advise companies as to what these technologies have to offer what their uses are. He also explained how he takes an ethnographical approach to his work and how it is used as a toolkit for evaluating technology and its effects on design. This approach also posits; “What are the socio-technical implications of health technology?”.

I was very interested in Dr. Kachnowski’s presentation because last semester I explored the field of health technology in a final project called drinkWatr. Since I have discussed this project previously, I will only briefly describe it; drinkWater is an interactive water bottle that tracks your hydration in real time and syncs the data to a website where the user can see if they are meeting their goals and view their hydration over time (click on the above link to read more). Following Dr. Kachnowski’s presentation I had a brief conversation with him in regards to this project and he seemed very interested in it. I may contact him in the future should I seek to push this project further.

The second presenter was Dr. Angelo Vermeulen who showed the Biomodd project, which was a truly fascinating work involving art, tech and biology. The project “is an open source... art project fusing computer waste and living biology... creations are computer systems with living ecosystems inside of them.” He took us through various other projects that have taken him around the world particularly a project he did in Indonesia called Merapi Terraforming Project which was part of a residency where he built a biological sculpture in an effort to regenerate the volcanic soil to re-grow plants using Rhizobia bacteria. This project is a great example about artists and scientists collaborating and creating a totally original project that is not only aesthetically sound, but also is rooted in science.

Both presentations offered totally different points of view about science, art, design and technology, and I left the presentations with an expanded appreciation of what possibilities are out there when combining various disciplines. It was also really great to see the Biomodd project be done on D12 and see the results of fellow students collaborating with Angelo.  
Below are pictures of the Columbia Medical Buidling and the presenters:

Columbia Medical Building

Dr. Kachnowski presenting tech devices

Dr. Angelo Vermeulen presenting Merapi Terraforming Project