If you happened to catch one of the most recent episodes of CBS’ Sunday Morning, you may have been delightfully surprised to notice a familiar SUNY Broome landmark beside host Jane Pauley. CBS wasn’t presenting a feature on SUNY Broome and our Culinary & Event Center, and yet we still played a big part in the story. This recognition is purely thanks to a team of SUNY Broome’s Information Technology Services employees who have taken their passions for technology, creativity, and community engagement and have developed the premiere projection mapping performance festival in America. The ingenuity and dedicated hard work required to present the LUMA Projection Arts Festival is mirrored daily on SUNY Broome’s campus. In both venues, Fermin Romero, Manny Cordisco, Nigel Deakin, and Timothy Shea work tirelessly to deliver technology to the members of our community, whether that be through larger than life artistic displays or through supporting the equipment on and off campus that foster teaching and learning.
The concept of LUMA was born in a living room, when Romero and five friends, all of whom also work in technology, tossed around the idea of projection mapping artistic animation on the facades of area buildings. Their “wouldn’t it be cool if” discussion quickly turned into a “we can do this” discussion and thus “LUMA,” a projection mapping festival in the heart of downtown Binghamton, was born. LUMA, a play on the light measurement unit ANSI lumens, had its first festival in 2015. Lead Technical Director, Fermin Romero, and his team hoped that 3,000 community members would attend. When well over 20,000 people flooded the streets of Binghamton, they knew that they had a hit… and that they needed more help. Thankfully, Romero knew where he could find some.
Fermin Romero, SUNY Broome’s Interim Director of Information Technology Services, takes great pride in building and maintaining a department based on excellence and the ability to problem solve. He innately knew that problem solving was the core connection between his work at SUNY Broome and his work with LUMA and knew that his team of technical assistants from ITS would be an ideal asset to the festival.
“The greatest talent of everyone on the entire IT team is that we are all problem solvers. And that’s what lends this team so well to LUMA. I have to trust each team at each building to solve the unexpected problems that will inevitably arise and problems with LUMA tend to be incredibly complicated. We are perfectionists and spend the week leading up to LUMA rehearsing and rehearsing because we only get one shot at the show. The show runs, people from the community come out, and if it’s not working, we don’t get another chance. It creates a unique amount of pressure, but we also find that pressure in our everyday lives at the College as well. When a professor is standing in front of the classroom presenting a lecture and something breaks, we only get one shot to fix it,” said Romero.
Timothy Shea was the first member of the ITS team to volunteer to assist Romero with LUMA and was soon followed by Nigel Deakin and Manny Cordisco. Their responsibilities include everything from set up/tear down, to troubleshooting, to site management. Just like with their roles on campus, Shea, Deakin, and Cordisco are a power team of technologists, who find true enjoyment in collaborating with one another.
“Our team works so well because we genuinely get along. Manny, Tim, and I spend more time with each other than we do with our own families. We share so many similar interests and I know that we would be friends outside of SUNY Broome. That’s what makes our work ethic so strong. There is no hesitation to help or support each other with any project because we aren’t just colleagues helping colleagues, we are friends helping friends,” shared Deakin.
At LUMA, most of the attention naturally focuses on the artistry and the technology side stays in the background. Similarly at the College, Romero and his team in ITS are constantly working behind the scenes on campus to ensure that our students, faculty, and staff are supported with all of their technological needs.
“Our day-to-day work includes setting up all of the campus’ computer labs, preparing computers with all of the program installations for campus use, and making updates behind the scenes so that the technology is working properly. The best part about being in IT on this campus is that everyone is always happy to see us. If you have to interact with us, it’s because we’ve come to help,” said Cordisco.
Coming to help is the core mission of SUNY Broome’s ITS department, which was made even more evident during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I really feel like the problem solving techniques that we developed for LUMA helped us tremendously during the Covid-19 pandemic. We only had a few days to come up with an action plan for the College’s technology before the campus closed. Manny stayed on campus and assigned laptops to faculty, staff, and students and Tim and Nigel were on duty remotely to assist with any technical issues. It was an intense time for sure, but our team came up with some creative solutions to support continued student learning,” said Romero.
Most people don’t naturally want to spend their free time in the evenings and on the weekends with their supervisor, but that’s not the case with the team of technical assistants and their director, Fermin Romero.
“He has always been a mentor and a friend to me both at work and in our free time. A large part of who I am professionally and personally is because of Fermin’s support. When Fermin invited us to help him with LUMA, we weren’t just guys fixing computers and projectors, we became part of something really special for our community. I think having LUMA as a shared labor of love brought us all closer,” shared Shea.
Of all of the buildings in downtown Binghamton that are brought to life via projection mapping, SUNY Broome’s Culinary & Event Center is undoubtedly the team’s favorite canvas. Nigel Deakin served as site director for the CEC’s mapping of “Cosmogonia” and admitted to feeling an extra heap of personal responsibility knowing the synergistic relationship between their team’s professional love of SUNY Broome and their personal passion for LUMA.
“There is something poetic about the mapping of the CEC. Our team designed all of the technology inside the building and now we get to use a fusion of art and technology to decorate the outside.”