Innovating for our Planet

January 17, 2021

When Michael Massimino, an erstwhile NASA astronaut and currently Professor of Practice at Columbia Engineering, was taking a spacewalk, he glanced upon a view he thought of as paradisiacal. He was wearing his spacesuit, while looking at Earth through his helmet visor, all of which was necessary to keep him alive at that altitude. Our planet appeared to him as magically beautiful but fragile, and our only option for survival as a species. 

Professor Massimino shared his space adventure and insights gleaned from it at the launch of the Urban Works Innovation Challenge Year 3.  He is the new Faculty Director of the Challenge, which began in 2018 as a joint initiative of Columbia Global Centers | Mumbai and The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University. In his presentation, he also showcased images of shining bright areas on Earth from space, focusing on Mumbai and New York. 

The launch event was inaugurated by Dr. Ravina Aggarwal, Director of the Mumbai Center, on December 3, 2020, with a succinct summary of the success of the first two years of the program. A fun quiz followed, led by Ivy Schultz, Director of Entrepreneurship at Columbia Engineering, that tested the audience on their knowledge of Indian startups and businesses. Cody Sodeen, co-founder of Kara Water and one of the winners of the previous year’s Challenge, spoke passionately of the immense help the program had provided in laying the foundation for their market entry in India. 

The launch concluded with a brief discussion that engaged the audience on the topics of innovation, entrepreneurship, and making the world a better place for future generations. Professor Massimino’s presentation and responses in particular highlighted why innovation matters in the bid to save our planet’s cities. 

With applications now open for both the US and India tracks, tech innovators and startups are invited to apply for the Urban Works Challenge 2020-2021 and reach out to the Center in case of any queries.