Native Country: Colombia
Why NYU Tandon?
My wife was really the driving force. We had been living and working in Colombia. At one point, I was part of a documentary film team, working with a group trying to discourage young people from becoming guerilla fighters, and that was very satisfying. We both loved studying and wanted to earn graduate degrees, and my wife dreamed of coming to NYU. (She’s now studying public administration at Wagner.) I agreed, and once I got here, I discovered the Integrated Digital Media program and realized the possibilities.
Was it hard adjusting once you arrived?
I had to study very hard to pass the Test of English as a Foreign Language(TOEFL), but other than that, it was a smooth process.
What has your career been like?
I applied for and won a TED Residency, so right now I’m based in the Hudson Square neighborhood of the city. I’m surrounded by brilliant people, and the energy is incredible. At the end of the Residency, I’ll be giving a TED talk, which will be an amazing opportunity to spread the word about my project. I’m focused on creating a crowd-sourced information system to help people navigate safely, since Colombia still has tens of thousands of landmines planted by guerrilla groups over the previous decades; in fact, it ranks second in the world (right behind Afghanistan) in number of landmines killing and maiming civilians. I don’t intend to commercialize it or profit from it. I’m doing it for the benefit of my native country and hope that it will eventually expand globally.
How did your NYU Tandon education prepare you for success?
I got to work with Professor Claudio Silva, who is a renowned expert on mapping and visualization, and I might never have applied for the TED Fellowship without the encouragement of Professor Anne-Laure Fayard from the Department of Technology Management and Innovation. I’ve found wonderful mentors at Tandon.