Obama Students Meet With CMU Professors


Daevan Mangalmurti, Editor

On Friday, eight Obama Juniors met with CMU Professors Azizan Abdul-Aziz and Akhil Badjatia for a three-hour long discussion that introduced the students to CMU’s architecture facilities, taught them about contemporary advancements in architecture, and answered their questions on what an architect’s responsibilities are. The students -Oliver Blackstock IV, Chazzlyn Burke, Amber Davis, Sydnie Jay, Enrique Lopez, Daevan Mangalmurti, Anja Vogt, and Piper Walsh- had all displayed an interest in architecture, engineering, or programming before being selected for the visit.

The visit started off with students asking Prof. Badjatia questions about the basics of architecture and the architect’s role in construction. Prof. Abdul-Aziz then showed students around the third-year architecture students’ studios and told them about the history and functions of the Intelligent Workspace, the facility that the School of Architecture maintains to test theories about building sustainability. He demonstrated the innovative, energy-saving design features that were included in the workspace, and talked about the importance in architecture of creating spaces that serve people’s needs and are comfortable for people while also being good for the environment. Prof. Abdul-Aziz explained how he had used data analytics to come up with methods of reducing energy waste in commercial buildings that he was trying to turn into a start-up.

Both Prof. Abdul-Aziz and Prof. Badjatia encouraged the students to think about how space is used at Obama, and how design choices affect student performance, citing research that shows that schools with windows and ventilation help students perform better academically. They especially emphasized the ease with with students could conduct their own tests with cheap sensors of particulate, carbon dioxide, and oxygen levels, and see if they correlated with increased and decreased levels of student performance. Professors Volker Hartkopf and Erica Cochran Hameen also dropped by to talk with students about their work on building sustainability and biking and the relationship between building design and education, respectively. Prof. Hartkopf told students to remember that they were the future of architecture, and it would be up to them to deal with many of past generations’ mistakes. 

After the visit, the students eagerly discussed the design flaws the saw everyday at Obama and began to create a research plan for studying the impact of design on education inspired by Prof. Abdul-Aziz and Prof. Badjatia’s teachings. Enrique Lopez said that the visit, “widened my horizons to topics and careers in a way that Obama has never done in its closed corridors.” Chazzlyn Burke added that she had learned that she should, “never build a strip mall,” and, “windows; they be hittin’ for ya health,” references to Prof. Badjatia’s use of strip malls as unsustainable, shoddy developments and Prof. Abdul-Aziz’s explanations of the usefulness of windows in ensuring people comfort and energy efficiency.

Prof. Abdul-Aziz is an Assistant Research Professor and Data Analytics Professor at the Center for Building Performance and Diagnostics in CMU’s School of Architecture. Prof. Badjatia is an Adjunct Professor at the the School of Architecture. Prof. Hameen is an Assistant Professor at the School of Architecture and UDream Program Director for CMU. Prof. Hartkopf is a Professor at the School of Architecture and Director of the Center for Building Performance and Diagnostics.

The student visit was organized by Daevan Mangalmurti, Anja Vogt, and PTSA member Ashish Badjatia.