Technology at Stuyvesant: Combining the Past, Present, and Future
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In recent years, Stuyvesant has undergone many technological changes, a trend which will likely continue as Principal Eric Contreras pushes for further advancements. He has been at the forefront of technological updates in both STEM and humanities, working to encompass the large scope of student interests. Contreras’s dedication to technological updates, however, extends beyond supporting the interests of the student body. Contreras has also focused on adapting Stuyvesant to the constantly changing modern world while simultaneously maintaining the school’s three-decade-old structures. This highlights the two main goals of his improvement projects at Stuyvesant: to respond to a building that is getting older and to reimagine the possibilities of today and tomorrow.
Contreras believes that the student body’s vast range of interests and talents are all deserving of improvements. “We are such a diverse and multi-talented community that it becomes difficult to make sure you are putting efforts into capital improvement that everyone is happy about,” Contreras said.
Contreras’s major addition, the Innovation Lab, added a workshop complete with modern machines, allowing for the addition of 5Tech classes, including Engineering Design. The lab also hosted a free four-week summer program for Stuyvesant students. “The first week, we produced models using a 3D printer; the second week, we made bridges using a laser cutter; the third week, we used CNC [computer numerical control] machines and soldering irons; and in the final week, we partnered with the business WIT [Whatever It Takes] to learn more about teen entrepreneurship,” junior and participant in the Stuyvesant Summer Innovation program Lolita Rozenbaum said. The program would not have been possible without devices such as 3D printers and laser cutters, which are now available in the Innovation Lab.
The Innovation Lab also plays an essential role in extracurricular activities like the technology division of Science Olympiad, which relies on the Innovation Lab to produce their projects. “Before the Innovation Lab, we basically made our projects really crudely—duct-taping everything together, finding whatever means we could—but after coming in [to the Innovation Lab], we were exposed to these new machines, and we had teachers who were willing to help us,” junior and Science Olympiad secretary Yulin Zheng said.
Additionally, despite Stuyvesant’s reputation as a STEM school, Contreras has advocated for ventures in the arts, including the replacement of Stuyvesant’s theater lights and the building of a music recording studio. Contreras has also taken initiative with several humanities-based improvements, including the relocation of the writing center from the library to room 615E, which is adjacent to the English department. The writing center’s former location in the library was very inefficient, as it diminished the library’s capacity. “Moving even 15 students out of the library into a space where there [are] tables and where there’s a schedule for people to get help in a separate place—even a small space like that has benefited students,” Contreras said. “That’s one of the very small uncelebrated projects, but I feel like [in the] long term, it’s just as important.”
However, some students still wish that the money and resources were utilized for a more diverse variety of projects. Senior Allen Wang feels like not enough money is spent toward performing arts in comparison to other technologies. “I do think that performing arts technology, or recording studio technology, or other forms of digital technology has been somewhat overlooked at Stuy[vesant],” Wang said.
Looking toward the future, Contreras is open to considering most projects, even if they may seem difficult to accomplish. He is exploring the possibility of creating an outdoor space on the fifth floor, where there is an unused patio, but has to consider other regulations regarding the space. “That’s an outdoor area [...] so that involves Battery Park City [regulations], because you’re doing changes to the exterior,” he said. “I’m not against it.”
Some students and staff members also hope to create an environmental science lab to bring more opportunities to Stuyvesant students. “It’s not yet funded, but there are some plans for it,” Contreras said.
Where the funding for such projects comes from also plays a part in how such initiatives are developed. “If [the funding is from] a donor or [alumnus], they determine [whether] they want to give to [a specific project]. And that’s not my call necessarily. They may ask me if I would support this, and I would say of course,” Contreras said.
He explains that he has to prioritize and navigate the different proposals for what should be next based on the requests of those funding the project. “Some of that isn’t solely determined by the principal; it’s determined by who is funding it and what restrictions are set by outside agencies,” Contreras said. None of the capital improvement projects that have occurred in the past have come from the school budget; they have come either from written grants or from the Stuyvesant Alumni Association.
Wang hopes that having new technological spaces will help kids come together and become passionate about their extracurriculars. “[Having these spaces] will help kids explore their interests and will help kids develop in a space outside of the classroom,” he said.
Contreras believes that Stuyvesant cannot be stagnant during a time of such change. “We need to remember, as a community, [...] that we just can’t accept any movement of anything,” Contreras said. “You have to do two things concurrently: you have to repair and upgrade the things that fall apart after three decades, and on top of that, you have to reimagine spaces that are now necessary for the world of tomorrow.”