NYU-Poly Launches its Inaugural Think Tank

Left to right: Zhong-Ping Jiang, Charles Camarda, Gene DiResta, Dianne Rekow, Rémi Dingreville, Joseph Nadan, Joo H. Kim, Elza Erkip

Six fearless Polytechnic Institute of NYU faculty members have accepted a mission set forth by Dianne Rekow, provost, and Charlie Camarda, distinguished engineer in residence: design an intelligent sensor for NASA in three months.

The faculty, representing electrical engineering, mechanical and aerospace engineering, bioengineering, and technology management disciplines, comprise the inaugural NYU-Poly Think Tank. Provost Rekow is the Think Tank’s mastermind. She created it as “a mechanism for bringing professors from different departments together to solve real-world problems.”

Each semester, the Provost’s Office will assemble a new Think Tank and task it with a problem — like the inaugural Tank’s — that relates to NYU-Poly’s Four Grand Challenges: 1. Map, secure, and extract infosphere information; 2. Create intelligent sensor systems; 3. Engineer smart cities; and 4. Tailor bio-molecular interactions.

NYU-Poly’s Grand Challenges, which were introduced to faculty in the fall, sprang from the National Academy of Engineering’s 14 Grand Challenges and support the Institute’s i2e (invention, innovation, and entrepreneurship) activities.

The Provost’s Office will work with industry partners  — from telecommunications and finance to biotechnology and urban planning  — to design Think Tank projects that will answer their needs.

Charles Camarda, an inventor, astronaut, and Polytechnic alumnus of the class of ’74 (AE), will lead the first Think Tank. He’s confident that this group and the ones to follow will produce eye-opening results for industry. “They’ll see that our researchers have the drive and experience to come up with truly innovative solutions,” said Camarda who was “blown away” by the caliber of applicants.

In addition to demonstrating a strong interest in the project and a proven research track record, applicants had to show that they’re connected to a network of collaborators they can easily tap into as they create a sensor for space applications. “Having a network at the ready when you hit a roadblock or need feedback is essential to this type of rapid problem-solving,” said Camarda.

It’s not just the strength of its members that makes Camarda certain of its success; it’s the design of the group itself. “I’ve seen it happen before,” he says, “when small groups like this one are given the freedom to collaborate unfettered, some really exciting things can happen.”

Inaugural Think Tank Members

Rémi Dingreville, Department of Mechancial and Aerospace Engineering
Gene DiResta, Department of Chemical and Biological Sciences
Elza Erkip, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Zhong-Ping Jiang, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Joo H. Kim, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Joseph S. Nadan, Department of Technology Management