Jing Jiang / Sun Staff Photographer

Thirteen groups of students across multiple majors and colleges gave four-minute presentations on how Cornell’s campus could be reimagined at the Half-built event last week.

March 10, 2019

Students Reimagine Campus Space from ‘Half-Built’ Ideas

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“Reimagine.” That was the power word of Half-Built, a pitch platform event co-organized by The Straight Edge and Half-Baked last Thursday.

The event was structured after “Half-Baked” events, run out of Collegetown’s eHub, where students gather to present startup ideas and snack on cookie dough intended to symbolize “half-baked” ideas. For “Half-Built,” instead of start-up ideas, it was infrastructure projects.

From bacteria-driven energy collection to shade and light analysis of Uris Hall to mental health space on campus, 13 groups of students across multiple majors and colleges presented their takes in four-minute presentations on how Cornell’s campus could be reimagined at the event last week.

“The student, in this case the user, has very insightful and strategic contributions to the conceptualization and development of a physical campus. Essentially we’re the perfect designer,” Daniel Correa ’19, president of The Straight Edge, told The Sun. “The university does a great job designing campus, but no campus is perfect. The student can really identify, pinpoint and develop because they know the everyday user.”

The Straight Edge is a project team, originally founded last year to revitalize Willard Straight Hall’s outdoor space. Now, it’s become a group focused not just on Willard Straight but on exploring the potential in all campus spaces, according to Correa.

Half-Built asked students from all disciplines — hoping to reach outside the boundaries of landscape architecture or engineering — to brainstorm a simple idea on how any part of campus or Collegetown could be improved. The application to present at the pitch event asked for just two things: photos and a napkin sketch.

“The reason for Half-Built was this low barrier to entry. We didn’t necessarily want to use the word ‘design’ too much,” Correa said, opting instead for “reimagine.”

“[It] doesn’t matter your major, everyone’s got an imagination and everyone’s got ideas in their head. And everybody approaches problems in such different ways,” Correa continued.

Half-Baked’s pitch events are popular, according to Correa, who noted that many pitch events are full-house. But eHub is limited in space, and Half-Baked has never had the opportunity to work in a larger space, like the Willard Straight Memorial Room where Half-Built was hosted.

“We shared a lot of [Half-Baked’s] platform. The cookies already had a following, so people knew who they were,” wCorrea said. “The reason we wanted to partner with [Half-Baked] is that their platform is so user friendly. The whole half baked idea opens it up to everybody. We don’t want people to feel intimidated.”

According to Correa, Half-Built has been in the works since the beginning of this semester. Correa and his team originally planned to host pitch rounds within their own organization, but realized that opening the pitch platform up to the public would be a way to also spread the word about the Student Assembly Infrastructure Fund Commission, which provides The Straight Edge’s funding.

The fund is an endowment of over $70,000 for student-proposed infrastructure reform, run by a student committee. Past projects have included electric power outlet strips in Duffield Hall, tabled seating in Green Dragon Cafe and street lamps on Libe Slope, according to Correa.

The fund has been in place since 2014, but The Straight Edge remains the only project to receive funding for its own operations — other applications to the fund are carried out by the university.

“We really wanted to glorify this platform because we have been beneficiaries of that platform, but every year we’re one of the few student organizations that apply,” Correa said.

All of the pitches presented at the event are eligible for the fund, Correa added.

Rick Burgess, Vice President of Campus Facilities and Services, was in attendance as an audience member.

“Clearly a lot of students have put their minds to creating new spaces,” he told The Sun. “Some of them — everybody presented would agree — could be refined. I think there are many many of them that have very good merit.”

“There was nothing more rewarding than seeing people pitch. It was extremely empowering to see other people empowered by their ideas,” Correa added. “It really establishes a sense of place, ownership and love for your campus.”