10 Questions with Nicholas Sadnytzky

Nicholas Sadnytzky is this year’s new Makerspace Coordinator of Engineering & Robotics, working inside The Nest in Oliver Wendell Holmes Library. As a student at Columbia University, he ran the makerspace there for three years and later worked at Westchester Community College teaching game design programs and building their extended reality program. Sadnytzky’s published works include his master thesis “Humanizing Data Through Sculpture” and a technical manual on modeling a lantern.

What is your role as The Nest Coordinator?

Plenty of things, [but] I think the most important thing that I do in this space is to facilitate an environment that is welcoming to everyone, no matter your background in creative technologies or traditional technologies, everyone is welcome, and everyone can create their own masterpieces. That being said, what I do here can be facilitating workshops, teaching students how to run the pieces of equipment, showing them different methods, giving them avenues to artists where they can investigate further, and to help them best support them in their endeavors.

What’s your favorite part about The Nest?

My favorite, not of [The Nest, but the ideal The Nest,] is to have the balance of collaboration, investigation, and creating. In this space, my favorite part would be seeing [students] create, and pushing my limits. I like to say this: what we know today is somewhat obsolete or incomplete tomorrow. Technology is evolving so rapidly it’s hard to keep up with the trends, so I think the ideal of [The Nest] is collaborative learning, investigating the technology together.

What are some of the equipment available for students in The Nest?

The most heavily used piece of equipment would be the laser cutter, we have two fantastic universal laser systems. Then we have 3D printers, film and based 3D printers all the way to resin-based 3D printers. We also have traditional tools, hammers, rasps, and traditional table saw, and a CNC machine, which will be heavily used this semester.

What inspired you to start engineering/creating?

That freedom of exploration. I think that inspired me to study, when I was in my graduate years, to study creative technologies, learn more about makerspaces, and to help me understand how to facilitate a makerspace that can really serve the community. I haven’t built anything from the ground up, but what I’ve done is to help expand [The Nest] in areas like philosophy, history, in areas that may first appear that creative technologies wouldn’t best suit.

Could you talk about some of the engineering projects that you’ve done?

One project that I’m really proud of is when I investigated visualizing data. I was invited to exhibit my sculpture [for it] in Italy. I collected drug arrest data from the government from 1965 where they started calculating the drug arrests all the way to 2009. I used that data to create a form to highlight the injustices in our system. There is one African American to eight whites in America, this is back in 2009. Then, in prison, it is one African American to three whites. So you see the disproportionate number of minorities being imprisoned for the same crimes. The next iteration of that sculpture would be incorporating… augmented reality to it, and having recordings of inmates and the police officers to tell that story of what the data is trying to tell you. So you can use your smartphone device, point it at the sculpture, and it will come up, and the sculpture will be communicating to you.

Could you talk about the writings that you have published?

One that I’m most proud of is a planner or tutorial I wrote on how to model a Welsh 1856 lantern. [It] took me a year and a half to complete, and that was a fun endeavor. And then technically my master thesis was a published work. [There] I explored visualizing data because we produce so much data, and it’s hard to grasp how much data we produce. Think about this, the 20th century dwarfs all the centuries before it [in] how much data we collect, and I think art can be a great bridge to communicate what the data is trying to tell us. It’s basically democratizing data to everyone.

What would you say is your thought process when creating a design?

My thought process is all over the place, it’s a medley of things. You could get inspired by hearing a piece of music all the way to playing a video game. My creative process is following the trends of the artists that I really try to aspire to, and I try to visit their workshops to see their work process. I remember in undergrad, seeing my advisor work with his own work really showed me the process that I [wanted to] emulate. That never-ending flow of just prototyping, prototyping, and iterating and then [keeping] on iterating; that is the process that I try to grasp.

How does philosophy tie into your design process?

The philosophy that I try to embody is the Renaissance Ideal––the importance of [an] integrated worldview, that things are interconnected. That philosophy of interconnectedness of what an individual’s knowledge set—literature, philosophy, art, history, science, and religion—should include is dynamic and encourages life-long learning. That ideal continues to resonate in me, and I try to implement this way of thinking in my own practice. It is this philosophy that gives me the most flexibility to explore knowledge in many areas. I try to embody and learn as much as I can in this short time that I am on this Earth, and I try to combine different mediums together to see what it produces. I think [The Nest] as a whole is the perfect environment for that where you could also share with other fellow learners.

What’s your favorite book?

Fiction-wise, my favorite book would be “Lord of the Rings,” that was [the] first book I ever read with my father. With my mother, I read the “Harry Potter” series when I was much younger. I’ve been reading a lot of spiritual books recently, so “The Divine Dance” and “The Risen Christ” is another one I’m enjoying. [For] sci-fi, I’m reading “Dune” at the moment, and… I always [also] like to read the current trends of creative technologies, I’m sort of all over the place with my reading.

What do you like to do in your free time?

When I’m in New York, I… visit galleries, museums, and hang out with friends. When I got cheap Broadway tickets, I would always get those and go to Broadway. [I] also play video games, read, and work on my project. [I can do that] here as well, but the Broadway part and visiting galleries, I need to expand that in the Boston area.