In many ways, Cornell Tech itself is a startup — and its culture reflects that.
Take hack day, for example.
Inspired by the hackathons
emblematic of the culture of the
tech ecosystem, Cornell Tech
students engage in three 24-hour
hack days each semester during
which they make accelerated
progress and achieve major
milestones for the projects
they're working on, says Aaron
Holiday, MBA '12, managing entrepreneurial officer at
Cornell Tech. "Throughout hack day, they're creating, they're
programming, they're building things in an entrepreneurial
way," he says. In the case of a company project, for example,
they'll work around the clock solely on their deliverables
for a company.
Drawing on Cornell Tech's studio culture, hack day begins with students claiming and building their own territory within the studio. "At the beginning of hack day, the studio is in a state where it's unusable: tables are flipped upside down, chairs are in odd places," says Holiday. "The furniture in our studio is modular; it's on wheels; it can be moved easily. You can add tables together to make mega tables; you can have standing tables connected to tables where you're seated. So there's a lot of room for creativity, for people to create their own headquarters and feel ownership over not only the project they're working on, but the space they're working in. It's exciting. And something magical happens; we can't predict what form or shape the studio will take — it's really a function of the creativity and imagination of the different people in the room."
Beginning hack day with that kind of creative energy motivates students to collaborate with each other and to work throughout the night. Staff at Cornell Tech keep the studio open so students can work 24 hours straight, and make sure they have breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus enough snacks to last the night. "They might lie down or go home to take a nap for an hour or two," says Holiday. "But the idea is for them to be constantly working on their project and make a tremendous amount of progress."
Hack day concludes with a short presentation and critique session about what each team is building, why they're building it, how they're building it, and what their next steps are. "The critique session is an opportunity for teams to get feedback on what they're doing and also help them think about ways to improve the product they're building," says Holiday. "It's a way to use the power of the collective to come up with intelligent and effective solutions to problems."