Dare to be Copernicus – educational project
October 12-December 31, 2023
Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design (WHSAD)
257 N 6th St, Brooklyn, NY 11211
To celebrate the 550th anniversary of the birth of Nicolaus Copernicus the Polish Cultural Institute New York together with the Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design in Brooklyn launched an educational project drawing inspiration from the enduring legacy of Copernicus – an outstanding Polish astronomer, mathematician, economist, lawyer, doctor, astrologer and translator who formulated the heliocentric theory and authored On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres. The aim of the project was to motivate young people to awaken their creativity and imagination to become revolutionary thinkers who look for new solutions, question the existing patterns and have the courage to change the world.
The project had an interdisciplinary character as it involved both a scientific and artistic approach to the Copernicus persona and his revolutionary discovery. In autumn the students had a series of online meetings with inspiring figures from the world of science, including a specialist doing research on Artificial Intelligence as a Senior Researcher at the Harvard University, Aleksandra Przegalińska, PhD and Associate Professor, as well as a former NASA astronaut, Colonel George D. Zamka. The artistic approach was expressed through Venetian plaster workshops conducted in person by a Polish artist, Miłosz Koziej, who specializes in mural painting using various techniques with a group of volunteers from the school.
Meeting with Aleksandra Przegalińska
On October 12 AI researcher Alexandra Przegalinska, PhD, Professor at the Kozminski University and Senior Researcher at the Harvard University gave an online talk centering around the use of Artificial Intelligence and its influence on our lives. She introduced the AI tools, including the newest version of ChatGPT. As a demonstration of AI capabilities she presented her AI generated avatar that introduced itself to the audience. She also focused on the issue of intellectual property and the art of prompting, which is asking the correct questions to use the AI tools in a more efficient manner.
Meeting with George D. Zamka
On November 17 a former NASA astronaut Colonel George D. Zamka discussed his time at the international space station and his overall experience as an astronaut. He focused on the vast legacy of Copernicus presenting him as a polymath. He also explored the subject of space design and how it impacts life conditions in Space.
A group of students from the WHSAD took part in the Venetian plaster workshops inspired by the figure of Copernicus and his revolutionary discovery. The workshops were ran by a Polish artist Miłosz Koziej, who specializes in mural painting techniques. The aim of the workshops was daring to experiment with new materials and techniques. The students discovered the courage within themselves to take on a challenge in which the process of learning a new skill was the main focus, rather than the final result, which was secondary. Having a more hands-on approach enabled them to understand why certain technique was chosen, what were its qualities and how one could work with it.
The H.E.A.L.T.H for Youths Inc. provided the workshops with materials.
Bios of the project’s participators
Aleksandra Przegalińska – Professor at Kozminski University, habilitated doctor in the field of management sciences. She received her Ph.D. in the philosophy of artificial intelligence at the Institute of Philosophy of the University of Warsaw. Currently the Vice-Rector for International Relations and ESR at Kozminski University. From 2016 she conducted research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston. A graduate of The New School for Social Research in New York, where she participated in research on identity in virtual reality, with particular emphasis on Second Life. Currently Research Fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research. In 2022, she started working with the Labor and Worklife program at Harvard. She is interested in the development of artificial intelligence and language processing natural science, machine learning, social robots, and wearable technologies.
George D. Zamka – Colonel, a former NASA astronaut, with Polish-Colombian roots, born in Jersey City and raised in New York. George Zamka was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps after graduating from the United States Naval Academy in May 1984. In 1990, he trained to be an F/A-18 pilot and was assigned to Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron. Zamka flew 66 combat missions over occupied Kuwait and Iraq during Desert Storm. Selected as a pilot by NASA in June 1998, Zamka reported for astronaut candidate training in August 1998. He served as lead for the Shuttle Training and Procedures Division and as supervisor for the astronaut candidate class of 2004. In 2007, he completed his first spaceflight as pilot on STS-120. For his second spaceflight, Zamka commanded the crew of STS-130, which flew in February 2010. Colonel Zamka has logged more than 692 hours in space.
Miłosz Koziej – Miłosz Koziej, a Master Painter and Decorative Artist, born in 1975 in Rzeszów, Poland. In 2001 he graduated from the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts, where he earned a degree in painting with additional degree in ancient mural techniques and technology of painting. Since 2003 he has lived and worked in New York and New Jersey. He specializes in: gilding, wood graining, marbleizing, Venetian plaster, Marmorino and Al Fresco technique, as well as acrylic and oil painting.